Little A, Doubleday, and Pegasus Books

Three amazing sports books showcase triumphs and progress

Top sports books of summer focus on the Tour de France, women surfers, and the 1969 NBA finals in glorious detail, bringing the events to life.  

After the Tokyo Olympics, many readers may be missing the steady stream of human interest stories. These three new sports history books can fill the gap. They remind fans of how much social progress the athletic world has witnessed and keep a love for sports burning with Olympic torch-like brightness.

Sprinting Through No Man’s Land

After the devastation of the Great War, a bicycle race was just what France needed to pick itself up. Journalist Adin Dobkin details the inspirational return of the Tour de France in “Sprinting Through No Man’s Land: Endurance, Tragedy, and Rebirth in the 1919 Tour de France.” Dobkin drops the reader straight into the action with thrilling descriptions of the French landscape and short biographies of the contenders. 

Originally created in 1903 by the sports newspaper L’Auto to boost readership, the Tour de France route followed in the footsteps of ancient French kings. 

The 1919 race was different from its prewar iterations: New challenges made greenhorns out of even the most experienced riders, many of whom had just returned from the front. First, the route was extended by more than 110 miles, to a total of 3,450 miles that began and ended in Paris and touched all edges of France. Second, cyclists rode without support teams, and third, a new scoring system made victory nearly unattainable. Of the 67 cyclists who started the race, only 11 finished.

But the race gave the French public something to put their hearts into after the destruction of war. “Sprinting Through No Man’s Land” is a timely and moving reminder that reclaiming a tradition can reunify a country, even after a period of great loss.

Tall Men, Short Shorts

They were longtime champions, but in 1969, no one expected the Boston Celtics – the fourth-place team in the East – to make it to the NBA Finals, let alone win. But in the final quarter of Game 7, they clinched a shocking victory. The thrilling story of how Boston triumphed over the Los Angeles Lakers is chronicled in “Tall Men, Short Shorts: The 1969 NBA Finals: Wilt, Russ, Lakers, Celtics, and a Very Young Sports Reporter” by Leigh Montville.

The Lakers thought they had the championship in their sights. The addition of the basketball force Wilt Chamberlain – a 7-foot-1-inch marvel – at last tipped the scales in Los Angeles’ favor. The team only needed to prove themselves in the best-of-seven series, but Celtics star player and coach Bill Russell was never going to make it that easy for them.

Montville recounts the 1969 finals, incorporating articles from the time, including many of his own from The Boston Globe. Combining memoir, historical context, and player statistics, he brings the period to life. Montville’s writing is punchy and hilarious – at times even self-deprecating as he pokes fun at his younger self – but always with an eye on riveting storytelling. “Tall Men, Short Shorts” is a triumph.

Women on Waves

Surfing has long been associated with men. For many women, participation in the sport gave them a sense of agency in their lives as well as on the water. “Women on Waves: A Cultural History of Surfing: From Ancient Goddesses and Hawaiian Queens to Malibu Movie Stars and Millennial Champions” by Jim Kempton gives a comprehensive history of female surfers. 

Kempton, a former editor of Surfer magazine and author of two books on the sport, profiles notable women and introduces ample cultural references to provide context. He covers his subjects with a tremendous amount of respect – even reverence. He begins with 17th-century Hawaiian royalty, moves to the film and cultural phenomenon “Blue Crush,” and progresses toward contemporary surfing stars like Kelia Moniz. 

Kempton stands in awe of the women’s talent, ambition, and successes and presents their stories with a whole lot of heart. With expertise and passion fueling every story, “Women on Waves” is an inspiration.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to Three amazing sports books showcase triumphs and progress
Read this article in
https://www.csmonitor.com/Books/Book-Reviews/2021/0811/Three-amazing-sports-books-showcase-triumphs-and-progress
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today
https://www.csmonitor.com/subscribe