On Wednesday I highlight a few noteworthy new sports books, with links to reviews, interviews and other information about the subject and/or author.
• The story of Mississippi State’s 1963 NCAA tournament game against Loyola of Chicago is a very familiar one, and not just to college basketball fans. Kyle Veazey, a sports reporter for the Memphis Commercial-Appeal, has expanded the tale into a full-length book, “Champions for Change,” chronicling how the Bulldogs ignored state laws against integrated competition months after James Meredith made history at Ole Miss.
Babe McCarthy’s team lost to Loyola, which later claimed the national championship. But it won so much more, including the full support of the school administration and the Starkville community. While upsetting segregationists like Gov. Ross Barnett, McCarthy’s defiant stand helped pave the way for eventual integration in Mississippi, and SEC athletics.
Veazey, formerly with the Jackson Clarion-Ledger and who was a Mississippi State beat writer, talks to his old newspaper about how the book came to fruition.
• Goalkeepers are the odd ducks of soccer, semi-stationary hands-on specialists in a game filled with free-range aces of foot-curled wonder balls. Jonathan Wilson, the lauded soccer correspondent for The Guardian, examines the psychology of the men in the nets in “The Outsider.” Ranging far beyond the box of conventional labels about keepers as eccentric philosophers (think Camus) with occasionally bizarre stunts on the field (Rene Higuita’s scorpion kick), Wilson, according to The Independent:
” . . .explores the psychological pressures of being cast in the role of scapegoat, taking the blame for other defenders’ errors or forwards’ inability to score, and takes an in-depth look at the theories behind penalty-taking and saving, concluding that it is the one situation in which the keeper cannot lose – if he keeps the ball out, he is a hero; if he doesn’t, it was only to be expected.”
Wilson chatted recently with SB Nation’s Roker Report blog, admitting that he finds goalkeepers more interesting to interview: “They seem as though this real sense of tragedy follows them around.”
• The jokes, puns and kosher analogies have abounded since the October publication of “Jewish Jocks: An Unorthodox Hall of Fame,” edited by Franklin Foer and Marc Tracy of The New Republic.
“It’s hard to imagine two words less likely to appear in the same sentence than ‘Jewish’ and ‘jocks,’ ” began a review in The New York Times, referencing a line in the satirical movie “Airplane” before pronouncing “that times have changed.”
The 50-essay anthology includes portraits of Hank Greenberg, Sandy Koufax, Sid Luckman, Dolph Schayes, Al Rosen, Red Auerbach, Red Holzman, Mark Spitz, Nancy Lieberman, Kerri Strug and Corey Pavin, among athletes and coaches. Also profiled are media figures Howard Cosell, Shirley Povich and Robert Lipsyte, owners Al Davis and Mark Cuban, baseball union leader Marvin Miller, chessmaster Bobby Fischer and Arnold Rothstein, the organized crime impresario behind the Black Sox scandal.
Foer, in an interview with Slate, proclaims: “This book has no anxieties!”
The Washington Post says the book is “full of tasty appetizers — a piece of gefilte fish, a slice of pickled herring. But there’s no chicken in the pot.”