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Check It Out

Courier Article by David Locker
Sunday, August 20, 2000

Sports Books Are Big Winners

When I decided that I was going to review sports books in my column this month, I immediately turned to my friend Ted Devries for advice.

If you haunt libraries and bookstores, you have likely run into Ted. Not only is he a bookworm, he is also a collector of sports biographies and is a sportswriter. And he knows a good book when he reads one.

The Junction Boys by Jim Dent (St. Martin's, 1999).

Ted says this is probably the best sports book of the year, and I would have to agree with him.

In 1954, after taking on the job of coaching a Texas A&M football team that was in disarray, Coach Paul "Bear" Bryant took his team to the little town of Junction, Texas for their two-a-day preseason workouts.

The temperature was over a hundred degrees every day, and it hadn't rained in years. The Bear cussed them, ran them almost to death, physically and mentally abused them, and in the end only thirty-five of the 111 players that arrived were left on the team. The rest had snuck off in the night.

Most of those thirty-five men are very successful now, and most attribute their success to that trip to Junction with Bear Bryant. The Aggies only won one game the season after Junction, but two years later they won the conference championship.

Tournament Week: Inside the Ropes and Behind the Scenes on the PGA Tour by John Strege (Cliff Street, 2000).

I overheard George Green, my barber and an excellent golfer himself, telling a customer how he had watched a whole day's coverage of the Buick Open and wasn't even aware of who was winning the tournament. The television coverage was focused entirely on Tiger Woods, who happened to be several strokes back the entire day.

Read this book, and you will find out why. This is behind-the-scenes stuff that you won't see on television.

It's Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life by Lance Armstrong (Putnam's, 2000).

It's no surprise why Armstrong's autobiography is on the bestseller list. It's one of those books you won't be able to stop reading.

The Texas cyclist sees himself as a cancer survivor first and a Tour De France two-time winner second. He applied the lessons he learned from beating cancer to his racing. Before his disease, he was a world-class cyclist. After it, he was a world-class human being.

If there are reasons why Armstrong survived an advanced case of testicular cancer that had spread to his lungs and brain, it might be his incredible stamina and the active role he took in his own treatment. He did so much homework on his disease that he was able to converse with his doctors on their level. Later he used the same kind of thorough preparation to win the Tour De France.

A Nice Tuesday: A Memoir by Pat Jordan (St. Martin's, 1999).

Jordan's life story is about second chances. In the first half of his life he had his share of failures-a failed career as a professional baseball player and failed relationships with his wife and children.

Fleeing Connecticut, Jordan found redemption in Fort Lauderdale. A successful writer, at the age of fifty-eight he found himself surrounded by a loving wife, six beloved dogs, and a circle of friends. The only thing that nagged him was his recurring nightmare of failure on the pitcher's mound.

Pat gets his chance to redeem himself there, too, when a minor league team asks him to pitch an inning as a stunt.

David Locker is a librarian with the Evansville-Vanderburgh Public Library. The opinions expressed in this column are personal and do not reflect policies or official recommendations of EVPL.