Category Archives: FSM Books

FSM Scouting Report: MOX

Book/Movie Title: Mox

Total Pages/Duration: 271 pages (Hardcover)

Author/Director: Jon Moxley

Pace of Play: Inconsistent sums up the pace of this autobiography. Based on the quick hitting prologue, the reader may get the feeling they’re about to buckle in for a wild ride. However, the book ends up feeling more “stop-and-go” by the final few pages. A page turner, this is not. There is never a sense of urgency to find out what’s coming next.

Strengths: The strength of this book comes from Moxley’s raw storytelling. He adds in some jokes and adjectives, but he usually gets to his point rather quickly (it’s just that one point quickly leads to an unrelated point which leads to yet another unrelated story and so on. The good news is that all the tangents are relatively brief). For example, the chapter about the late Brodie Lee starts off simply with, “Brodie died today.” Another chapter about a bully named Scott Baio goes into violent detail about Mox’s first significant fight. 

Weaknesses: The structure of this book is that there is no real structure. At least that’s clear from the beginning which helps the reader prepare. Maybe it was done on purpose to get a sense of what it’s like in Moxley’s head but it’s definitely a weakness in this case. Reading the stream of consciousness of someone who has ADHD can be a double-edged sword. The chapter about Mox receiving his training and paying his dues was surprisingly slow and boring. The tedious detail in that chapter came from out of nowhere. Lastly, professional wrestling books are generally known for some cool glossy photos, usually in the middle of the book. Mox has none. We just get a bunch of random pictures randomly placed, with some randomly in black and white (pretty random right?).

Unique Attributes: This book is unique in that it reads like a collection of short stories about Jon Moxley. One chapter doesn’t always lead into the next (there is a chapter about how to make a sandwich which includes diagrams) but it was a nice experience to read a crazy anecdote here and there over a few weeks. While most stories aren’t about the WWE, the best ones certainly involve Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns and the creation of the Shield.

Scout’s Recommendations: Mox is definitely worth a read if you’re a fan of WWE, AEW, New Japan or any other of the many organizations that exist now. Chances are Jon Moxley has wrestled in most of them and has a story to share. If you’re not a wrestling fan, avoid this one at all costs as it’s just going to be one big confusing mess.

FSM Retro Reviews: The Craps Underground

FSM takes a looks back at Thomas “Irshsetter” Morgan’s classic scorched earth review of the controversial 2004 book The Craps Underground – The Inside Story of How Dice Controllers Are Winning Millions from the Casinos.

“Scoblete’s new book depicts the real world of dice influencing about as accurately as Hogan’s Heroes depicted life in a World War II German POW camp.”

That was my initial impression of Scoblete’s new book which I posted on the message board a few weeks back. Now I’ve had a chance to re-read the book a couple of times and fully digest it. Fortunately, I acquired one of the pre-release copies of the book, gratis. I would have had a SERIOUS case of buyers remorse had I actually paid $24.95 for this 315 page hard cover dog.

My complete review follows.

I read a lot. I spend an hour and a half each work day on a train, so I go through books quickly. In my library, I have probably 40 to 50 books on craps specifically or gambling in general. In all the gambling books I’ve read, I can unequivocally say that no matter how poorly written or conceived the book was, I’ve always found some redeeming quality in the book. The Craps Underground is the exception. If a good gambling book is like a delicious filet mignon, this book is more akin to the stuff they feed people on the TV show, Fear Factor.

Let’s start with the ENTIRE title of the book. The Craps Underground – The Inside Story of How Dice Controllers Are Winning Millions from the Casinos. Pure, unadulterated hype. For arguments sake, we’ll assume that “Millions” means something more than one or two million, ten million would be a reasonable starting point, and it’s at least implied that it also means millions in net profit. Last spring, Frank Scoblete estimated that there are fewer than 200 skilled “dice controllers” operating in the US. By doing a little division, that would mean on average, those 200 dice “controllers” are taking down $50,000 in profits, each. Except for a few rather well bankrolled shooters, there is no evidence that the average dice controller is showing that kind of profit. Yes, many dice influencers are consistently profitable but the title alone, and I’ll repeat myself here, is unadulterated hype.

