Category: Sports (Page 1 of 5)

Author Q & A with Paul Lacoste

Interview by Jana Hoops. Special to the Clarion-Ledger Sunday print edition (December 17)

lacoste coverPaul Lacoste has spent his career coaching others into top physical form, and he’ll be the first to admit that when it comes to getting his clients in shape, he’s not known for taking a subtle approach.

But he’s learned the hard way that motivating people to reach their fitness goals is about more than changing their physical appearance–it’s all about inspiring mental and spiritual changes, as well.

In his newly released book, Lacoste: Living Life at the Next Level, he shares his own story of how the many life challenges he’s faced eventually led to a realization that only his faith in God could turn things around.

Today Lacoste, who holds a master’s degree in Sports Administration from Mississippi State University, enthusiastically brings that commitment to his coaching style, as he tells clients: “I want your F.A.T.”–or Fears Affecting Transformation. His goal these days is to go beyond their physical needs as he acknowledges that they, like him, may be facing inner challenges that could hold them back from reaching fitness objectives.

A lifelong athlete who was named an All SEC football player at MSU and played for the National Football League, the Canadian Football League, and the XFL, Lacoste found that it was adversity–not athleticism–that would lead him to the next level.

His growing series of nationally recognized fitness programs for adults, students and pro athletes has brought him scores of awards, including the White House Champions of Change award and several designations as best trainer in the Jackson Metro area.

Mike Frascogna III, who competed against him in high school sports and played college football at Notre Dame while Lacoste played at Mississippi State, is an intellectual property lawyer and  co-author of five previous sports-related books. Lacoste: Living Life at the Next Level, he says, is a result of his 30-year friendship with Lacoste.

As the youngest of four competitive, athletic, and smart brothers and the son of a very driven father, you grew up in Jackson in a home you’ve described as loving, supportive, and extremely competitive. Briefly explain the values that were instilled in you through those years.

Growing up in a home that demonstrated tremendous love, support, and extreme competition fortunately taught me the values of what true love, protection, and lifelong commitment is for family, friends, and loved ones. More specifically, I learned by observation and watching my parents’ actions towards each other and towards each of their children. We were all taught we could achieve and do anything we wanted if we stayed focused, worked hard, and never gave up on the goals and dreams life set before us.

Encouraging health and wellness at a local elementary school

Encouraging health and wellness at a local elementary school

Along with this, I was taught to not grow up and find “any job” just to bring home a paycheck, but to truly find something I was passionate about–and that success was sure to follow. This is something I have personally carried on and try to instill in my two sons, Cannon and Cole, on a daily basis.

As you grew, you realized you were blessed with athletic talent and, thanks to your mother, you also excelled academically despite the challenges of hyperactivity and dyslexia. How have these realities shaped you?

Growing up with ADHD and dyslexia combined, I had to quickly learn the importance of a serious work ethic at a young age. I treated my football days as my job from junior high forward. With this, I had to choose to overcome obstacles, never back down, and know hard work was sure to pay off.

Looking back, I am forever thankful for my mother’s consistency in working with me every day, and for choosing to not let my “fits” as a kid cause her to give in and not make me complete what she knew was best for me.

Those realities have brought me through so many obstacles and so many stages in my life, including my brother’s death at a very young age, accepting the highs and lows of my football career, overcoming West Nile, and facing a terrible divorce, to name a few.

After being named an All-SEC player at Mississippi State and participating in brief associations with the NFL, the CFL and the XFL, you earned your master’s degree in Sports Administration, began to reconsider your dream of playing pro ball, and planned to begin a career in coaching. It turned out that you found your niche in fitness training for mostly non-athletes. How and why did this turn out to be your most passionate career pursuit?

I consider my niche to be more of a “coaching” style rather than a fitness training approach. Whether I am working with a pro athlete getting ready for the combine or a local business man or woman, my goal is to help that person achieve his or her dreams and to never give up.

Early morning training at Madison Central High School

Early morning training at Madison Central High School

I give a lot of credit for the way I coach today to my mother and the way she worked with me as a young boy, and to my coaches in football, basketball, soccer, and other sports, throughout life.

