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Harvey Araton writes, with keen insight, of a time when power was ebbing fast from both newspapers and their unions. It's an especially bittersweet tale he tells of the people who had grown up in newspapers and unions, as they struggle to adapt to this evolving new order. And, of course, what makes this even more evocative, is that we're still trying to sort this all out. - Frank Deford, author of Everybody's All-American, NPR commentator"Father and son face their demons, each other, and a depressingly realistic publisher in a newspaper yarn that made me yell "Hold the Front Page" for Harvey Araton's rousing debut as a novelist." - Robert Lipsyte, author of An Accidental SportswriterIn times of change, American novelists return to old themes. In Cold Type-as in Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman-a son and his father struggle to hold onto what they think is right. It's mid-1990s; and "cold type" technology, a.k.a. computerized typesetting, wreaks havoc among workers in the newspaper industry. A fabulously wealthy Briton buys the New York City Trib and immediately refuses to negotiate with the truck drivers' union. In solidarity, all the other blue collar unions take to the streets. Jamie Kramer is a reporter for the Trib. His father is a hardcore shop steward (unusual for a Jew in Irish-dominated unions) from the old day of "hot type," but who has become a typographer in a world he doesn't understand. His father expects Jamie not to cross the picket line. It would be an act of supreme disrespect. But that's not so easy for Jamie. His marriage has fallen apart, he desperately needs his paycheck for child support, and he needs to make his own life outside the shadow of his father.Harvey Araton is a celebrated sports reporter and columnist for the New York Times. He authored the New York Times best-seller Driving Mr. Yogi: Yogi Berra, Ron Guidry, and Baseball's Greatest Gift; plus When the Garden Was Eden: Clyde, the Captain, Dollar Bill, and the Glory Days of the New York Knicks. Araton also finds time to serve as adjunct professor in sports writing at Montclair State University in New Jersey where he lives.
The game of basketball has gone global and is now the world's fastest-growing sport. Talented players from Europe, Asia, South America, and Africa are literally crashing the borders as the level of their game now often equals that of the American pros, who no longer are sure winners in international competition and who must compete with foreign players for coveted spots on NBA rosters. Yet that refreshing world outlook stands in stark contrast to the game's troubled image here at home. The concept of team play in the NBA has declined as, in the aftermath of the Michael Jordan phenomenon, the league's marketers and television promoters have placed a premium on hyping individual stars instead of teams, and the players have come to see that big-buck contracts and endorsements come to those who selfishly demand the spotlight for themselves. Even worse, relations between players and fans are at a low ebb. Players are perceived to be overpaid, ill-behaved, and arrogant. Fans, paying hundreds of dollars for tickets, often act boorishly and tauntingly. This tension boiled over on the night of November 19, 2004, at the Palace of Auburn Hills, Michigan, during a Detroit Pistons-Indiana Pacers game, when players brawled with fans as much as each other in what was, in fact, a racial skirmish. When the Pacer players entered the stands throwing punches, they had truly smashed an altogether different kind of border. In the aftermath of that sorry spectacle, regular-season television ratings declined for NBA games. Playoff-game ratings plummeted. Sales in NBA-licensing products sagged by a reported 30 percent. For the millions of Americans who cherish basketball, the love affair has reached a state of crisis. Few people care as deeply and know as much about basketball as Harvey Araton, the highly literate and well-traveled sports columnist for The New York Times. For many a season, Araton has observed "the ballers," as the players call themselves, at college tournaments, the NBA, and the Olympics. He has enjoyed a pressbox seat while watching the great 1980s rivalries of Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, the transcendent career of Michael Jordan, and the slow unraveling of the game through the 1990s until the present season, as newly arrived players and league officials misunderstood and misapplied the mixed lessons of Jordan's legacy. Calling on his many years of watching games, of locker-room interviews, of world-hopping reportage, Araton takes us to scenes of vivid play on the court and to off-camera dramas as well. In this taut, simmering book, the author points his finger at the greed and exploitation that has weakened the American game. And with uncommon journalistic courage, he opens a discussion on the volatile, undiscussed subject that lies at the heart of basketball's crisis: race. It begins, he argues, at the college level, where, too often, undereducated, inner-city talents are expected to perform for the benefit of affluent white crowds and to fill the coffers of their respective schools in what Araton calls a kind of "modern-day minstrel show." It continues at the pro level, where marketers have determined that "gangsta" imagery provides for a livelier entertainment package, never mind the effect it has on the quality of team play. And where, moreover, players themselves, often both street smart and immature, decide to live up to the thuggish stereotypes. Harvey Araton knows the players well enough to see beyond the stereotypes. He knows that for every clownish Dennis Rodman there is also an admirable David Robinson. For every Ron Artest, there is a Tim Duncan. Combining passion and knowledge, he calls on the NBA to heal itself and, with a hopeful sense of the possible, he points the way to a better future. Unflinching, timely, and authoritative, Crashing the Borders is the beginning of a much-needed conversation about sport and American culture. For those who care about both, this book will be the must-read work of the season.
