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Diary of a Mad Sportswriter: March 2005

Diary of a Mad Sportswriter

Stan Hudy is a sportswriter for The Saratogian and Community News. He covers high school and youth sports in the Saratoga County area as well as writing a weekly book review on sports books. He's not just a "stick and ball" sportswriter, he's willing to take on any sport as well as any subject.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Hudy's Hardcovers: Feinstein's "Last Shot" great for young and old

Diary of a Mad Sportswriter

Last Shot
By John Feinstein
Best selling author John Feinstein, known for his writings of his two passions, college basketball and the game of golf, turns from his traditional 350-plus page non-fiction anthologies to young reader's fiction in his latest work, "Last Shot."
Feinstein joins fellow sports author Mike Lupica in producing a recent young reader piece that has been welcomed by the public and by its readers, both young and old.
The author once again utilizes the backdrop of college basketball in "Last Shot", specifically the NCAA Final Four being held in New Orleans, where two eighth-graders, Stevie Thomas and Susan Carol Anderson, stumble across a blackmail scheme to throw the championship game Monday night.
The two young heroes, Thomas and Anderson, are both aspiring journalists and are the winners of a writing contest by the United States Basketball Writers Association. The duo earned a trip to the Final Four where they will be part of the working press for the tournament and have their bylines carried by numerous papers as they write about the event.
Feinstein combines real-life characters and friends throughout his book, making "Last Shot" not only believable, but also causes the reader to become envious as the pair run into the likes of Tony Kornheiser at the hotel check-in counter, Coach Mike Krzyzewski, the always energetic Dick Vitale as well as being hosted by basketball writers Dick "Hoops" Weiss and Bill Brill.
The combination of real life basketball names works seamlessly into Feinstein's creation of the Final Four Cinderella team, Minnesota State, its fictional superstar Chip Graber and his coach/father, Alan Graber.
It is the younger Graber who gets pulled away from the court and informed that his father's career will be ruined and his entire senior season forfeited if he doesn't agree to throw the championship game, planned against Feinstein's alum, Duke.
The two cub reporters overhear the situation and decide to help the senior, find out who the blackmailer is, end the threat, all the while still managing to file on deadline. They also need to convince their fathers that they are consistently working on stories during the Final Four weekend as well as inform Chip Graber that they know the trouble he is in.
With humorous shots taken at the "student-athlete" title given to Final Four contestants, "official NCAA merchandise" available throughout the city and ticket scalping, Feinstein's experience provides a colorful backdrop to "Last Shot."
While Thomas appears to remain in the shadow of Anderson, mainly due to her height, beauty and natural Southern charm, the shorter award winner continues to find his way into the reader's heart.
The dynamic duo utilize their wits to dig for information, convince Graber they know of the blackmail plan as well as attempt to derail the threat before finding themselves in the middle of the high stakes gamble.
As the work continues, Graber does his job in getting his squad, the fictional Minnesota State (without the hyphen and city attached in the non-fiction college) into the final game versus Duke where he is expected to throw the game.
The plot twists and turns with the blackmail scheme unveiled and numerous friends and foes revealed as the two contest winners try to help Graber end his career on a hopeful winning note without recourse.
With the skill of a Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys crossover, the reader is taken on a youthful adventure that will bring smiles through their small failures, great successes as well as cringe when their lives are placed in jeopardy.
While the ending is predictable, suitable for young readers, but it may be disappointing for the adult connoisseur of Feinstein's standard works.
"Last Shot" is an ideal book for your teenager and a quick read for any adult as sports fans across the nation fill out their Final Four brackets during March Madness.
4 Hudy Heads (out of 5)

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Blog This!

For a few months now I have been after a certain sports editor to allow two sportswriters in our department to take on issues in a pro and con manner. Subjects could range from local high school events and outings to the national scene.
I can only assume that he is too chicken for our daily arguments to be seen publicly or just wants the subject to die.
Too bad!
Look here for local thoughts and ideas about local Saratoga County sports happenings as well as my takes (sorry) about the national scene.
I truly feel that only the great columnists (Kornheiser, Lupica) can truly be witty, funny, and insightful 52 times a year earn their pay by doing it. The rest of us are just hacks making minimum wage wishing we were someone else.
With this blog, it get the chance to be witty, not edited, and still make less than minimum wage doing it.
I plan to share my thoughts, views as well as book reviews with you hoping to provide something different and thought provoking.
Thanks for taking the time; I hope you think it was worth it!