My passion lies in helping people take life to the next level. Yes, my clients come to me to get in shape. However, I have learned that getting in shape is not just physical. I tell my clients, “I want your F.A.T.!”

“FAT” stands for fears affecting transformation. These fears can be physical, spiritual, and mental–anything that holds an individual back from being his or her best.

It seems the word most associated with your training style (and everything else you do) is “intense,” and you developed a reputation as a somewhat ruthless trainer who produced results for clients, but often with a rather “rough around the edges” persona. You’ve lightened up in recent years. Explain the change.

I have definitely not “lightened up.” I am still just as intense, if not even more passionate now than ever. But through the trials and tribulations previously mentioned it became clearer to me in recent years what “F.A.T.” consisted of. Through the valleys and mountains in my own life, I can better relate to my clients and what is holding them back. Getting baptized on my 40th birthday started a new beginning for me.

You still demand a lot of your clients when they sign up for your training programs. Tell me about the programs you offer, and what clients can expect.

Currently, I have three 12-week programs a year; three four-week programs; and the Fit 4 Series, consisting of Fit 4 Change, Fit 4 Preaching, Fit 4 Teaching, and Fit 4 Healthcare. The 12-week programs and Fit 4 programs are four days a week for an hour each day. The four-week programs take place on the “off months” of the 12-week programs, meeting twice a week for an hour each day.

I make it clear to all participants on day one of each program that I have them for one hour a day and there are 23 more hours in the day, leaving it up to each of them to have discipline and stay focused. During this one hour it is very important that the participants don’t waste their time or my time by stepping onto the training field if they are not ready to give it their all.

All in all, clients can expect results through a training program that is recognized and has been recognized for years as not only as intense, but as the best throughout the country. Paul Lacoste Sports has been contacted by the Oprah Winfrey Network, presented with the award for excellence in wellness promotion by the Mississippi State Medical Association, nominated for the Magnolia award and for the White House Champions of Change award featured in Men’s Health Magazine, and voted as best boot camp and trainer in the Greater Jackson area, to name a few.

Why did you decide to put your story into book form?   

My longtime life friend Mike Frascogna has encouraged me for years to consider a book that would offer inspiration and motivation to anyone who is wanting to know he or she is not alone in overcoming the obstacles, trials and tribulations that life has to offer at all stages. Mike has been by my side for over 20 years, and has lived through challenging personal life events with me. Through his persistent encouragement, Mike made it clear to me that if I shared my life struggles with others, the story would be worth it 100 times over and over again if it saved one person from giving up on life’s dreams, passions, and the unique talents and abilities God has blessed each of us with.

Just as important, my dear friend and mentor Ron Aldridge with the Mississippi Beverage Association has stood by my side through thick and thin since the first Fit 4 Change program in 2009. It was with his shared passion for the health and wellness for the state of Mississippi that he has not only encouraged me, but made the book become a reality through our business partnership.

Through the years, you’ve endured the crushing weight of adversity through the death of your oldest brother when he was only 28, financial setbacks, divorce, a life-threatening case of West Nile virus, cancer, depression, and the threat of losing your two young sons. What has transformed your outlook into a more positive attitude?

Once my ex-wife moved my sons away from me from Madison to the Gulf Coast, making it nearly impossible for me to have a daily relationship with Cannon and Cole, I was quickly knocked down and felt I had nowhere else to go.

At that point, I opened my hands and asked God to take full control of my life and lead the way. I learned the hard way we all have “our” plans for our lives, but God’s plan is much better, even though it may be a different plan than what we expected. We must choose to trust in Him.  Our minister at Pinelake [Church] told us that “If we give our future to God, we get a future.” Wow, now that’s powerful!

A new approach to training

A new approach to training

What does your future hold?

Just around the corner, Fit 4 Change and Fit 4 Preaching will take place in January, February, and March. I am looking forward to Fit 4 Healthcare and Fit 4 Teaching during the summer months. I continue to strive in looking for new opportunities and programs that will positively impact the health and well-being not only for our local community but throughout the state of Mississippi.

