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Book Notes

November 21, 2012

Hope Solo's autobiography does not disappoint

Women’s soccer has an interesting history in this country. When Brandi Chastain clinched the World Cup title for the United States in 1999 with her game-winning shot in a penalty kick shootout against China it led to an upsurge of interest in the women’s game. It also led to a lot of questioning of Chastain’s motives when she pulled off her jersey leading many to wonder if Nike hadn’t paid her to advertise its sports bra. Whatever the truth, the lasting image of Chastain’s celebration was that women’s soccer as a popular spectator sport was here to stay.

The problem is that it didn’t happen. In the 13 years since Chastain’s victorious kick, three U.S. women’s professional soccer leagues have bit the dust. Apparently the American public loves the sport when our women compete on the international stage but could care less when it comes to domestic competition.

The men’s game hasn’t exactly caught fire either, but at least its domestic league has survived up until now.

As long as we’re on the subject of soccer and international popularity please allow me to digress for a moment and express my pet peeve about what otherwise is a beautiful sport. How can the world’s most popular competition, the World Cup, allow its championship match to be decided by penalty kicks in case of a tie? That would be like having the World Series decided by a home run competition, or the Super Bowl being determined by field goal attempts. It makes no sense.

The World Cup final should be decided by the “golden goal,” the phrase used for a winning goal in sudden-death overtime. If the sport is worried about the condition of the athletes for a match that goes on endlessly then simply allow unlimited substitution in overtime. If it ends up being the “survival of the fittest,” well, so be it. It would encourage teams to try to score and get rid of the idea of forcing penalty kicks in the hope that your opponent will screw up what should be a sure thing (i.e., making the shot) more than you do.

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  • Biography of Neil Armstrong shines light on space program We just celebrated the 45th anniversary of the first lunar landing. We all remember Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon, uttering those famous words, “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.â€� It was an exciting time for our country and the world. There was talk of a mission to Mars by 1980. Instead, we haven’t been to the moon since 1972 and manned space exploration has become an afterthought. What happened?

    July 31, 2014

  • 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