Upon Further Review

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This book is sure to appeal to every Monday Morning Quarterback, and every fan who lies awake wondering, "but what if...?  Entertaining and sure to promote lots of conversation.
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A mix of sports history and the butterfly effect. What would/could/should have happened if one thing had happened differently. Very easy to read this either cover to cover or dip into and out of as your interests fit. I didn't care for each story as some sports aren't my cup of tea, but this was an overall well written collection of hypotheticals. Great for anyone with an interest in sports.
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The what if book of sports. That is what this book is about, the author has taken essays written by others and put together an interesting tail of what if? The United States boycotted the 1036 Olympics, would that have made more of an impression on the World to what was happening in Germany at the time, we would do it in 1980, interesting why we did not in 1936. What would have happened if the Giants did not win the pennant in 1951, the broadcast of the “Shot heard around the World”. A world series that had two young rookies Willie Mays for the Giants and Mickey Mantle for the Yankees, the Giants would lose. The author talks of other sporting events like Bucky Dent’s shot that put the Yankees back into the post season in 78, and what if Billy Riggs had beaten Jean King, that one I really did not read because at the time she was much better than him anyway. The chapter I liked was at the beginning about Cassius Clay, who later changed his named to Muhammad Ali. When you read this chapter the author takes you back to 1966, and how six months before the 24 year old Ali said “I have no personal quarrel with those Viet Cong”, that was his explanation, he went on to say a few more things and one must remember at that time he still could not eat at certain restaurants, or stay at hotels because of his race and this was after he won a gold medal in the 1960 Olympics, and most of this was happening in his home town of Louisville. His hearing lasted three hours and had no government witnesses, but there was a lengthy report from the FBI. But in a letter sent to Ali’s draft board by a white southern judge he recommended that a Conscientious Objector classification should be granted. This would have been just another one of Ali’s stunning upsets, but wait this letter from the judge did not matter the justice department rejected the letter and recommended that Ali be classified as 1-A and subject to the draft. Everyone of course knows what happens, well think what would have happened if that letter would have stood would he have become as huge maybe, but really that justice department helped him because when it to the Supreme court they first were going to rule not in his favor and when that letter was produced it was unanimous in his favor, he did lose 4 and half years but what is he known for fighting the U.S. AND WINNING. Overall a good book.
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Not just in sports, but in many aspects of life, “what if” is a question often asked when wondering if something could have happened differently.  For 31 sports occurrences, this question is answered by many authors in an entertaining book edited by Mike Pesca, who also wrote one of the stories.

Many different sports are addressed in the book, from baseball to horse racing to an obscure Olympic event, the tug of war.  Most the stories make for great reading. The reader will see that there is really no specific theme to the collection of stories – some are meant to be factual and the conclusions are based on research of the key people in the occurrence.  Some read like pure fiction and really should be treated as such.  Some can be downright funny, such as the last story about game 7 of the 2016 World Series and comparing it to many sports movies. 

One quibble I have with the book is the cover. On the cover there are four classic sports moments. They are Bill Buckner’s error in the 1986 World Series, “The Catch” by the late Dwight Clark, a photo from Super Bowl XXXIV when Kevin Dyson fell just short of the end zone on the last play (although the photo is not from that play) and Charles Barkley holding the NBA championship trophy with the Phoenix Suns.  The last one is fictional – and the only one in which there is a story to go with the photo. Why would the other three photos be used if stories were not in the book to go with them? 

As with any collection, there are some great stories (the aforementioned 2016 World Series, Sweetwater Clifton and the early days of the NBA and Muhammad Ali receiving his draft deferment) and a few clunkers (Bucky Dent not hitting the famous homer in 1978) but there are many more of the former than the latter. Between the variety of sports, the variety of styles to tell the story, and even the variety from fact to pure fiction, this book should have something for everyone who enjoys reading about sports. 

I wish to thank Twelve Books for providing a copy of the book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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Mike Pesca, the voice of Slate Magazine's daily podcast, has curated a selection of writings looking at the possibilities of how things might be different if one thing had gone different in various aspects of sports.  The conceit is that a different writer takes one thing, presents the proposed change, and extrapolates on how the world would be different from that one change.  The quality of each chapter is largely contingent on the quality of the writer and/or the detailed understanding of the topic.  The best chapters are by Stefan Fatsis and Mary Pilon, but Jesse Eisenberg's should have removed by any competent editor.  If you listen to the Hang Up and Listen podcast, you'll need to read this; if you enjoy sports, this book is worth your time.  It's a mixed bag, but the good stuff is great.
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Historians love to ponder the "what ifs?" of their subject. What if Germany constructed an atomic bomb before the United States? What if Lee Harvey Oswald had missed? What if Ralph Nader had not run for president in 2000? (Those who are interested in such things definitely should pick up Jeff Greenfield's books on recent political history.)

That concept also applies to sports. You could come up with an interesting list of questions to ask about the potential doorways opened to sports in my city, Buffalo, by changing a few key facts or two. What would have happened if Scott Norwood's kick was good? And if Brett Hull's goal was disallowed? Or if major league baseball granted a franchise to Buffalo in the early 1990s?

It's all fun to think about all of this. Therefore, it's fun to pick up a copy of Mike Pesca's book, "Upon Further Review." It covers several areas that you might have thought about, and a few that you certainly haven't.

Pesca lined up a series of interesting contributors, who combined to write 31 essays on a variety of subjects. Most are rather short, although Claude Johnson comes up with a long essay on basketball in the late 1940s and how a bad pass in a tournament might have changed the integration of the sport in that era. A partial list would include Leigh Montville on Muhammad Ali, Jason Gay on football around 1900, Stefan Fatsis on the Yankees-Red Sox playoff game in 1978, Mary Pilon on Title IX, Jeremy Schaap on Tyson-Douglas, Michael MacCambridge on Super Bowl III, and Bob Ryan on a Portland Trail Blazers' dynasty featuring a healthy Bill Walton.