Paul Lacoste and Mike Frascogna III will sign copies of Lacoste: Living Life at the Next Level at 5 p.m. Dec. 20 at Lemuria Books in Jackson.

Gifting the Perfect Book: For Both a Packer’s Backers and His Detractors

A disclaimer: I’m not really so much a Brett Favre fan. I am, however, definitely a Jeff Pearlman fan.

Pearlman is the author of both the melancholy, elegiac Walter Payton biography gunslingerSweetness and the uproarious, unbelievable 90s Dallas Cowboys tell-all Boys Will Be Boys. Biographies are at their best when the writers get themselves out of the way, which Pearlman does, although he still leaves an impression with his skill and versatility. So, when I heard this fall he was releasing Gunslinger: The Remarkable, Improbable, Iconic Life of Brett Favre, I knew I had to read it, because, truly, Favre was all three of those things, and I knew Pearlman would do him justice.

Brett Favre’s pro football career with the Falcons, Packers, Jets, and Vikings lasted an odds-defying 20 years (plus four more years at Southern Miss previous, as some around here will surely remember). Brett Favre’s Packers won the Super Bowl when I was in the fourth grade, and if the other boys in my class didn’t want to be Chipper Jones, they wanted to be Brett Favre.

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As Favre’s career stretched infinitely on, he had to not only adapt to the shifting schematics on the field around him, but also to a new media landscape. Pearlman’s perfectly captures how he went from being able to perfectly play Peter King’s strings to having a target on his back at Deadspin. When he finally hung up his cleats for good in 2010, this internet video (warning: suggestive content), a send-up of slick contemporary Nike commercial for LeBron James) was a pitch perfect parody of his public persona and accompanying peccadillos. It hits upon his waffling on retirement, recent sexting scandal, and erratic decisions on field. This is what Brett Favre had become to my generation. Farve had matured a little bit off the field, but still loved attention and was now far behind the media curve.

Brett’s story is as old as Beowulf—the hero can do no wrong when he is young and strong, but as the cliché from numerous sports broadcast says: father time is undefeated. He tries valiantly one time for glory, but comes up short.

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Look, if you are a Favre fan, rest assured: Pearlman is no takedown artist. But as he states at the end of the book, he isn’t trying “to write an ode to Brett, but an explanation of Brett.” Which he accomplishes very well. I feel I understand Favre as more of a three-dimensional person than the caricature he was in the above video. As fans, we don’t need to deify (or crucify) our athletes or celebrities to enjoy or appreciate the work they do. Pearlman has written another deft, dead-on examination of football’s ironman to help hammer home that thesis.

Forward Momentum: ‘The Perfect Pass’ by S.C. Gwynne

I’ve really loved football for about sixteen years, ever since my family took me to see my first New Orleans Saints game. But despite this abiding passion for the game, I don’t always completely understand it. I never played myself in any organized competition.  I do know the rules and rhythms of the game, which I’ve come by through years of experience watching high school, college, and pro games. But I’m always looking to further understand what I’m seeing, especially through the best way I learn anything—through an engaging story.

perfect-passIn The Perfect Pass, the story of the Air Raid offense’s development, S.C. Gwynne (author of Rebel Yell and the Pulitzer-nominated Empire of the Summer Moon) takes the time to explain football concepts both technically and philosophically—without making the book a slog. And the reader never feels dumb—the story’s protagonist is coach Hal Mumme (along with his protégé Mike Leach) learning one thing after another about the offensive vision they are trying to realize. It’s about exploiting blind spots in other coach’s thinking by defying traditional wisdom. The story, at the core, is a love letter to the forward pass.

