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There are few times on the American sports calendar as eagerly anticipated as March Madness. The NCAA basketball tournament is one of the most celebrated sporting stretches of the year, with teams from all over the country harboring hopes of championship glory.

Now, the reality of the tournament is that, while there will be 64 teams that gain entry to the bracket (68, technically, when you take the play-in games into account), only a handful of those have realistic aspirations of winning it all. For the majority of these teams, the real victory is getting there in the first place.

A handful of those hopefuls serve as the primary subjects for legendary sportswriter John Feinstein’s newest book “The Back Roads to March: The Unsung, Unheralded, and Unknown Heroes of a College Basketball Season” (Doubleday, $27.95). It’s a look at the teams and people who live the college game off the beaten path. Sure, there’s some mention of the Dukes and Kentuckys and Virginias of the world, but this book isn’t about them – it’s about the teams grinding it out in conferences where if you don’t win the whole thing, you have no shot at The Dance.

Published in Sports

The NFL is America’s sport. Football is as close to monocultural as it gets these days; even in a world with nigh-unlimited options available for our entertainment, a lot of us choose football. It is shared culture and it is BIG business.

These teams, these billion-dollar entities – their on-field well-being is placed in the hands of a single man. What kind of person is capable of being all things to all (or at least most) people, in the pocket and in the studio? What kind of person is capable of being a quarterback?

That’s what author John Feinstein wants to tell us in his new book “Quarterback: Inside the Most Important Position in the National Football League” (Doubleday, $27.95). He takes a deep dive into the realities of the position – what it means to play at an NFL level, of course, but also what goes into dealing with the pressures of being THE guy, the one who gets credit for the wins, yes, but also takes the blame for the losses.

Published in Sports
Wednesday, 27 June 2012 14:38

Rubbing elbows with the greats

I recently had the good fortune to attend the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association awards ceremony in Salisbury, North Carolina. Winners from each state and their spouses converged on the southland, along with national honorees Dan Shulman of ESPN and former 'Sports Illustrated' writer Joe Posnanski and Hall of Fame inductees Bob Costas and John Feinstein. The four-day affair included a round-table discussion or two, a seminar, and a seemingly endless supply of food. For us small-town guys, it's an opportunity to not only rub elbows with the big names, but to meet up with peers from around the country, swap stories and share a lot of laughs.

A good deal of time was spent with New England colleagues Joe D'Ambrosio, who has broadcast UConn games for decades, and Jim Jeanotte, who will be inducted into the University of New Hampshire's Hall of Fame this coming Saturday. I also got to talk about northeast baseball's return to the College World Series with The Boston Globe's Bob Ryan and Dan Shaughnessy. It was fun to connect with Bill Roth, the voice of Virginia Tech, whom I hadn't seen since my last trip to the awards weekend, and make new friends like Gene Deckerhoff, the legendary Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Florida State broadcaster, Pete Weber of the Nashville Predators, the Philadelphia Flyers' Jim Jackson, and Lyn Rollins of LSU. There's a level of camaraderie among play-by-play guys that's always enjoyable, as we share preferences about spotter sheets (the chart of staring players and substitutes) and horror stories about the worst press boxes we've encountered.

Published in The Sports Edge

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