So, now let’s get into the book a bit. Chapter one opens with Scoblete having a marathon winning session with the dicecoach, Beau Parker. Here’s how Scoblete describes the session with the dicecoach,

“…seven glorious hours shooting dice with a fellow dice controller and newfound friend known as the ‘Bodacious One,’ Beau Parker.”

This session, and these warm expressions of friendship for the dicecoach occurred just a few months prior to the formation of GTC. I’ll get back to that later.

Let’s dive a little further into this drivel. In the early chapters, we get to hear Scoblete wax poetically about “the Captain,” again. Yawn…. hasn’t he beaten that horse to death yet? Then he introduces various future members of the GTC organization. Apparently, these guys never lose! Or if they do happen to have a poor session, it is quickly followed by a miraculous comeback. AMAZING! There are a couple of chapters on “The Lee Brothers.” These two chapters are almost engaging. Except for one thing. OF COURSE “The Lee Brothers” coincidentally have read all of Scoblete’s books, and religiously play like the captain. Subtle as a freight train, that Scoblete.

There’s a chapter on the Las Vegas Craps Festival which I participated in. Scoblete briefly mentions me here, and he certainly had the opportunity to take some shots at me if he wanted to. Surprisingly he didn’t though, for whatever reason. However, he did misrepresent what I discussed that day. Here’s what he had to say about me.

“Irishsetter has strong opinions.”

Well, he got THAT part right but later went on to say,

“In fact, Irishsetter made a strong pitch that people shouldn’t be paying or charging to learn dice control, that all the information should be free.”

In all actuality, I said nothing of the sort. The gist of my discussion was twofold. One, that aspiring dice influencers should learn as much as possible for free, or as cheaply as they can, and two, that there is no one single correct philosophy on how to set, grip and throw the dice. My opinion today is no different. If you’re interested, I have an article on dicesetter.com which goes further into my discussion that day called, The “Missing” Tape – The Article. My guess is that given the opportunity, Scoblete didn’t want to take any obvious shots at me, but instead chose to misrepresent my discussion in an attempt to embarrass me since I do occasionally participate in seminars. What IS missing in the book, is what Scoblete talked about that day. One of the major points of his discussion was that dice influencers would soon begin to experience the kind of heat that card counters get if they didn’t go “underground.” It seems Scoblete had a change of heart. Either that, or his definition of going “underground” is hyping dice influencing in books, holding seminars in casinos, and advertising dice control on the radio and in newspapers and magazines.

Blah, blah, blah. Several chapters not even worth mentioning.

OK, what’s next. Scoblete raids Jerry Patterson’s PARR organization of most of the coaching staff and Golden Touch Craps is born. Despite the fact that I’m intimately knowledgeable about many of the personalities involved here, these chapters are about as interesting as watching hibernating bears. I have to give Scoblete credit though. He mentions his GTC staff and as many hangers on in the GTC periphery as often as possible. Why? Because the average Joe will think it’s really “neat” that Frank Scoblete put them in his book. Pathetic? Yes. But, those folks in the periphery will go out on amazon.com, buy multiple copies of the book, and write a glowing review so their friends will buy it and see their names in print. Oh Boy!

Now we get to the “A and E Special.” It’s my opinion that the truth lies somewhere between what was broadcast by A and E, what has been written on the various web sites, and what is written in this book about the special. What Scoblete wants you to believe is that A and E decided not to broadcast the footage of all the winning sessions that actually occurred. This despite the fact that the A and E special was basically a feel-good piece. The funny thing about the A and E special is that the dicecoach, who was the main focus, invited Frank Scoblete to join him. (Scoblete then invited several other folks. What a guy!) Remember how they’d become “friends” during their marathon craps shoot several months earlier? It seems that ‘ole Scoblete is beginning to have a change of heart again. You see, Scoblete in the A and E chapter elaborates these wonderful stories about the GTC folks involved, but basically trashes everyone else who is not involved with GTC like the dicecoach, Soft Touch, and Hardways.

Blah, blah, blah. A couple more chapters not even worth mentioning.