Although Mumme, the hero in this odyssey from Copperas Cover High School to Iowa Wesleyan College to Valdosta State University, didn’t develop one single, unstoppable play (as the title may suggest), he did synthesize a bunch of cutting edge offenses—the run-and-shoot, the West Coast offense, BYU’s spectacular 1980s passing attack—to simplify things for his own players while simultaneously complicating things for his opponents. It’s a system that didn’t rely on uniquely talented star players, even the quarterbacks from Dustin Dewald to Chris Hatcher to Tim Couch who make it all work. In fact, its influence has outpaced the coaches who synthesized, practiced, and advocated for it.

Mike Leach took the Air Raid to Texas Tech, with years of consistently good football that apexes with this incredible Michael Crabtree catch to beat #1 Texas in 2008.  Now, Leach is scratching his way around mediocrity with Washington State in the Pac-12.

blazersHal Mumme at one point was head coach at Kentucky and once upset the mighty Alabama Crimson Tide. Now, he coaches at my beloved alma mater, Belhaven University, a Christian liberal arts college here in Jackson with an arts emphasis and little in the way of a football heritage—yet. The influence of the Air Raid is felt with the increase of passing in the NFL down to the ubiquity of 7-on-7 camps for high school recruits.

Really, The Perfect Pass is a story like you would find in many other genres of nonfiction—business, history, art. It’s a story of success, influence, and revolutionary thinking. And Gwynne moves the prose along with the tempo of the Air Raid offense itself. If you’re interested in seeing the development of the games within the game, and having a better appreciation for air-based attacks in football, be sure not to pass up The Perfect Pass.

The Cog in the Machine: “NFL Confidential” by Johnny Anonymous

Jacket (9)Johnny Anonymous, a white offensive lineman in the NFL who wishes to remain, well…anonymous, opens his book NFL Confidential with a pretty audacious challenge: “…I changed a bunch of…names, timeline, details, the usual. All so you can’t figure out who I really am. Go ahead, try. I dare you. Catch me if you can.”

That’s a short order in the internet age, especially for somebody who plays in the NFL and is so awash in publicly available information, regardless of how unimportant he thinks he is. I won’t link to the page that floats a very convincing theory as to the author’s real identity, but you can find it with a cursory Google search. As I read the book with this person’s identity in mind, it became clear: all the puzzle pieces fit.

But why all the cloak-and-dagger in the first place? What secrets about the NFL is he going to blow open for the reader? Is it any worse than what we already know–concussionsperformance-enhancing drugs , franchises extorting money from cities for new stadiums, and domestic violence?

I mean, not really. If there is one thing he focuses on that will probably leave the reader feeling most uneasy, it’s the excruciating toll being a pro football player takes on the bodies and minds of the people who play the sport, both in the short-term of maintaining weight (things get fairly scatalogical) and the dark spectre of long-term damage.

The other thing he seems to hate about the NFL is the insecurity. Certainly, this is ultimately exemplified in job insecurity, especially for players on the margins like him, who are always in danger of getting cut. Even though “scrubs” make hundreds of thousands of dollars per year, that doesn’t always go as far you’d think. Because he only has one year left on his contract, he can’t even get a mortgage for a modest home he tries to buy in a mid-size Midwestern city..

Ultimately, what his frustration with the NFL seems to add up to is the process of dehumanization that it entails. As an NFL player, you are expected to lose your individuality. It’s the flip side of one of the nicer things you could say about sports, specifically football, and especially the offensive line: it gives you a chance to be part of something larger than yourself. But you can say that about many things, and that’s what makes his dilemma so compelling, I think. It’s a ramped-up version of a very human problem.

Often, it seems like the cons outweigh the pros to staying in football for Anonymous. He feels like he should quit, and his hometown girlfriend certainly encourages him to do so. But, ultimately, he’s not Chris Borland, the pomising San Francisco 49ers linebacker who quit the NFL after just one year. Anonymous struggles to rationalize what keeps him playing, settling for a vague mixture of a love of playing and also a vague terror of deciding what he would do otherwise.

This all sounds pretty personal, but it doesn’t really answer what’s with the anonymity. That’s much easier to explain: he writes with the kind of honesty that makes the people around him look human. And, by “human,” I mean it makes the characters who populate this book–the general manager and owner, his coaches, his teammates, and even himself–look like flawed, silly, self-interested, narcissistic jackasses. He also captures their vulnerabilities and fears and jokes intended for private audiences. I mean, it’s kind of what happens when you write a memoir from any walk of life that isn’t overly sanitized for public consumption.

