Title: The Sports Gene: Inside the Science of Extraordinary Athletic Performance
Author: David Epstein
|via Barnes & Noble|
In my exploration of sports books, I'm always on the lookout for those that would be enjoyable for non-fans. I think it's a reasonable measure for books in any genre but more importantly for me personally, such a book is one I can safely recommend to my wife. My dear bride is a voracious reader with a life list to put all of us to shame. However, to say she is not a sports fan is comparable to saying a duck is not a water balloon. But I still make modest efforts to convert her from time to time. Giving her the right book to read is as strong a tactic as any. The Sports Gene is a good candidate.
For starters, the book is very well-written. David Epstein follows in the grand tradition of gifted Sports Illustrated staff writers. Also, I think the anecdotal style and the attention to broader topics beyond sports are selling points for the general-interest reader.
Make no mistake, there's plenty to love for sports fans, too. The book opens with a story about Hall of Fame-caliber baseball players being completely flummoxed by Jennie Finch, the world's best softball pitcher. Turns out, despite all their physical gifts (average eyesight for Major League hitters is 20/11 in the right eye, 20/12 in the left), batters rely heavily on a highly refined mental database for recognizing pitches even before the ball leaves the hurler's hand. The same goes for tennis players reading an opponent's serve and chess grandmasters processing positions on the board. Take away that database, as in the case of facing an ace softball pitcher, and all of the expert hitter's advantages fly out the window. The book is filled with peak-behind-the-curtain revelations such as this.
I spoil nothing by sharing the book's conclusion as Epstein lays it out plainly in the book's introduction. Athletic success is dependent upon the combination of both nature and nurture. All the talent in the world will only take you so far if you don't put in the work. Similarly, a stellar work ethic, while admirable, is rarely enough to reach the top of the medal podium without the help of a genetic advantage or two.
Please join us and share your own review of your best read from the past month. This month's link list is below. I'll keep it open until the end of the day. I'll post June's tomorrow. Meetings are the last Friday of each month. Next gathering is June 27th.