Ah…finally we’re heading to the conclusion of the book. Scoblete closes the book with his Las Vegas Diary. This portion of the book was published on his site several months back, so I was familiar with this part already. I’ll give you the long and short of his 15 day diary here. Frank wins. Frank says wonderful things about the various GTC folks he plays with. Frank says nasty things about various other people he comes across. They lament that Treasure Island isn’t as friendly as it used to be. Boo-hoo-hoo. Frank and his playing partners lose, but miraculously have a comeback! Heard this before? What is really interesting about the diary is how Scoblete trashes dicecoach, again. Remember, in the opening of the book, Frank and Beau are “newfound friends.” Now, just a year later, here are just a few things that Scoblete now has to say about dicecoach. When asked if Frank knew the dicecoach, he replied,

“No, no” and “I barely know him.”

Apparently he doesn’t even have the cojones to refer to Beau by his name or his moniker at this point. Throughout the diary he refers to him now as “Crapsguy” and basically lays blame on Beau for whatever heat they experience in the casino. Frank writes,

“Some GTC members had a theory that the Crapsguy, the freelance dice-control instructor, had been too public, aggressive and up-front at the tables about what he was doing…”

This coming from the Scoblete is a hoot! He goes on to say,

“even when GTC did our course at Sam’s Town in Tunica we were laid back at the tables and never talked about dice control or handed our business cards across the table to drum up new business as the Crapsguy is wont to do.”

Again, from Scoblete’s pen, this is a riot. I mean, he’s holding a seminar in a casino for Pete’s sake and he complaining about the dicecoach handing out his business card? Besides, just a few pages earlier in the book, Scoblete had elaborated the following story which occurred at the Green Valley Ranch crap tables.

“..a dealer at Sunset Station, who likes to play at Green Valley Ranch, complimented me on my style. I gave him one of our Craps Club Black Chips with our phone number, and whispered to him if he was interested in learning how to roll like that give us a call.”

So, Frank will deride you for behavior that he himself exhibits. Hmmm. What’s that saying? Oh yeah. Pot – Kettle – Black.

I wonder how Beau the dicecoach would have been portrayed in the The Craps Underground had he accepted GTC’s invitation to join their organization. You think perhaps THAT had something to do with Frank’s change of heart, from “friend” to “the Crapsguy?”

Basically, the book in a nutshell is this. 70% of the book is an infomercial for GTC. 20% of the book is various trip reports. Don’t worry. The few sessions which aren’t profitable for Scoblete? Just read on, a miraculous comeback is in store. The final 10% of the book is the subtle trashing of anyone who is not involved with GTC or a member of the GTC flock.

If you read the jacket cover of the book, and anything else Scoblete writes for that matter, it says,

“Frank Scoblete is the number-one best-selling gaming author in America..”

If that’s true, and people really do think Scoblete has something to say, well, then, my mother was right when she said,

“Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups.”

About the Author: Thomas Morgan aka Irishsetter is the webmaster of http://www.dicesetter.com and is widely recognized in the gambling community as an expert in dice influencing.

FSM Scouting Report: Wish It Lasted Forever

Book/Movie Title: Wish It Lasted Forever: Life with the Larry Bird Celtics

Total Pages/Duration: 226 (hardcover version)

Author/Director: Dan Shaughnessy

Pace of Play: Just like the 80’s Celtics, this book is fast paced in spurts with most of the action bunched in the middle. Motivated readers (i.e., Boston folks) will finish this in one sitting while most will take 2-3 days.

Strengths: The driving force of this book is the collection of Red Auerbach stories that are peppered in from start to finish. It makes the reader feel like Red is always there and that he could appear at any moment (not too different than his actual behavior).

Weaknesses: The author spends a little too much time talking about himself, his road to working the Celtics Beat, and the good old days of sports journalism (we think the first 40 pages of a 226-page book is too much time). While the book title indicates all stories would flow through Larry Legend, he does not pop up too often. It’s kind of like of all those Netflix movies with Bruce Willis on the movie poster. When you actually watch them, he shows up for about 12 minutes (and they are terrible). It would have been more appropriate to include Red Auerbach in the title of this book. There certainly seem to be more stories about him than Larry Bird.

