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posted: Aug. 16, 2005  |  Feedback

Before we get to this week's sports book recommendation, I wanted to mention a few things:

• In Monday's Johnny Damon column, I had a brainfart about the game-saving catch in Tampa Bay -- it would have been a game-ending extra-base hit, not a homer. Still a great catch though.

• This is a new one: A correction for a reader's correction. During the 1997 playoffs, Al Michaels didn't broadcast the Music City Miracle game or the Jags-Dolphins blowout -- he did the Miami-Seattle game, which was memorable because it was probably Marino's last great comeback, as well as one of the defining games that caused me to create the "Never bet on a bad QB in a playoff game" rule in the NFL Gambling Manifesto (Jon Kitna completely self-destructed that day). And while we're here, as a few readers pointed out, Michaels also announced the infamous Don Denkinger Game, which would have been the most famous blown call in the history of professional sports if the two teams involved weren't Kansas City and St. Louis.

• In last week's mailbag, I wrote that Michaels' partner for the 1980 USA-USSR game was the DJ Jazzy Jeff/Andrew Ridgeley of hockey announcers. Unbeknownst to me, his partner was actually the great Ken Dryden, whose name my editors added as the last sentence in the paragraph (inadvertently making it seem like I thought Dryden was a nobody or something). Believe me, I would never think that about Ken Dryden -- the guy owned the Bruins for a solid decade. Just killed us. When he retired, it was like seeing somebody chop Jason's head off in a "Friday the 13th" movie.

• In Friday's Blue Chips column, I write that my buddy Jim and I drove from Colgate to Ithaca to see "Rocky 5" ... actually, it was Utica. According to Jim, we saw the movie at the Sangertown Mall. Upstate New York always confused the hell out of me -- you had Colgate in the town of Hamilton (even though Hamilton College was 20 minutes away -- why wasn't Hamilton in Hamilton?), you had Utica and Ithaca with the whole "we both have depressing names that end with 'A" thing going, and everything looked exactly the same for about 400 miles. Strange place.

• If you remember my Super Bowl blog from Houston two years ago, one of the running themes was about how the brand-new Metro Rail was going to break every transportation record for "Most pedestrians struck" by the time everything was said and done. Well, earlier this week, the Metro Rail notched its 100th victim: You can click here for details.

• I had only one Red Sox friend (Hench) and one reader (Steve Comeau) realize the irony of Gerald "Ice" Williams' botching Pedro's no-hitter with the mistimed leap against the wall on Sunday: Remember when Pedro hit the leadoff batter during a Rays-Sox game in 2000, followed by the guy charging the mound, a raucous brawl, and then an enraged Pedro taking a no-hitter into the ninth? You know who the leadoff batter was? Gerald "Ice" Williams. Now that's goofy.

One other weird thing about Sunday's game: As everyone knows, not only has there never been a Mets no-hitter, most Mets fans are starting to wonder if it will ever happen in their lifetimes. So Sunday, my friend Sal (lifetime Mets fan) went to Dodgers Stadium with his 3-month-old son -- the kid's first Mets game and his first baseball game -- and nearly witnessed the first-ever Mets no-no with him. If it had happened, I think they would have been eligible for a father-son ESPY or something.

• The Clips swung a big deal over the weekend: A sign-and-trade with Marko Jaric going to the Wolves for Sam Cassell and a protected No. 1. Since Marko wasn't a true point guard, couldn't create his own shot, and had no leadership abilities whatsoever, I never understood what he brought to the table -- he's your classic Euro who looks great on paper, but when you watch him night after night, you can't stop picking his game apart. He's also one of the five or six worst decision makers I've ever seen at the end of games, the kind of guy who leaves you shaking your head as you're walking out of the arena, saying, "How could they have the last shot and not even hit the rim?" I couldn't stand him. So bringing in Cassell in a contract year, when you desperately needed someone who could make a big shot at the end of games, seems like a fantastic move to me. Anyway, I loved this trade for the Clips.

(Kudos to my main man Elgin -- I'm glad to see his cell phone is finally working.)

• One more NBA note: Everyone is wondering where Michael Finley is going when only one team makes sense: Denver. It's the only contending team that can give him a starting spot. It's one of the few teams that can offer him the full mid-level exception. And out of any contender and pseudo-contender out there, he would have the most dramatic effect on the Nuggets over anyone else -- he could play 35-40 minutes a game, shoot wide-open 3s (remember, he shot 41 percent on 3s last year) and give them a little leadership. If you were him, wouldn't you pick Denver? I sure would.

(There's another interesting name still out there: The Mayor, Fred Hoiberg. You're telling me he wouldn't help Houston, Miami, Denver or San Antonio?)

Onto this week's sports book recommendation …

If you loved the documentary "Hoop Dreams," the literary equivalent is "The Last Shot," which was written by Darcy Frey in 1994. Frey followed four star players from Lincoln High's basketball team in New York, a school located in a depressing, dangerous part of Brooklyn, and it's not your typical "Friday Night Lights" ripoff in which the writer follows some random high school team around for a year and expects you to care about them. This book delves into the stranglehold that basketball has on African-American culture; the cultural biases of Prop 48 and the SATs; the complete and utter hypocrisy of the college recruiting system; and even how those summer basketball camps vaguely resemble cattle calls. It's an amazing book, with one overriding theme: When you're a talented basketball player from the projects, there are a million things that can go wrong, and only one thing that can go right.

The book was great when it came out 11 years ago, but it's even better now, and here's why: The four players that Frey followed were Darryl Flicking (called "Russell Thomas" in the book for legal reasons), Tchaka Shipp, Corey Johnson … and Stephon Marbury. That's right, Stephon Marbury. He's a cocky, precocious ninth-grader in the book, the last NBA hope for the Marbury family (his three older brothers didn't make it). As it turns out, he's the only one of the four who "made it," so to speak -- which gives the book a whole new perspective when you're reading it now, especially when you read the updated afterword from the 2004 edition (I won't spoil it for you, but it's devastating to read after the fact).

Unlike last week's recommendation, this book is still in print: You can purchase the one with the updated afterword on Amazon.com right here.

So there you go. New column coming tomorrow.


August 2005