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There’s nothing quite like a sports movie, is there? Especially an inspirational sports movie. We love to see an underdog overcome tremendous odds to scrap his/her/their way to success, battling for every step and learning important lessons along the way.

“The Way Back,” directed by Gavin O’Conner from a script he co-wrote alongside Brad Ingelsby, checks a lot of those boxes; it’s the story of a once-great basketball player, long removed from the game, returning to his high school alma mater and taking the reins of their struggling basketball team. Perfect (albeit familiar) fodder for sports movie inspiration, right?

But there’s another level here, one that can’t help but color the story being told.

The film stars Ben Affleck, whose personal struggles have been part of the larger narrative surrounding him for some time now. One could argue that some of those struggles are reflected in the story being told on-screen; that inherent understanding results in some of the best work we’ve seen from him in years.

Published in Sports

It might be tough to fathom, considering we’re still in the deep freeze of winter, but baseball season is just around the corner. Spring training begins in just a matter of weeks; before you know it, there will be meaningful action on the diamond once again.

But maybe you’re looking for something to tide you over, to remind you of just why we love the game as much as we do. If that sounds like you – and you’re a Red Sox fan – I might have something for you.

Martin Gitlin’s “The Ultimate Boston Red Sox Time Machine Book” (Lyons Press, $18.95) is a lovely quick-hit journey through Red Sox history, from those early days of success at the dawning of the World Series era to the incredible success of recent days, as well as the long, long, LONG stretch of championship futility that dogged the team through most of the 20th century.

This book offers a condensed timeline of the team’s illustrious history, featuring a number of classic photos to go along with the tales of tribulation and triumph. And while many of these stories will ring familiar to longtime followers of the team, there’s something here for every level of fandom, from the neophytes to the diehards.

Published in Sports

Baseball, perhaps more than any other sport, is defined by its stories.

None of our American pro sports leagues have the same lengthy history within the culture. Nor do they have the same reverence for that history. Baseball is about narrative, a constant tale-telling that is built around connecting the present to the past.

Ron Darling’s new book “108 Stitches: Loose Thread, Ripping Yarns, and the Darnedest Characters from My Time in the Game” (St. Martin’s Press, $29.99) is about telling those stories, all through the lens of his own experience in the game. And he’s got plenty of experiences to talk about – a 13-year major league career where he won 136 games as a starting pitcher and two decades in the broadcast booth.

Darling’s conceit is a simple one: A series of stories about the various figures with whom he crossed paths over the course of nearly four decades in professional baseball. All told, there are 108 tales – just like there are 108 stitches on a baseball.

Published in Sports

Sports fandom is a funny thing. Not only do we love talking about what happened in a given game or season or career, but we also love asking questions about all those things. Specifically … what if? What if something changed fundamentally about the games that we love? And what if those changes resulted in more changes and those changes led to still more changes and so on?

That’s the guiding force behind “Upon Further Review: The Greatest What-Ifs in Sports History” (Twelve Books, $28). Assembled and curated by Mike Pesca, this collection of essays takes a look at what might have happened if certain aspects of the sports world had played out differently. Some of them address the topic at hand with scholarly seriousness, while others work with tongue planted firmly in cheek, but all of them are engaging looks at diverging potential paths through sports history.

Published in Sports

Every life features moments that can change everything. There are some choices whose effects will reverberate throughout the rest of our lifetimes, coloring every subsequent experience and largely defining the kind of person that history will judge us to be.

And so it is that with great humility and great hope, I, Allen Adams, must once again declare myself eligible for the draft. Sorry – drafts.

Published in Sports

It might be hard to believe, considering how much snow we’ve seen recently, but spring is here. Whatever the weather says, the truth is that baseball season is just around the corner! Spring training is coming to a conclusion – we’re on the verge of seeing games that count!

There’s plenty to be excited about in 2018. The Houston Astros look ready to hit the field as defending champions for the first time in their history. We might get our first legitimate two-way player in nearly a century thanks to the Angels’ Shohei Ohtani. Young superstars like Bryce Harper and Manny Machado are playing for what will likely prove to be record-shattering free agent contracts. Mike Trout and Clayton Kershaw will continue to build on their Hall of Fame careers.

And once again, I have staved off the inevitable reality of age; we have not one, but two major league baseball players who are older than I am – pitcher Bartolo Colon, now with the Minnesota Twins, and outfielder Ichiro Suzuki, who has returned to the Seattle Mariners, the team where his storied MLB career began.

As for the specifics – who knows? There are going to be a lot of home runs and a lot of strikeouts. There will be stars who perform to expectations and unknowns who shock the world. There will be delightful highs and unfortunate lows. There’s no way to say for certain what will go down on the field in 2018.

But let’s give it a go anyway.

(Division winners – x; Wild Card teams – y)

Published in Cover Story
Wednesday, 07 February 2018 14:55

Ice ice baby - 'I, Tonya'

There are relatively few truly shared experiences anymore. The proliferation of the internet has led to a cultural splintering that largely prohibits the grand-scale zeitgeist moments that we all witnessed together.

To anyone possessed of even a modicum of awareness in 1994, the name Tonya Harding was a familiar one. She was at the center of one of the most bizarre incidents in sports history when she was involved (or not involved) in the planning of an assault on Nancy Kerrigan, her fellow figure skater and major rival in the 1994 Olympic Games.

“I, Tonya” means to tell that story. And it does, after a fashion, by embracing the strangeness of the situation. Rather than trying to piece together the truth from a collection of wildly differing accounts, director Craig Gillespie and screenwriter Steven Rogers lean into the disparities, bouncing from POV to POV and producing a story that is utterly compelling even as it utterly lacks consistency.

Published in Sports

Of all our major sports, baseball is the one with the longest history. All that history means that on a singular level, there’s room for a lot of interesting things to happen. It’s like the adage about infinite monkeys and infinite typewriters eventually producing “Hamlet” – do something long enough and you’ll eventually get some singular results.

Joe Cox’s latest book “The Immaculate Inning: Unassisted Triple Plays, 40/40 Seasons, and the Stories Behind Baseball’s Rarest Feats” (Lyons Press, $27.95) recounts some of those singular moments. Some are just one game (or even one play) while others consist of longer stretches and even full seasons, but they all share at least one commonality: you don’t see them every day.

Published in Sports
Wednesday, 13 December 2017 13:01

Going Bowling 2017

It's that time of year again - that time when I use every bit of knowledge I have accumulated in another season of college football semi-fandom in a Quixotic attempt to predict the winners of every bowl game.

I've had some success in the past, but make no mistake - I have no idea what I'm doing.

It's a chance to see some college football teams that you know nothing about. You never know if you might stumble upon a game where something unprecedented takes place – in fact, I (along with my good friend Jason Preble) have a long history of stumbling onto the wildest, most unexpectedly entertaining bowl matchups of each season. I expect more of the same this year.

And with that - let's go bowling.

Published in Cover Story

“Belief in each other.”

University of Maine football coach Joe Harasymiak calls that a fundamental component of his program and as “Coach H” gets ready to kick off his second year as Black Bear boss, he and his staff believe they’re prepared to make continued progress this season after doubling the team’s win total last year.

Published in The Sports Edge
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