Photograph by Stan Grossfeld, Boston Globe

Unique Attributes: What this book lacks in new Larry Bird stories it makes up for in tales involving other team members. Bill Walton stories and his relationship to the Grateful Dead were particularly interesting as was learning which 1980’s in-flight movie was playing during various road trips. And perhaps the guiltiest pleasures came when reading about Bill Fitch’s slow demise as head coach. Random factoids are also presented and will keep you engaged. Did you know tanking was an issue way back in 1983? It was and it led to the creation of the lottery which delivered Michael “Air” Jordan to the Chicago Bulls and Hakeem “The Dream” Olajuwon to the Houston Rockets.   

Scout’s Recommendations: In a recent episode of Family Guy, the lovable Homer Simpson rip-off Peter Griffin had to come to terms with the 80’s being dead. His jokes and gags no longer got laughs and no one understood his dated references. His family begged him to let the 80’s go which he did with some help from John Hughes. Had Dan Shaughnessy seen this episode prior to writing Wish It Lasted Forever, he may not have written it. While very interesting at times, this book seemed like an unnecessary trip down memory lane. Perhaps its creation was brought on by the confines of the COVID-19 pandemic. Or maybe it started as a memoir of sorts, meant to be passed around to old colleagues and basketball insiders. Whatever the reason, reading this book is just another reminder that the 80’s ARE dead. We recommend you skip this one unless you’re a Boston Celtics fan.     

FSM First Look: Jail Blazers

Kerry Eggers, who covered the Trail Blazers, goes back twenty years for the stories from the players, coaches, management, and those in Portland—during an era when the local NBA stars were in the headlines for both their play and their off-court behavior.

In the late ’90s and early 2000s, the Portland Trail Blazers were one of the hottest teams in the NBA. For almost a decade, they won 60 percent of their games while making it to the Western Conference Finals twice. However, what happened off-court was just as unforgettable as what they did on the court.

When someone asked Blazers general manager Bob Whitsitt about his team’s chemistry, he replied that he’d “never studied chemistry in college.” And with that, the “Jail Blazers” were born. Built in a similar fashion to a fantasy team, the team had skills, but their issues ended up being their undoing. In fact, many consider it the darkest period in franchise history.

While fans across the country were watching the skills of Damon Stoudamire, Rasheed Wallace, and Zach Randolph, those in Portland couldn’t have been more disappointed in the players’ off-court actions. This, many have mentioned, included a very racial element—which carried over to the players as well. As forward Rasheed Wallace said, “We’re not really going to worry about what the hell [the fans] think about us. They really don’t matter to us. They can boo us every day, but they’re still going to ask for our autographs if they see us on the street. That’s why they’re fans and we’re NBA players.”

While people think of the Detroit Pistons of the eighties as the elite “Bad Boys,” the “Jail Blazers” were actually bad. Author Kerry Eggers, who covered the Trail Blazers during this controversial era, goes back to share the stories from the players, coaches, management, and those in Portland when the players were in the headlines as much for their play as for their legal issues.

FSM Scouting Report: All-American Murder

Book/Movie Title: All-American Murder: The Rise and Fall of Aaron Hernandez

Total Pages/Duration: 375 (paperback version)

Author/Director: James Patterson w/ Alex Abramoivch & Mike Harvkey

Pace of Play: Short chapters and lack of descriptive, flowery language make for a quick read. Some will finish this in one sitting while most will take 2-3 days.

Strengths: The authors stick to the facts and provide many direct quotes from individuals involved in the case. Information is easy to follow as it’s presented in a straight line. There are some flashbacks when necessary but you’ll never get confused. The authors bring the reader up to speed rather quickly in regard to Hernandez’s home life and his days in high school and college.  

Weaknesses: The book relies on direct quotes a little too much at times (sometimes quotes go on for an entire page). It just comes off as lazy. Also, some of the rumors of Hernandez being gay or bisexual are briefly mentioned. I’m assuming there weren’t enough facts to back any of it up, but the authors could have at least tried to disprove some of the rumors by showing what evidence exists. After all, true or not, the rumors were a big part of the story. Again, it comes off a little lazy.

Unique Attributes: The authors maintain a matter-of-fact tone and avoid the use of SAT vocabulary words. Except for the description of Hernandez’s jail cell, don’t expect some of that descriptive writing James Patterson is known for.