The authors go in a variety of different directions and approaches here, and some work better than others. For example, Louisa Thomas makes a convincing argument that sports history wouldn't have been all that different had the United States' Women's World Cup soccer team lost the 1999 title in a shootout instead of winning it. Will Leitch wonders what baseball would look like if it were played only once a week, like football. Paul Snyder wonders what would have happened if track and field exploded as a sport in the 1950s. Hint: Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell have a rivalry after all ... but as high jumpers.

The outright fantasy stories don't work as well. Ethan Sherwood Strauss speculates on how today's Golden State Warriors would do if they traveled to the past to play a couple of great teams under the old rules. Jesse Eisenberg projects that his fan letter to Dan Majerle altered the course of basketball history. Nate DiMeo speculates on what might have happened if the tug-of-war had remained an Olympic event. Josh Levin ends the book by turning Game Seven of the 2016 World Series into every baseball movie ever made. After Malcolm Gladwell's foreword and Pesca's introduction that gave weight to the idea of studying revisionist history, the handful of just-for-fun scenarios come off a little forced. But they are all relatively clever, and certainly will work for some.

I'm a believer that chance plays a good-sized role in sports history, and that it wouldn't take much to change short-term and long-term outcomes dramatically. "Upon Further Review" will get you to thinking about such possibilities, and thus works pretty well.
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I was not able to read the digital copy from NetGalley. However, the book has been published and I did read quite a bit of this book over a couple lunch breaks at work. I have to admit, I did enjoy the "what if" look at many significant moments in sports history. It was like listening to my brothers go back and forth.

I admit that I haven't read the whole book BUT I read enough that I bought both my dad and my brother copies for their birthdays. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this book.
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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.” 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.

Bear in mind, these aren’t necessarily pieces about merely changing outcomes of specific games; the reality is that most individual contests (even championships) don’t matter in the grander scheme. A different victor would rarely have the sort of broad impact that Pesca wanted these essays to explore.

And broad impact is what we get. Across these 31 essays – written by all manner of experts and luminaries – we’re granted an opportunity to witness some compelling alternate histories play out.

The very first essay sets a serious tone. We hit the ground running with Leigh Montville, who writes about the possible repercussions of Muhammad Ali receiving his draft deferment. Instead of a cultural icon, perhaps Ali goes on to simply be a great boxer. Yes, he wouldn’t have had those lost years of his prime, which could have resulted in a more impressive record. But Ali’s struggles were what made him into such a giant societal figure. He’s a top-notch fighter, not a legend.

Another fascinating what-if comes from Shira Springer, who extrapolates what might have been if the United States had ultimately boycotted the 1936 Berlin Olympics on both individual and societal levels. Still another – written by Mary Pilon – wonders about a world where Title IX never was.

There are a couple of essays that discuss potential reinventions of football – one discussing how things might have changed if the game had been changed earlier, another about if the game was created today. Baseball is well-represented as well. A couple of favorite writers of mine – Ben Lindbergh and Will Leitch – penned essays; Lindbergh’s was about MLB beginning steroid testing in 1991, while Leitch’s wondered what baseball would be like if played just one day a week.

While individual contests aren’t a focus, there are a couple of what-ifs along those lines as well. What if Bucky Dent hadn’t hit that homer in 1978? What if Tom Brady never took over for Drew Bledsoe? What happens to the merger if the Jets lose Super Bowl III? What if Team USA hadn’t won the 1999 Women’s World Cup? What if Buster Douglas hadn’t defeated Mike Tyson? What if Billie Jean King hadn’t beaten Bobby Riggs?

And then there are the straight-up goofy ones. Noted sports weirdo Jon Bois has a great piece about the basketball being bigger than the rim. There’s a fun and funny alternate history revolving around the Olympics never dropping Tug of War. There’s a story about the 2017 Golden State Warriors time-traveling to play the NBA’s great teams and a great one where Game 7 of the 2016 World Series turns into every sports movie ever made.

Speaking of basketball, there’s a great series of injury what-ifs. The best of them are probably Bob Ryan’s musings on a healthy-kneed Bill Walton and Claude Johnson’s deep dive into how fixing a single errant pass in the late 1940s could have completely altered the NBA landscape.

And those are just some of the what-ifs at play.

“Upon Further Review” captures the sense of inquiry that comes with being a sports fan. Sports impacts society to a much greater degree than many people realize; some of these essays illustrate that reality beautifully. Others are wonkier, focusing more on how changes might affect the sports themselves. Still others are gleefully absurd, recognizing the inherent irrationality of sports fandom while still celebrating it.

It's a collection of top-tier writing talent here, covering a wide array of subjects. Even the most casual sports fan will find essays that engage and excite. Football, basketball, baseball – they are certainly the sports that receive the most attention. But hockey, boxing, soccer and the Olympics are represented. Even horse racing and chess get their due. It’s a broad swath of sports fandom being addressed.

“Upon Further Review” is a smart, thoughtful book. Every one of these 30-plus essays is worth a look; every reader will likely find themselves drawn to a different favorite, but they all have something meaningful to offer – even if it’s just a laugh. Sports are a vital component of our cultural fabric; it’s a lot of fun to wonder at the different ways those threads might have been woven together.
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I'm enjoying this book.  It speculates on what might have happened in slightly different situations, like what if Nixon had been good at football (!). Read the 30 short pieces in any order. It has an extensive index, so browsing there is not a bad way in.
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