Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Year-in-the-life books, part IVb: Sports

Burnett, Jim. Tee Times: On the Road With the Ladies Professional Golf Tour. New York: Scribner, 1997.
I picked this up from the sale shelf at Borders. I had little interest in golf, but it was about women athletes, one of my reading interests, and it cost $2. I ended up reading it one summer at the lakeside cabin, and it was fantastic! It followed the "ladies" pro golf tour for a year. It's a classic example of this genre--there are profiles of players at different stages of their careers, and there's lots about the business and the running of the Tour. I had a much greater appreciation of golf after reading this book. And I have a much greater appreciation of this book now. After reading it, I've tried to find books about women golfers, and there just aren't many! Tons about men golfers (and I've read a few, but Burnett's has been better), but few about women golfers (except a couple sociological studies).

Jacobs, Karen Folger. Story of a Young Gymnast: Tracee Talavera. New York: Bantam Books, 1980.
Oh, I remember how excited I was to find out from a classmate that this book existed! I was probably in 5th or 6th grade, and LOVED watching gymnastics on tv (not that I actually DID gymnastics; I could barely manage t-ball). Anyway, I found out about this book, and I remember going downtown with my dad to the University Bookstore to buy this book. It's one of those pocket paperbacks, written for young adults.

The book starts out with a short biography of Tracee Talavera. The bulk of the book follows Talavera through a (composite) typical day at the gym--actually an elite gymnastics academy in Oregon. Talavera was about 13 then, and trained with 4 other elite (top-level) gymnasts. The book follows her training for each gymnastic discipline, plus weight and flexibility training. There's a fair amount about the other four gymnasts, and it's cool because author Jacobs contrasts their styles and approaches with Talavera. (One of the other four gymnasts is Canadian Karen Kelsall, the subject of another book, The making of a gymnast, by Jean Boulogne.) Jacobs also describes all the moves, rather than just naming them. The book closes with some accounts of Tracee in competition. The book included pictures, and I remember some of those as vividly as I do passages in the book!

This was written at the close of the 1970s, when women's sports were enjoying a big boom. Folger Jacobs also wrote GirlSports, published in 1978, with biographical sketches of other teenage/preteen athletes. Most weren't well-known beyond their sports. One other kind of cool thing about the Talavera book--she's Hispanic, of Mexican descent, and that's discussed in the book. Not sure how many biographies/profiles you'd find of Hispanic teenagers, now or then.

Wilson, Mike. Right on the Edge of Crazy: On Tour With the U.S. Downhill Ski Team. New York : Time Books, 1993.
One of my favorites, this book does what the title says it does: it goes on tour with the men's downhill ski team. It follows the 1991 and 1992 ski seasons. I seem to recall the team was struggling at the time (well, when haven't they been)--they'd had some successes, but these seasons weren't great. A couple of the members were AJ Kitt and Tommy Moe--Kitt had had some successes, and there were high expectations of him, while Moe was "the kid" of the team. This book explains one of the reasons North Americans struggle on the World Cup, while Europeans dominate (most of the races are in Europe; the European racers can actually go home for a few days between events).

Littman, Jonathan. The Beautiful Game: Sixteen Girls and the Soccer Season that Changed Everything. New York: Avon Books, 1999.
An account of a girls' soccer "traveling" team. The students are in high school. This is pretty high-level soccer; kids from all over the area (a community in northern California) try out for this team, and they travel to different states for tournaments. It's the first year of coaching for the team's coach--she's just out of college, where she'd been a varsity soccer player herself. She goes through lots of trials and tribulations, mainly from the parents. Some of the parents pretty much campaign against the coach. The book does show youth sports in all its messiness, with conflicts between parents, between parents and coaches; the girls negotiating the traveling team and their various high school teams.

Shriver, Pam, Frank Deford, and Susan B Adams. Passing Shots: Pam Shriver on Tour. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1987.
Definitely a diary. Deford worked on a similar diary with Arthur Ashe, called Arthur Ashe: Portrait in Motion, published in 1975. Shriver makes an interesting narrator/subject in part because she was close to the top, but rarely, if ever, ranked number 1, and never won a Grand Slam singles title. She did team up with Martina Navratilova to win many doubles Grand Slam titles, so there's some about that partnership in this book. And I think Shriver was active at this time in the Women's Tennis Association--the players' union, basically.

Other entries that feature "Year in the Life" books: June 20, 2006–restaurants/chefs; June 22, 2006–part II: education; August 26, 2006–part III: theater and business; Oct 11, 2006–part IVa: sports; March 28, 2007–part V: religion; April 6, 2007–part IVc: sports; May 2, 2007–part VI: miscellaneous