Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Great biographies for the sports fan.

Rafa: My Story by Rafael Nadal

Kirkus Reviews –

Elite tennis star Nadal serves up a smashing account of his life on and off the court. Tenacious. Driven. Obsessed. This is how the sports world has come to know Nadal, the Mallorcan phenom who at age 24 became the youngest man ever to complete a career Grand Slam in the Open Era. What's revealed here, however, is a much more complex figure prone to all sorts of anxieties, and a man who simply would not be the athlete he is today if not for the constant love and support of his extended family. Mallorca, the tiny island off the coast of Spain where he was born, is home base for the Nadal clan, and the cocoon to which the globetrotting sportsman must always return to reinvigorate body and soul. And yet, the greatest antagonist in Nadal's young life, we learn, has not been Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic or any of the other fearsome opponents he's had to face down on the other side of the net. Rather, it has been a blunt, combative man named Toni, his beloved uncle and ever-present coach. Nadal explores the intricate interplay between the two, as well as his epic battles with the game's best, in a compelling narrative that volleys back and forth between first and third person, consistently building momentum and adding depth as well as insight. The titanic showdown between Nadal and Federer at Wimbledon in 2008, for instance, is played out shot-for-shot over several engrossing chapters. Throughout, the alternating point of view and over-the-shoulder accounts provide readers with a stunning invitation into the mind of one of the greatest tennis players ever. A winning endeavor packed with intelligence and excitement.

Sweetness: The Enigmatic Life of Walter Payton by Jeff Pearlman

From Barnes & Noble -

Walter Payton (1954-1999) is remembered as the record-setting halfback of the Chicago Bears, but he is also revered as the man who heroically battled a terminal illness that finally brought him. There have been biographies of Payton before, but Jeff Pearlman's Sweetness is the first truly definitive life of this beloved Hall of Famer and man.

West by West: My Charmed, Tormented Life by Jerry West and Jonathan Coleman

Kirkus Reviews -

From the player so iconic his silhouette forms the NBA logo, a memoir intended to explain himself to fans and to...himself.

Jerry West is on everyone's list of the greatest basketball players ever. As the general manager of the Lakers, he assembled six championship teams. He's so beloved and admired, there's a statue of him outside Los Angeles's Staples Center. Who wouldn't want to be Jerry West? Well, maybe Jerry West, for one. He played basketball, he writes, "to try and feel good about myself when everything else in my life was confusing and frustratingly unexplainable." An abusive father, an emotionally remote mother and the Korean War death of a favorite older brother accounted for this withdrawn, overly sensitive youth who turned to basketball to feel alive and in control. The game became a sanctuary, but did nothing to repair a tormented soul and perhaps even exacerbated some "weird" tendencies that have complicated his life. Notwithstanding all his on-court success, his reputation as "Mr. Clutch," this tortured perfectionist remains "scarred" by his failures: a one-point loss in the 1959 NCAA championship game, six NBA Finals losses to the '60s Celtics, not winning the MVP award for his outstanding 1969-70 season. Hardcore fans will relish West's reflections on the game that has obsessed him, stories about teammates and opposing players and his selections for an all-time Dream Game. They'll likely be surprised by his erudition—he peppers the narrative with allusions to writers as disparate as Malamud, Merton, Didion, Gladwelland Joseph Campbell—and the numerous, unflattering personal revelations. West makes scalding comments about people as diverse as Douglas MacArthur, Jesse Jackson and Phil Jackson, but he reserves his harshest commentary for himself as a brother, father and husband. Hegrapples with the role of a sports hero, a mantle he's loath to embrace, and appears to have made a sincere, if not always successful, attempt at self-awareness.

In a genre notorious for merely waving pompoms, West offers an unusually candid account of his personal and professional life.

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