Anonymous is not overly self-serious, so it would feel off-putting to expect him to treat the rest of his world this way. You do get invested in his journey–from his status as ex-mama’s boy who struggles to move on after her death when was in junior high, to his cyclical relationship with his girlfriend, to his his love/hate relationship with his offensive line coach. It’ll matter to you, too, by the end, if you stick with the book–if you’re okay with all the cursing and lack of political correctness/general sense of propriety.

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And, though I find the probing of human condition in those around us to be a fascinating and forgiving process lined with the potential for empathy, that’s cold comfort when you are routinely held up for public scrutiny as much as NFL players  and coaches are. Especially when we fans and they themselves so often expect them to be more than human. And don’t even get me started on how the NFL is not big  on the distractions that this book could generate with sufficient notoriety.

If you’re looking for a gritty exposé on the dark underbelly of the NFL, this book is probably going to waste your time. If you’re looking for a conflicted, fascinating memoir from the perspective of a specific (though representative) NFL player, this book is great. If you enjoy reading ESPN the Magazine or Peter King’s MMQB website, you will probably like this book. I know I did.

“The Boys in the Boat” by Daniel James Brown

“…those almost mystical bonds of trust and affection, if nurtured correctly, might lift a crew above the ordinary sphere, transport it to a place where nine boys somehow became one thing—a thing that could not quite be defined, a thing that was so in tune with the water and the earth and the sky above that, as they rowed, effort was replaced by ecstasy.” 

JacketThe New York Times bestselling The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown is about the Washington University rowing team that won the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. Through newspaper articles, journals, interviews, and the like, Brown weaves his research into an engaging tale of overcoming odds and pushing toward success.

While the story involves the journey of nine crew students at Washington, it focuses on Joe Rantz, a talented boy forced to grow up too fast. You get a glimpse of the heartache and struggle he had to endure at a young age that ultimately gave him the fight and determination he needed to excel on the Washington crew.

It’s amazing how these boys were not only a part of a highly-competitive rowing team, but they also had to attend class and do school work, as well as take on jobs to pay their way through college. The demands placed upon that generation and their perseverance through it all are truly inspirational. It was their resolve that transferred into rowing and led them to become Olympic champions.

I never really knew how both physically and mentally demanding rowing is. The details about each stroke, the technique, and how the body is effected left me feeling exhausted in some sections. It also amazed me how in-sync they had to be: “The movements of each rower are so intimately intertwined, so precisely synchronized with the movements of all the others, that any one rower’s mistake or subpar performance can throw off the temp of the stroke, the balance of the boat, and ultimately the success of the whole crew.”

After reading about how much the sport tested the team and how their coaches pushed them, it really made me appreciate rowing, and I think it is one of the most challenging sports of all time.

Not only is this a story about rowing, but Brown also paints a picture of the world during the 1930s. The Depression, the Dust Bowl, and the rise of Hitler all set the backdrop to the primary story of collegiate rowing. The reader gets a better understanding of the political scene during the games and just how influential the American victory in Berlin was on an international level.

I also loved reading about how the team bonded together, not just because of rowing, but because of who they were—the sons of farmers and miners, just trying to survive and working for a better future. The 1936 Olympics wasn’t just a victory for the University of Washington, but for all Americans during a dark time. It’s no wonder that those nine boys in the boat still inspire people today.

Overall, it was an excellent read, and I’m excited to see how it will translate onto the Big Screen in the next year or so.

Rebel Reads: ‘Bo’ by Billy Watkins and ‘The Last Season’ by Stuart Stevens

To be perfectly frank with you, I wasn’t really planning on reading either Bo: A Quarterback’s Journey Through an SEC Season by Billy Watkins or The Last Season: A Father, a Son, and a Lifetime of College Football. But one Saturday in September, I wore an Ole Miss shirt into work, thus betraying my football-watching proclivity in this wonderful land of book nerds. Anyway, John Evans saw it and then personally put both of these books in my hands, so I thought, “Well, I guess I have to read these next.” And the thing is, I’m glad I did.

