A London dozen: The book on how to watch it from the wrong side of the road


The book: “How to Watch the Olympics: The Essential Guide to the Rules, Statistics, Heroes and Zeroes of Every Sport”

The author: David Goldblatt and Johnny Acton

The publishing info: Penguin books, $15, 400 pages, paperback

Find it: At Powells or Barnes & Noble

The background: Goldblatt, a sports columnists who reports for BBC Radio and did the book, “The Ball Is Round: A Global History of Soccer,” is London-based, as is Acton, a former journalist at the London Times.

From the intro: “If we’re honest, there’s a gaping hole at the heart of the Olympic experience: Most of us know remarkably little about most of the sports we’ve suddenly gone nuts about. Of course, you could just plonk yourself down on a sofa and keep your eyes open. No harm in any of that, but to get the most out of the Olympics it really helps to know how to watch the proceedings. Which is where this book comes in: a training programme for the Olympics, or, to be precise, a five-point plan of crucial need-to-know information for each sport.”

The five points: Why watch the event? What’s the story behind it? What are the basics? What are the finer points? When did it become an Olympic sport?

Page 82, under “Why watch basketball?” they write: “If you have got tickets and are in two minds about going, call us and we’ll work something out.”

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A London dozen: Go ahead, pretend it’s real


The book: “The Treasures of the Olympic Games: An Interactive History of the Olympic Games”

The author: The Olympic Museum in Lausanne, Switzerland

The publishing info: Carlton Books, 64 pages, $50

Find it: At Barnes & Noble.

The background: We’re a sucker for these kind of things — facsimilies of rare histocial documents from the museum’s archive.

Aside from photographs, there are 20 tangable moments to try to relive, such as a police report detailing the terrorist attack at the 1972 Munich Olympics, and a flame bearer’s guide.

Add to that a DVD featuring Jesse Owens and Bob Beamon.

Find even more at the museum’s website: http://www.olympic.org/museum

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A London dozen books: Look into Amanda’s eyes


The book: “In The Water, They Can’t See You Cry: A Memoir”

The author: Amanda Beard with Rebecca Paley

The publishing info: Touchstone, $24.99, 248 pages

Find it: At Powells or Barnes & Noble.

The background: The seven-time Olympic medal-winning swimmer lives with husband Sacha and son Blaise in Tucson. At one point, she was the most downloaded athlete on the Internet. But she says she felt unworthy.

Depressed, she became more self-destructive, cutting herself, using drugs and becoming bulimic.

Pages 133-134: “I liked to cut across my arm in the meaty section between my elbow and wrist. Sometimes I did one little slice, sometimes three or four in a row. It varied. There was never any thinking, just instinct. After I’d finished, I took it all in, allowing myself to breathe and enjoy the clear-headedness that dried up the darkness sloshing around and threatening to drown me from the inside. I always left the bathroom feeling better than when I entered it …

“I fell into my own dark world where I cut myself every day for three straight days. I was so enraged, it came to a point where I couldn’t be near (her boyfriend, Ryk) without wanting to take a blade to my arm. I felt emotionally and physically sick … I got my cutting spiral under control not only because I didn’t want to hurt myself; I also didn’t want anyone finding out my secret. …

“Being in a swimsuit all the time made hiding my habit harder. When I still used tweezers, people were naturally curious about the scratch when I arrived at swim practice. There was no way I could ever tell the truth. What happened to your arm? Oh, I scratched it because it feels good to me. I knew that was crazy talk and didn’t want to get close to having a conversation like that. So instead, I blamed the cuts on my rough and tumble lifestyle. I was mountain biking and a twig scratched me. Or a dog did it. I was playing rugby with Ryk. People didn’t think twice about it. I had fooled everyone again. Just like my purging. I kept my cutting a controlled secret.”

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A London dozen books: Shawn Johnson stays on balance with the other stuff


The book: “Winning Balance: What I’ve Learned so far about Love, Faith and Living Your Dreams”

The author: Shawn Johnson with Nancy French

The publishing info: Tyndale House, $19.99, 254 pages

Find it: At Powells and Barnes & Noble

The background: From the publishing house that gave us Tony Dungy’s “Quiet Strength,” “Uncommon” and “The Mentor Leader,” and other athlete-motivation books comes this one from the 2008 silver medal gymnast.

“Over the past five years, many articles have been written about me,” she says in the intro. “Most journalists have gotten the details right, though only a few seem to have truly captured something about who I am as a person, not simply as a gymnast. That’s understandable, since most reporters have been assigned to cover a specific event or to give readers a status report on my training.

“I wrote ‘Winning Balance’ as a way to go deeper. … It is not an autobiography. Instead, I wrote this book as a way to reflect on the lesions I’ve learned during nearly two decades of training, competition and most important, every day life.”

Then there’s Chapter 15 entitled “Do Not Make Bob Costas Angry,” although that’s never really explained if someone told her that, or she had thought in her head as the NBC anchor interviewed her after the team won the silver medal.

” ‘How did your parents react when you first saw them after winning the medal?’ (Costas) asked after noticing the other gymnasts with their parents.

“‘I actually haven’t had a chance to see them,’ I replied, hiding the pain under my cheerful-sounding answer.

“I though I saw a flash of anger in his eyes though we were on camera. Here I was, this young girl going through the most spiritually taxing moment in my life, and the organizers hadn’t even bothered to help me find my mom and dad.

“During a commercial break, he took me aside. ‘Don’t worry,’ he said very kindly. ‘I’ll help you find your parents.’ … It was one of the most compassionate things anyone has ever done for me. And I’ll never forget Costas’s kindness.” (page 110).

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A London dozen books: Moceanu keeps us off balance


The book: “Off Balance: A Memoir”

The author: Dominique Moceanu, with Paul and Teri Williams

The publishing info: Touchstone/Simon and Shuster, 242 pages, $24.95

Find it: At Powells or Barnes & Noble

The background: She lives these days with her husband and two children in Cleveland, 18 years after the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta where, as a 14-year old, she was on the U.S. gold-medal winning team.

“When you have traveled the world, won Olympic gold, and gone through a very public court battle against your parents all by the age of seventeen, surprises don’t come easily. Discovering my sister Jennifer though – that was a surprise,” from Chapter 1, paragraph one, describing how she received a letter revealing a sister she didn’t know she had, given away at birth because she had no legs.

“As a competitive gymnast, my life has always been filled with challenges that would ultimately define my future. From day one, I was taught to be prepared at all costs. And yet, pulling into the post office parking lot that day, I couldn’t have been more unarmed, unguarded.”

Her Romanian immigrant parents went to the U.S. to provide her with a better life. Except they hadn’t told her everything about a sister, both six years and one day apart from her.

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