"How would you like to hang out with Yogi Berra and Ron Guidry during spring training? Funny and sweet, Driving Mr. Yogi transports you there." -- Jim Bouton, author of Ball Four It happens every spring. Yankees pitching great Ron Guidry arrives at the Tampa airport to pick up Hall of Fame catcher and national treasure Yogi Berra. Guidry drives him to the ballpark. They watch the young players. They talk shop. They eat dinner together and tease each other mercilessly. They trade stories about the greats they have met along the way. And the next day they do the same thing all over again.As every former ballplayer can appreciate, in that routine, every spring, there emerges a certain magic.Driving Mr. Yogi is the story of how a unique friendship between a pitcher and catcher is renewed every year. It began in 1999, when Berra was reunited with the Yankees after a long self-exile, the result of being unceremoniously fired by George Steinbrenner fourteen years before. A reconciliation between Berra and the Boss meant that Berra would attend spring training again. Guidry befriended "Mr. Yogi" instantly. After all, Berra had been a mentor in the clubhouse back when Guidry was pitching for the Yankees. Guidry knew the young players would benefit greatly from Mr. Yogi's encyclopedic knowledge of the game, just as Guidry had during his playing days. So he encouraged him to share his insights. Soon, an offhand batting tip from Mr. Yogi turned Nick Swisher's season around. Stories about handling a hitter like Ted Williams or catching Don Larsen's perfect game captured their imaginations. And in Yogi, Guidry found not just an elder companion or source of amusement - he found a best friend.At turns tender, at turns laugh-out-loud funny, and teeming with unforgettable baseball yarns that span more than fifty years, Driving Mr. Yogi is a universal story about the importance of wisdom being passed from one generation to the next, as well as a reminder that time is what we make of it and compassion never gets old.
When the Garden Was Eden: Clyde, The Captain, Dollar Bill, and the Glory Days of the New York Knicksby Harvey Araton
The late 1960s and early 1970s, in New York City and America at large, were years marked by political tumult, social unrest-and the best professional basketball ever played. Paradise, for better or worse, was a hardwood court in Midtown Manhattan. When the Garden Was Eden is the definitive account of how the New York Knickerbockers won their first and only championships, and in the process provided the nation no small escape from the Vietnam War, the tragedy at Kent State, and the last vestiges of Jim Crow. The Knicks were more than a team; they were a symbol of harmony, the sublimation of individual personalities for the greater collective good. No one is better suited to revive the old chants of "Dee-fense!" that rocked Madison Square Garden or the joy that radiated courtside than Harvey Araton, who has followed the Knicks, old and new, for decades-first as a teenage fan, then as a young sports reporter with the New York Post, and now as a writer and columnist for the New York Times. Araton has traveled to the Louisiana home of the Captain, Willis Reed (after writing a column years earlier that led to his abrupt firing as the Knicks' short-lived coach); he has strolled the lush gardens of Walt "Clyde" Frazier's St. Croix oasis; discussed the politics of that turbulent era with Senator Bill Bradley; toured Baltimore's church basement basketball leagues with Black Jesus himself, Earl "the Pearl" Monroe; played memory games with Jerry "the Brain" Lucas; explored the Tao of basketball with Phil "Action" Jackson; and sat through eulogies for Dave DeBusschere, the lunch-bucket, 23-year-old player-coach lured from Detroit, and Red Holzman, the scrappy Jewish guard who became a coaching legend. In When the Garden Was Eden, Araton not only traces the history of New York's beloved franchise-from Ned Irish to Spike Lee to Carmelo Anthony-but profiles the lives and careers of one of sports' all-time great teams, the Old Knicks. With measured prose and shoe-leather reporting, Araton relives their most glorious triumphs and bitter rivalries, and casts light on a time all but forgotten outside of pregame highlight reels and nostalgic reunions-a time when the Garden, Madison Square, was its own sort of Eden.
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