So I guess I’m addressing this blog post to anybody who might be intrigued, but not
51RabtZhGJL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_fully convinced, by the Ole Miss iconography on their respective covers. I think they’re both worth your time, but they do work on different levels.

I was trying to explain to a co-worker, who is less versed in SEC football, why somebody wrote a book about Bo Wallace. My co-worker inquired: “Did he win a championship?” No. “Is he an off-field celebrity like Tim Tebow?” Not really. “Is he a big Mississippi high school legend?” He’s from Tennessee.

In fact, his reputation was as a pretty good SEC quarterback with a penchant for throwing interceptions. If you’ve been watching Ole Miss football at all in the past few years, you’ve heard the announcers endlessly differentiate between “Good Bo” and “Bad Bo” (although, in my heart, he’ll always be Dr. Bo.

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Anyway, the reason the book exists is because Billy Watkins thinks Bo is kind of a cool guy. And that reason is not a bad one, or wrong. Bo was tremendously gracious, good-natured, and full of school spirit when he came to Lemuria for the reading and signing. And that very much comes through in the book, as well as the eternally-referenced qualities of competitiveness and leadership. There’s a nuts-and-bolts, behind-the-scenes quality to these football books that always draws me in. Which brings me to the other interesting thing about this book: it simultaneously manages to humanize the person behind the praise and criticism, while also managing to feel very typical of what an SEC player (especially at high-profile one) goes through.

Also, if I might speak frankly with you, my fellow Rebel fans, while I know last season didn’t the end the way we wanted it to (i.e., with a big, gleaming crystal football hoisted high above Hugh Freeze’s head) it was still a pretty good season, and this book will make a nice time capsule for a sometimes-special season when the times get lean, as they are wont to do in the competitive SEC West.

9780385353021In fact, we all know that rooting for Ole Miss often perfectly embodies what Stuart Stevens calls “the essence of sport”: “disappointment masked by periodic bursts of joy and nurtured by denial.” Stevens, in The Last Season, chronicles the 2013 Ole Miss football season as he retreats from his career for a while to enjoy a season of games with his parents, especially his 95 year-old father who took him to games as a kid.

I was surprised by this book. I was expecting something corny and simplistic, like other examples from the genre of “inspirational” literature. But what I found instead was a writer embracing his world, his family, and himself with a surprising degree of complexity. I mean, a simple Zen-like momento mori truth does echo throughout the book: draw close to and spend time with those who are important to you while you can. But, despite what the title would have you believe (I suspect marketing shenanigans at the publisher), there’s no maudlin tragedy fueling the narrative. If you’d call this book inspirational, I’d call it the best kind.

Also, critically, Stevens can flat-out write. He’s an astute observer, not a half-bad philosopher (with some help from his dad on that front), and fine spinner of phrases. I especially enjoyed his remembrances of growing up in the Belhaven neighborhood, and I laughed out loud in reading some of his pitch-perfect encapsulations of sports fandom. I mean, who among us hasn’t been here: “Dying may feel worse than losing a game like this, but at least with dying there’s the comfort of knowing it’s unlikely to happen again.”

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Fundamentally, what I enjoyed most was his subversion of expectations in what a football book should be. In one of my favorite passages, Stevens explains, “Many people loved to point to the game as a metaphor for life, spinning out the lessons learned on the field to the landscape of life. There was surely truth in that, but it had never interested much….It was good because it was good, and that was enough.” Which is why I think The Last Season can also speak to non-Rebel fans, and even non-football fans.

Ultimately, however, in addition to whatever else value they fulfill, both Bo and The Last Season do what they promise on their covers: help pleasantly pass the time until next Saturday or next season, whichever comes first.

