Monday, October 12, 2015

Pitching Around Fidel by S.L. Price

Pitching Around Fidel by S.L. Price was an interesting book from 2000 with the subtitle A Journey Into the Heart of Cuban Sports. Price is a writer who I've posted on a number of times, both from pieces he's written for Sports Illustrated and two other books of his that I enjoyed a great deal, Heart of the Game: Life, Death, and Mercy in Minor League America and Far Afield: A Sportswriting Odyssey.

Price is currently writing a book that will be a much expanded version of his 2011 SI story "The Heart Of Football Beats In Aliquippa" on the small Pennsylvania town and while I had heard of Pitching Around Fidel, what compelled me to read this now 15 year old book was Price on a podcast discussing how sports can very much be a lens into society.

Pitching Around Fidel was both a travelogue of Price's time in Cuba and detailed such interesting lives the athletes in Cuba led, both adored and often penniless. The concept of amateurism championed by Fidel was an interesting one and people were rewarded based on their athletic successes, but oftentimes in an arbitrary manner and punished for haphazard reasons, like the regime fearing someone would defect and taking away their ability to compete in a sport, effectively making them more likely to want to defect. Price chronicled his interactions with a number of people in Cuba and two that compelling me to research what they're doing now are baseball player Yasser Gomez and U.S. fugitive Charles Hill.

One thought that I had from reading the book was that at least at the time the book was written, if sports about money in the U.S., it was about life in Cuba. Also, apart from sports, it was fascinating reading of the sense of desperation many had and made me curious whether it better or worse there now.

A fascinating book from Price and I'm looking forward to reading the forthcoming one on Aliquippa.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

The Martian by Andy Weir

The Martian by Andy Weir was a really enjoyable novel, with the below description taken from it's Amazon page.

The book was definitely heavy on the science done by Watney, but even if a reader not as interested in the details, those can be glossed over and it still an excellent read.

Great sports writing - on Aaron Rodgers, Chris Bosh, Mark Davis, and Rodney Culver

There were a few really good pieces of sports writing to note here that I've seen over the past few weeks, including two features from Sports Illustrated and two from ESPN The Magazine.

The first SI piece to mention was by Greg Bishop with "Who is Aaron Rodgers? The many sides of the NFL's best quarterback" and second from Lee Jenkins with "Happy and Healthy: Chris Bosh values life after near-death experience." Both stories have very solid writing and the one from Jenkins the more profound of the two as it details how Bosh of the Miami Heat had blood clots on his lungs, likely from a calf contusion months earlier.

The two ESPN stories had a similar mix with both excellent, and one particularly meaningful. On Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis, Tim Keown wrote the entertaining "Just live up to your dad's name and solve the NFL's L.A. problem, baby!" and Elizabeth Merrill provided "Dreams of a Father." The latter was about two women who as infants lost their mother, Karen Culver, and father, NFL running back Rodney Culver, in the 1996 ValuJet crash in the Florida Everglades and just a beautifully written piece from Merrill.