All-American Murder contains some interesting side stories involving Tim Tebow, Urban Meyer, and the Pouncey twins. You’ll also read about the lesser-known double-murder that Hernandez allegedly committed.  

Scout’s Recommendations: At this point, the story of Aaron Hernandez has been told across many mediums and probably doesn’t deserve any more of our time. But how often does James Patterson write about sports stuff? That being said, I’m skeptical Patterson did anything more than supervise on this project. All-American-Murder is worthy of a pickup if you’re about to go on a long flight or plan on lounging by the pool on a cruise ship. Other than that, it should be used as a “first stop” for people getting into the Aaron Hernandez saga for the first time.

FSM First Look: Unguarded by Scottie Pippen

Scottie Pippen has been called one of the greatest NBA players for good reason.

Simply put, without Pippen, there are no championship banners—let alone six—hanging from the United Center rafters. There’s no Last Dance documentary. There’s no “Michael Jordan” as we know him. The 1990s Chicago Bulls teams would not exist as we know them.

So how did the youngest of twelve go from growing up poor in the small town of Hamburg, Arkansas, enduring two family tragedies along the way, to become a revered NBA legend? How did the scrawny teen, overlooked by every major collegiate basketball program, go on to become the fifth overall pick in the 1987 NBA Draft? And, perhaps most compelling, how did Pippen set aside his ego (and his own limitless professional ceiling) in order for the Bulls to become the most dominant basketball dynasty of the last half century?

In Unguarded, the six-time champion and two-time Olympic gold medalist finally opens up to offer pointed and transparent takes on Michael Jordan, Phil Jackson, and Dennis Rodman, among others. Pippen details how he cringed at being labeled Jordan’s sidekick, and discusses how he could have (and should have) received more respect from the Bulls’ management and the media.

Pippen reveals never-before-told stories about some of the most famous games in league history, including the 1994 playoff game against the New York Knicks when he took himself out with 1.8 seconds to go. He discusses what it was like dealing with Jordan on a day-to-day basis, while serving as the facilitator for the offense and the anchor for the defense.

On the 30th anniversary of the Bulls’ first championship, Pippen is finally giving millions of adoring basketball fans what they crave; a raw, unvarnished look into his life, and role within one of the greatest, most popular teams of all time.

Kaiser! The Greatest Footballer Never to Play Football

Born in Rio Pardo, Brazil, Carlos Henrique Raposo had dreams of becoming a professional soccer (futbol) player. After a youth career at Botafogo and Flamengo, he had his sights set on the future. Whether given the nickname “Kaiser” due to his resemblance of superstar Franz Beckenbauer or a bottle of Kaiser beer, he used his new-found name to begin a career where he “wanted to be a footballer, but did not want to play football.”

Thus began a decade-plus career that spanned across Brazil (Botafogo, Flamengo, Bangu, Fluminense, Vasco da Gama, and America), Mexico (Puebla), France (Gazelec Ajaccio), and the United States (El Paso Sixshooters). Relying on his charm and friends in high places—from fellow footballers Carlos Alberto Torres, Ricardo Rocha, and Renato Gaucho, to reporters willing to write “stories” of his “career”— Carlos Kaiser used his skills of deception to have a storied career without ever stepping foot on the pitch.

Whether faking injuries, having friends lie for him, making up tall tales, or getting thrown out of a match just before taking the field, Kaiser! The Greatest Footballer Never to Play Football is an incredible story of the lengths one man went to have a professional soccer career without every playing a game.

Originally published in the UK, and with a worldrenowned documentary released on his lifeKaiser! shares the lengths taken by one man who wanted all the glitz and glory of being a professional athlete . . . without ever having to be an actual athlete. So whether you’re a fan of soccer, futbol, professional sports, or stories of cunning and deception, Kaiser! is the story you don’t want to miss!

FSM Books: Shoe Dog

To steal an adjective often used by good ole’ Jim Ross (of WWE and AEW fame), Nike creator Phil Knight’s recent memoir Shoe Dog is a “slobberknocker” of an experience. One would have never expected Nike to overcome its somewhat humble beginnings, growing pains, and its lies – oh the many, many lies!