The Sports Gene by David Epstein

sports geneDo you remember the star athlete at your high school? You know the one who excelled at every sport with ease? Maybe he or she was a natural. Or was it just disciplined training? For as long as humans having been competing, we’ve been debating nature vs. nurture. David Epstein, senior writer for Sports Illustrated, takes a look at both sides of the debate in The Sports Gene.

Since the sequencing of the human genome, scientists have been able to better understand the relationship between biological endowments and athletic training. This research sheds light on why the discipline to train may be innate and the lightning fast reaction of a baseball batter may be learned. Epstein also explores sensitive questions concerning race and gender. Are black athletics naturally better runners? Should males and females be separated in athletic competitions? Should kids be genetically tested for athletic ability? And could this genetic testing determine who might be more at risk for injury?

This book is a resource for educators and parents as well as a captivating read for the casual reader. Epstein has pulled together scientific research, interviews and anecdotes in such a practical and engaging way. It seems we finally have a basis to really understand athleticism in a holistic way. We will never have a definitive answer as to why one exceeds at sports and another is unremarkable, but Epstein’s book points to the potential that we all have.

Tony La Russa & John Grisham

You may have heard that Tony La Russa will be signing Friday, November 30 at 5:00. Here’s a sneak peak from his book One Last Strike. This passage is from the Foreward written by John Grisham:

“. . . Tony graciously invited me to come to St. Louis, watch a game, hang out with the team, and have a late dinner. I collected my dad, Big John, and away we went. It was a memorable visit, the highlight being Big John and Stan the Man sitting together for two hours watching the Cardinals and reminiscing. Leaving St. Louis the following day, my dad informed me that he had now reached the pinnacle, his life was complete, and he was ready for the hereafter. Thankfully, he’s still around and doesn’t need a Cardinal game on television.”

“In late spring of 2011, I called Tony and told him I finally had an idea for a baseball novel. The central plot involved a beanball and baseball’s unwritten code for dealing with it. Talk about a hot-button topic. Nothing torments Tony like a hit batter. Was it intentional? Do we retaliate? If so, when? And who do we hit? In his dugout, he makes the call, and by doing so takes the pressure of his players. Other managers refuse to touch the issue, instead allowing their players to handle things. More than once I’ve heard Tony describe how a perfectly civilized baseball game can change in an instant by a fastball up and in . . .”

And there you have the beginnings of Calico Joe.

One Last Strike: Fifty Years in Baseball, Ten and a Half Games Back, and One Final Championship Season by Tony La Russa with Rick Hummel, William Morrow Press, 2012. Signed First Edition, $27.99.

Calico Joe: A Novel by John Grisham, Doubleday, April 2012. Signed First Edition, $24.95.

Summer Running

We’ve been getting some interesting new running books in this summer — here’s two I thought were worth highlighting.

Eat and Run — Remember Scott Jurek from Christopher McDougall’s Born to Run? He’s written his own book, Eat and Run, about his career as an ultramarathoner while eating only a vegan diet. He covers his childhood, his early success in running, the transition to veganism, and the addiction to races that test not just his physical ability but his psychological strength. A good read from one of the most prominent ultramarathoners.

Running with the Kenyans — It’s difficult not to compare Adharanand Finn’s book to Born to Run. It’s largely the same formula: journalist seeks to regain his love for running by visiting a tribe/country renowned for near-mythical running ability, meets characters, finds wisdom. But this formula works. The reader ends up with a nice mix of a travel memoir and a sports/adventure book, with a little inspirational wisdom tossed in. I’m looking forward to this one.

Golf and Zen

Zen Golf, an instruction manual for the mental game, brings Zen onto the green in a blend of modern psychology and traditional Buddhist philosophy.  Dr. Joseph Parent provides step-by-step instruction on how to overcome mental set-backs in the game and build confidence as a player on and off the course. Traditional storytelling and personal anecdotes combine in order to create a simple, easy to read guide to golf which will help build the confidence in the game.

Dr. Parent’s wisdom is as applicable on the green as off. “Golf and life aren’t fair on a day-to-day basis . . . everyone has to play the same course”, but Dr. Parent has found the key to shooting below par.

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