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review 2016-03-07 18:00
The Legends Club: Dean Smith, Mike Krzyzewski, Jim Valvano, and an Epic College Basketball Rivalry
The Legends Club: Dean Smith, Mike Krzyzewski, Jim Valvano, and an Epic College Basketball Rivalry - John Feinstein

I'm a bit rusty in the art of reviewing books right now, and, though this may not mark a triumphant return for me, this read moved me enough to put that aside.

 

John Feinstein is a prolific, and talented sports writer, particularly in the college basketball world. This time last year, with the Madness of March fast-approaching, I read his Last Dance: Behind the Scenes at the Final Four and found it underwhelming, to say the least. However, I can't help but think that some of that had to do with bits and pieces of this book, The Legends Club: Dean Smith, Mike Krzyzewski, Jim Valvano, and an Epic College Basketball Rivalry, that Feinstein struggled to keep at bay.

 

Why? Because this is the book that Feinstein has been destined to write ever since he first met UNC coach Dean Smith circa 1976, back when Feinstein was an undergrad covering the basketball beat for his cross-town alma mater, Duke. This was a few years before the other members of the eponymous trio, Mike Krzyzewski (aka Coach K), and Jim Valvano, would make their way to North Carolina's Research Triangle, but it's apparent throughout the book, that the seeds of this story run deep for Feinstein. 

 

Actually, there are many stories within this grand narrative, which is part of what makes it so difficult to summarize in a meaningful way. With Jim Valvano's untimely death in 1993, Dean Smith's recent passing in 2015, and Coach K's continued presence as head coach of the Blue Devils, it's easy to forget that they were, in fact, contemporaries. Don't worry, I've got pics to prove it:

Dean Smith and Jim Valvano

Jim Valvano and Mike Krzyzewski

Dean Smith and Mike Krzyzewski

 

These pictures, of course, fail to capture the nature of their relationships for most of the time: sheer enmity. But, that's what makes this book so special— it captures an arc that we miss when we make "rivalries" out to be all about animosity. And, though there were plenty of moments that were exactly that, a goodlegendary rivalry is also built on mutual respect. 

 

You don't have to be a die-hard Duke, UNC, or NC State fan to enjoy this one. I've always been more drawn to the March MATHness side of Bracketology, and, frankly, wasn't really a sentient sporting fan for the heyday of the clashes among the Blue Devils, Tar Heels, and Wolfpack. Honestly, as I got a bit misty-eyed toward the end of the story, my thoughts went more to likes of Beowulf than to the Sweet Sixteen (which is not to say that Feinstein neglects the basketball at all— he doesn't).

 

Unless you've been living in an Air-Raid shelter for the past 30 years, I'm not spoiling anything by giving you the parting shots of the victors "cutting down the net" (each a their own time). But, there's no other way for me to close this half-baked review.

Jimmy V with the net

Coach K kissing the net

Dean Smith cutting the net

And I guess one last shot of two GOATs couldn't hurt…

Dean Smith coaches Michael Jordan

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text 2015-09-06 15:50
Fantasy Sports-Loving Audiobook Fans Rejoice!
Fantasy Life: The Outrageous, Uplifting, and Heartbreaking World of Fantasy Sports from the Guy Who's Lived It - Matthew Berry

If, like yours truly, you're a lover of fantasy sports (football & basketball for this kid) as well as audiobooks, then today's Audible Daily Deal is almost as exciting as finding out that Tom Brady was fully reinstated, having drafted him in the tenth round for your fantasy league. Ok, well maybe not that exciting, but getting Matthew Berry's Fantasy Life: The Outrageous, Uplifting, and Heartbreaking World of Fantasy Sports from the Guy Who's Lived It for less than $3 is still pretty sweet. 

 

Haven't read it yet, but the publisher's summary is below for your perusal:

Fantasy football, fantasy baseball, fantasy basketball, even fantasy sumo wrestling: the world of fantasy sports is huge, and still growing. Today, more than 35 million people in the United States and Canada spend hours upon hours each week on their fantasy sports teams. And as the Senior Fantasy Sports Analyst for ESPN, Matthew Berry is on the front lines of what has grown from a niche subculture into a national pastime.

 

In Fantasy Life, Berry celebrates every aspect of the fantasy sports world. Brilliant trash talk. Unbelievable trophies. Insane draft day locations. Shake-your-head-in-disbelief punishments. Ingenious attempts at cheating. And surprisingly uplifting stories that remind us why we play these games in the first place. Written with the same award-winning style that has made Berry one of the most popular columnists on ESPN.com, Fantasy Life is an audiobook for both hard-core fantasy players and people who have never played before.

 

Between tales of love and hate, birth and death, tattoos and furry animal costumes, the White House Situation Room and a 126-pound golden pelican, Matthew chronicles his journey from a 14-year-old fantasy player to the face of fantasy sports for the largest sports media company in the world. Fantasy will save your life. Fantasy will set you free. And fantasy life is most definitely better than real life. You'll see.

©2013 Matthew Berry

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review 2015-03-21 15:49
Last Dance: Behind the Scenes at the Final Four
Last Dance: Behind the Scenes at the Final Four - John Feinstein,Mike Krzyzewski

This was neither John Feinstein's best work, nor the best writing on the world of college hoops. However, though I'm terribly behind on reviewing bigger and better books, with less than two weeks left before this year's Last Dance, I wanted to give this a whirl before the window of relevance closes.

 

This glimpse “Behind the Scenes at the Final Four” is not for new fans. Although I do love me some “bracketology,” I felt out of my league for some of the reminiscing among Feinstein and his various interviewees. Mike Krzyzewski (aka Coach K) sets the scene perfectly in his introduction.

“To get to [the Final Four], you have to have a number of ingredients. You have to have been able to recruit very good players, you have to have a very patient family, you need excellent assistants, and you need luck. You need to keep key players healthy and, most of the time, you need to win at least one game that you probably deserved to lose.”

That's right folks, even among the best of the best, from Bobby Knight, to Dean Smith, and, of course, the legendary John Wooden, the coaches know that you can give it your best, earn your place, and even deserve to win, but that doesn't mean you'll go home a champion. In this spirit, coaches are able to take the undesirable title of BCNTHWTNC (that's Best Coach Never to Have Won the National Championship) at least somewhat in stride.

 

So why the madness over March Madness? Well, it hasn't always been that way. It wasn't until 1973, with Magic/Bird headliner, that the tournament was even televised. There are the cinderella stories, the heartbreakers—the cast is made up of: coaches, players, refs, announcers, and even “The Committee.”

 

But, why am I telling you about these stories when we could all be sitting in front of our televisions watching new history unfold before our eyes?!? There are a boatload of amazing visuals out there, but (due to my laziness) I'll just direct you toward the bevy of March Madness Infographics and, heck, I'll even throw in a cheat sheet (by ClassesandCareers) for the uninitiated among us!

 

Everything You Need to Know to Talk Convincingly About March Madness

 

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