The beginning of Knight’s memoir finds him as a recent graduate of the Stanford School of Business. Unsure of what direction to go in life, he thinks about an assignment he completed in which he came up with his own business concept. He did well on the assignment and, since he is feeling a sense of urgency to figure things out in life (as many people do in their 20s), he decides to turn that assignment into a pursuit. His concept at Stanford was to import and export high quality running shoes. While this doesn’t appear to be a groundbreaking idea in 2020, Knight makes the reader aware just how ridiculous this seemed to others when he started his quest in 1962.

The “whatever it takes” approach is perhaps the most captivating reoccurring theme in Shoe Dog. It’s what sucks the reader in and keeps the pages turning at a somewhat phrenetic pace (don’t be surprised if you finish this book in 3 days or less). Phil Knight writes in a way that makes the reader feel they are a part of his unbelievable journey. By the end of his tale, the reader has jumped every hurdle, navigated every roadblock, and ultimately gets to celebrate the success of Nike alongside Phil Knight and friends. Of course, the reader’s experience comes from a distance and many years after the fact, but the feeling of being present at all times speaks to how well Shoe Dog is written.

Being present at all times means the reader is treated to some of these “whatever it takes” moments. Be prepared to battle a little anxiety as Phil Knight wiggles out of various sticky situations. These moments mostly occur during Nike’s infancy and often involve big fibs told by Knight. The ethics of Knight’s behavior during these situations are definitely up for debate. However, it must be noted that there was never malice in Knight’s actions. In fact, FSM would bet dollars to doughnuts that many entrepreneurs have told the same fibs. Without spoiling too much, get ready to join Phil Knight as he lies or stretches the truth when dealing with banks, suppliers, and manufacturers. Observe him as he travels overseas and secures a shoe contract for his company that doesn’t exist yet.

Sports fans may be surprised that athletes such as Michael Jordan are scarcely discussed in Shoe Dog. We started the memoir thinking a large portion of the story would include Nike’s major athletes and their impact on the company over the years. Aside from begrudgingly admitting these athletes were needed for purposes of advertising, Knight rarely deviates from talking about his own journey and his significance to the creation of Nike. By the end of Shoe Dog, it’s clear that Knight’s self-critical nature and baffling insecurity kept pushing Nike forward amidst seemingly insurmountable odds at times.

For those reading this memoir for guidance about business and/or life, you definitely won’t leave empty handed. Knight’s guidance is not delivered explicitly but found in his actions and self-reflection. For those reading for the purposes of entertainment, lace up your running shoes, take a deep breath, and prepare for the run of your life!

FSM Final Grade: A+


Purchase Shoe Dog Today!

Purchase the Shoe Dog Kids Version

FSM Books: Coach Wooden and Me

People who say that sports don’t matter aren’t paying attention. From a practical standpoint alone, sports on all levels contribute to local, national, and global economies in many ways. But let’s forget about practicality for a moment and let’s talk about magic. Magic is when people who don’t have much in common come together in pursuit of a collective goal. In sports, this pursuit often plays out in front of teammates, classmates, friends, and fans. While the ultimate goal itself may be simple (i.e., “Just win baby”), the highs and lows experienced by participants and onlookers along the way are where the magic lies.

In Coach Wooden and Me: Our 50-Year Friendship On and Off the Court, basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar recounts a friendship with UCLA coach John Wooden that spanned the course of five decades. His effort is thoughtful and beautiful and is an example of why sports do matter. Abdul-Jabbar details his time in college and the slow-burning friendship that developed with Wooden over the years. It is clear from the onset that these two men would have never met if not for the common goal of winning basketball games. That’s not meant to be negative, just reality. But thanks to sports, they did meet and the masses are better off because of it.

Kareem’s story mostly alternates between old and more current anecdotes. Despite the gap in time between each story, the book still feels like it’s being rolled out in chronological order. Captain Skyhook does a phenomenal job of connecting the past and present. The reader is never left questioning why two events occurring so far apart in time were mentioned as part of the same thought.

In public, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s temperament is more Shrek than superstar. That’s what makes much of the material in this book so intriguing. Abdul-Jabbar reveals new information and covers a wide range of topics that influenced him as an individual. Of course, John Wooden is somehow connected to all of it and it’s special to learn how Kareem’s friendship with him evolved over time.

