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Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Basketballogy: Supercool Facts You Never Knew, by Kevin Sylvester. Annick Press, 2017. $12.95 ages 9 and up

"The fans at Arizona State have a "curtain of distraction." This is an actual curtain set up near the opposing team's hoop. Just as a shooter gets ready to let go of the ball, students open the curtain. They've revealed everything from dancing unicorns to US Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps dressed in a Speedo and wearing all his gold medals."

We are already into the second round conference playoffs in the NBA post season. With baseball season in full swing, hockey playoffs ramping up, and basketball games to watch, sports fans are in a conundrum for what to watch and when.

We have always been a sports family. So, it's a great time of year to be distracted from everything else, and take time to sit and watch our favorite teams play. Having just finished reading Kevin Sylvester's book about basketball, I am more informed than I have ever been. I thought I knew the game pretty well.

This book is full of facts, figures, rules, plays, stories and minutiae. There is much I did not know. If only, I could keep it all straight in my head! Written and illustrated by Mr. Sylvester, it takes the same form as his 2015 Baseballogy. A clear and extensive table of contents invites browsing through its many double page entries. An introduction reminds readers that basketball is its own entity. It was not developed from any other sport. There have been changes, and the love for the sport has certainly grown.

Moving forward he fills the pages with facts such as this:

Originally, when someone scored a
basket, the game stopped - at least till the
janitor could get a ladder to retrieve the
ball. Naismith finally figured out if they
cut the bottom out of the basket, the ball
could go through, and the game could
resume quickly. Eureka!"

Remember that they had started by nailing peach baskets onto the balcony around the gym floor. With each turn of the page, information is added about the changes that have occurred in balls, rules, court size, the art of dribbling, the shot clock, and players' skill development.

Ted St. Martin isn't an NBA player,
but he has made free throws his
obsession. He once made 5,221 in
a row. It took his 7 hours and 20
minutes! He's actually broken his
own record 15 times and now helps
train other players. His secret? He
says it's practice."

With appealing artwork, charts, graphs and pages filled with all the basketball information enthusiasts are happy to know, you can not go wrong having this book available to kids who love learning about sports. The author covers facts and stories from the WNBA; addresses questions of salary, TV ratings and attendance, equity, diversity and ownership, and so much more.

The most interesting - and astonishing - comparison concerns the cost difference in attendance from 1960 until today. Anyone who attends public events is aware of the enormous changes that have been made and continue to happen. Kids seeing those money differences from spread to spread will be wishing for a return to common sense.

A ticket then? $1.50 and $4.00 courtside. Basketball was no big deal for many in 1960. Today, a ticket is $40 and courtside is $2,000 for one game! Concession food can set you back another pretty penny when a soft drink is $6.50, compared to 20 cents then. I would bet that 20 cents is much closer to what the concession stand buys it for even today.

Backmatter adds The Original 13 Rules penned by James Naismith in 1891, a trivia test (and answers), references and further reading, an index and a note about the author. 


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