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Book Notes

March 6, 2014

'Miracle' shows when Olympics were pure


Even the most identifiable sport at the winter games, alpine skiing, couldn’t resist the idea that more is better. It went from the traditional three races (downhill, slalom, and giant slalom) to five with the addition of the super G (whatever that is, I assume a GIANT giant slalom) and the combined (downhill and slalom). It means more TV exposure and more gold medals. Who’s going to complain?

The one sport that changed significantly for the better is ice hockey. In the last 20 years the National Hockey League (NHL) has taken a siesta in February and allowed its players to compete in the games. Now hockey fans can watch the world’s best and know most of the players. Women’s ice hockey has also been added to spice up the event.

The only down note is that the NHL may balk at taking a break in the future and not allow its players to participate. That would be a lose-lose proposition for both the NHL and the Olympics and reveal the short-sightedness of NHL owners. But that’s another story.

To understand what the Winter Olympics was once like, you should get a look at the classic movie, “Miracle.”  It’s the seminal moment of the Winter Olympics (at least for us). In the 1980 games at Lake Placid, the U.S. men’s ice hockey team shocked the world and beat the Soviet Union 4-3 on their way to winning the gold medal. It was the greatest upset in the history of sports. Veteran broadcaster Jim McKay compared it to a bunch of Canadian college football players beating the Pittsburgh Steelers.

It was in the midst of the Cold War and brought pride and joy to an entire nation, even to those that never followed hockey before. The 2004 film, starring Kurt Russell as Coach Herb Brooks, captures the spirit and intimacy of the Winter Olympics like no other. It essentially changed the popularity of the winter games in this country and made us a major player in practically every sport (except ski jumping and biathlon).

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Book Notes
  • Early 'blahs' sometimes hide a gem There are often films that sound rather "blah" when you first notice them and have no interest in seeing. It's usually due to the preview either being really stupid or the producers wanting to avoid giving away too much of the plot. If it's the latter category you must be careful. Sometimes there's a gem of a movie hidden behind the facade.

    July 24, 2014

  • 'Moneyball' author tackles Wall Street with 'Flash Boys' Have you ever read a book that feels like it's in a foreign language? It covers a subject you know is important and figure at some point it will all make sense. What do you do when that doesn't happen? Obviously, the easiest solution is to toss the book aside. But what if the underlying message is something you "get" and don't want to give up on? I faced that dilemma recently.

    July 17, 2014

  • MacNeil reading highlights novels Several weeks ago I had the good fortune to attend a talk by Robert MacNeil at the Guilderland Public Library. MacNeil is best known as the former co-host of the MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour on PBS. He retired in 1995 but has continued to write both fiction and non-fiction. His talk at Guilderland focused on two of his novels, "Burden of Desire" written in 1992, and its sequel, "Portrait of Julia," which was published last year.

    July 10, 2014

  • 'The Monuments Men' shows important history World War II continues to hold a special place in the hearts of readers and movie goers. The reasons are many but much of it can be traced to the endless number of storylines from that conflict. There is literally a treasure trove of material that keeps emerging. The latest example is the movie, “The Monuments Men.â€�

    July 3, 2014

  • Authors not afraid to think like freaks Conventional wisdom is something we automatically take for granted. It can be something as simple as assuming there is no cure for the common cold or political polls being a good indicator of who will win an election. Common assumptions of course can be wrong but we usually just accept them as fact. However, in many cases it would be much better to think "outside the box" and consider an alternative way of looking at the world.

    June 26, 2014

  • Book goes further into Armstrong's lies There hasn't been a shortage of elite athletes that have fallen from grace in recent years. Most of them have been baseball players who have been caught using performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) and then lying about it. Golfer Tiger Woods fell from his pedestal because of extra-marital affairs. He has yet to regain his previous aura and perhaps never will. But the loudest crash of all came from cyclist Lance Armstrong who was not only a liar and a cheat but ruined other people's lives in the process.

    June 19, 2014

  • Documentary proves Butch, Sundance still enchant "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" is one of the most popular films of all-time. The 1969 Western is based on the real life exploits of two infamous outlaws whose specialty was robbing trains. They became folk heroes because they supposedly never shot anyone.

    June 12, 2014

  • Pohl's call-up reminds me of Feinstein book We recently learned that Cooperstown native and professional baseball player Phillip Pohl was promoted to the AAA farm team of the Oakland Athletics where he played for nearly a month. For those that don't know, AAA is the highest minor league before reaching the major leagues.

    June 5, 2014

  • Movie gives clues into real Disney Everyone has heard of Walt Disney. How can you not when Disneyland and Disney World are the most popular family vacation spots around. Add in his historic cartoons and animated features and you have a Hollywood legend. But how many people know what the man himself was like?

    May 29, 2014

  • Wooden bio by Davis feels definitive Any long-time observer of college basketball knows that one school and one coach stand out above all others. In the 1960s and 1970s the John Wooden-led UCLA Bruins won ten championships in twelve seasons. Their level of achievement is so remarkable that it will probably never be equaled. Forty years after his last championship the ghost of John Wooden still reverberates at the university.

    May 22, 2014