It would be misleading to say this book is only about the friendship between these two men. Kareem also discusses factors in his formative years that led him to move to California and enroll at the University of California Los Angeles. He discusses finding his voice socially, morally, and politically. In fact, one of the greatest stories in Coach Wooden and Me involves Kareem and a teammate talking about religion on a bus ride back from a game. At the end of the discussion, Kareem “comes out” as being Muslim and in short, no one really cares. The magic of sports.

Perhaps the most impactful, if not infuriating anecdote involves a woman calling Kareem Abdul-Jabbar the n-word in front of Coach Wooden. Abdul-Jabbar describes a shell-shocked Wooden who seemed unsure how to react. The lack of a reaction was not because Coach was too afraid to confront the woman but because he was genuinely shocked things like this blatantly occurred. Many adjectives can be used to describe John Wooden but one would never dream that naïve would be on that list. The incident so bothered Coach Wooden that he still felt the need to bring it up to Kareem many years later.

While the unfortunate incident mentioned above happened in the 1960s, it remains relevant today. Think of all the kind, honest, and decent people that exist out there that possess this same naïveté. There is a tendency to believe what we believe until something shatters that belief. When something is so bad that a good person can’t imagine it happening, that person will just assume it doesn’t happen. This incident was perhaps the most heartbreaking part of Coach Wooden and Me. It was tough to see a legend like Wooden be so vulnerable…so human.

Coming in at 279 pages, the hardcover edition of this book should be an easy, enjoyable read for avid and fringe sports fans. Besides talking hoops, Abdul-Jabbar dives into jazz, religion, politics, race, poverty, and many other relevant social issues, all the while connecting them to the legendary coach. This is perhaps Abdul-Jabbar’s greatest accomplishment – writing a book about John Wooden while talking mostly about himself.

FSM Final Grade: A

FSM Books: Pistol Pete

Pistol: The Life of Pete Maravich takes the reader on a surprising journey through light and dark while telling the tale of a basketball legend that will not be soon forgotten. Perhaps the quote that appears on the soft cover version of this intriguing biography written by Mark Kriegel summarizes this literary effort best by stating that, “His game was lordly, inimitable, and he should have been the greatest player to ever play the game. This great book will explain why he was not…”

I was excited to read this book for a few reasons. Primarily I wanted to learn a little more about the legendary Pistol Pete as he terrorized opponents in the NBA before my time as a fan (and as a human being). Secondarily, the book’s first couple of pages are lined with nearly 50 quotes from people in the media who are singing its praises. I figured so many experts couldn’t be wrong and delved in to 323 pages of basketball history with high expectations.

Pistol reads more like a chronicle than a biography. Many names and dates are hurled at the reader often times disrupting the flow of the narrative. Kriegel succeeds in providing a highly detailed account of Pete Maravich’s life but it comes at a cost. This is not the typical page turning sports biography which may be unappealing to a less seasoned reader.  It is more of a textbook about the Maravich family beginning with a lengthy background about Pistol’s notorious father Press Maravich and ending with a melancholy update on what the Pistol’s two sons have been up to in the last few years.

It would be impossible to tell the story of Pistol Pete without mention of his hard driving father and the turmoil he was experiencing in his family life. Kriegel documents a number of incidents and relays many tales when only a few would have sufficed. The thesis of Pistol is perfectly clear and its themes reoccur on nearly every page. Before the reader makes it half way through this book, they will have a good understanding of all the demons the Pistol was dealing with. After a while, the stories of demons become overkill. Pistol takes on a dark tone, and maybe rightfully so, but it would have been nice to read more about Maravich’s exploits as a professional basketball player and the magic he created on the hardwood.

Pistol: The Life of Pete Maravich has great historical value for fans of the college and professional game. It answers a multitude of questions including why a guy as talented and skilled as Pete Maravich never won a title or why he will never be considered in the same breath as Michael Jordan or Wilt Chamberlain. But people looking for a quick read or page-turner should try finding their fix elsewhere. Pistol is recommended for avid fans of basketball and sports historians only. The fringe would be better suited to remember Pete Maravich by watching YouTube highlights or the occasional feature on ESPN Classic.