Going for the Gold

Sports and entertainment, while they overlap, cast a wide swath across society. Whether earning a medal or a statuette, the thrill of victory can dwarf financial gain. The flip side […]

Sports and entertainment, while they overlap, cast a wide swath across society. Whether earning a medal or a statuette, the thrill of victory can dwarf financial gain. The flip side can uncover a sometimes shadowy world of exploitation. Then there are those losing battles that reveal a wealth of character that endures long after the flame has been extinguished. Perspective, it would seem, truly does depend on your point of view.

How Music Got Free: The End of an Industry, the Turn of the Century, and the Patient Zero of Piracy

Stephen Witt
Viking; 2015
304 pp.

THE PLOT Music piracy is nothing new, but today it’s an enormous business, replete with everything one would expect from an international scandal: greed, cunning, genius, and deceit. Digital music piracy has made multi-millionaires of some while leaving others with only their art and instrument.
THE MEAT The payola scandal of the 1950s pales in comparison to today’s secret underworld of media smuggling. From leaked albums to illegal websites, the book details the history of retail music from the days when the cash registers were ringing to those when “an entire generation committed the same crime.”
THE TWIST Not just about the music industry, this is a story about the Internet and what some might call “legalized crime.”
OTHER WORK The Street Singer: A Tale of Sex, Money, and Power in a Changing Brooklyn (Changing Lives Press; 2012)

Men in Green

Michael Bamberger
Simon and Schuster; 2015
272 pp.

THE PLOT A senior writer for Sports Illustrated, Bamberger tours the country revisiting selected heroes of the PGA Tour from the ’60s and ’70s, after the era of Ben Hogan and before that of Tiger Woods. His quest is to answer the question, “Was golf better in the day?”
THE MEAT Working from two lists of his own creation (living legends and secret legends), Bamberger interviews 18 members of golf’s “golden era,” from top-name celebrities to little-known caddies, in a celebration of the game before the entrance of corporate sponsorship and technologic breakthroughs.
THE TWIST Inspired by Roger Kahn’s “The Boys of Summer,” this immediate best-seller combines quality writing, candid interviews, and golf’s many different sides in the pre big-money days.
OTHER WORK The Green Road Home: Adventures and Misadventures as a Caddie on the PGA Tour (Da Capo Press; 2006)

Every Day I Fight

Stuart Scott with Larry Platt
Blue Rider Press; 2015
320 pp.

THE PLOT A victim of appendiceal cancer, ESPN reporter Stuart Scott fought an eight-year battle before succumbing to the disease earlier this year.
THE MEAT Pulling no punches, Scott writes about his battle to defeat the disease that threatened and eventually took his life. His most famous quote sums up his experience: “When you die, it does not mean that you lose to cancer.  You beat cancer by how you live, why you live, and the manner in which you live.”
THE TWIST A powerful, gut-wrenching story of a man who fought to the end, losing one battle but winning another. An outstanding read for anyone who knows someone going through a similar life struggle.

Television Is the New Television: The Unexpected Triumph of Old Media in the Digital Age

Michael Wolff
Portfolio; 2015
224 pp.

THE PLOT In our ever-broadening digital age, has television taken a back seat in the media world? Wolff argues TV remains in the fore. While a few digital companies generate an income, the reality is that most struggle when it comes to online text.
THE MEAT When it comes to the advertising dollar, television remains the gold standard. Quality programming has always represented the brass ring, and even more for niche audiences. A prime example: thirty seconds during this year’s Super Bowl cost $4.5 million. Those betting on the print and online world are fighting a steeply uphill battle.
THE TWIST Television advertising technology has become both cost effective and efficient. Properly integrated with other media, the potential reach is seemingly limitless.
OTHER WORK The Man Who Owns the News: Inside the Secret World of Rupert Murdoch (Broadway Books; 2008)

The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics

Daniel James Brown
Rizzoli; 2014
304 pp.

THE PLOT A New York Times best-seller now slated for theaters, this time capsule piece shows how dedication and perseverance paid off for athletes from the University of Washington in Seattle.
THE MEAT Low expectations precede this group of athletes, all from working-class families. In the middle of the Depression, these classic underdogs shocked the sporting world not only with their climb to success but also by ultimately winning before 75,000 people (including Adolf Hitler) at the Berlin Olympics.
THE TWIST What Laura Hillenbrand did for horse racing, Brown does for rowing in a book that’s both inspirational and informative, showing how these athletes beat both seemingly insurmountable odds and their own inner demons.
OTHER WORK The Indifferent Stars Above: The Harrowing Saga of a Donner Party Bride (William Morrow Paperbacks; 2010)