Tag Archives: bertine

Kathryn Bertine’s “As Good As Gold” releases April 28

Anyone who has followed me for the last two years knows that I’m a Kathryn Bertine fan boy. It started with All The Sundays Yet To Come, and continued through her ESPN Insider tales between 2006-2008. She’s taken those articles as a starting point and knit together her 2-year effort to compete in the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics. Bertine is a wickedly funny writer, probably because she doesn’t take herself, sports, or the Olympic aura too seriously. It’s amazingly refreshing to read a sports story that does not end in a medal, championship, undesireable geography or bizarre love geometry. It’s just about competing, pushing yourself, and what it means to represent something bigger than yourself or the guy who signs your paychecks.

As Good As Gold, Bertine’s latest book, releases on April 28th, and the Kindle-only version is available on amazon.com now. Look for a book tour (coming soon to a bookstore near you, maybe) and get ready to laugh at a remarkably hamish Olympic effort.

[ad#Google Adsense]

Kathyrn Bertine’s Olympic Quest

ESPN’s e-ticket follows Kathryn Bertine’s quest to represent the United States at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Doing just about anything, it seems. The series is Bertine’s quirky, self-effacing and sport-defacing travelogue of her attempts to qualify in the women’s pentathalon, checking out team handball to a tortuous, tortured, and not at all circuitous route to the 7-11 Velodrome for Team USA Cycling.

Top Ten Hockey Books

I love books. I buy many more than I read, and lately I’ve been buying out of print or gently used editions from amazon.com to add to my collection. Typically the used tomes fill in from days when spending $15 on a book would have put a serious dent in my spending money. Now that I can dabble in books and have somewhere to put them other than a cardboard mover’s box, I’m able to build up small libraries in obtuse topics such as Lake Placid, New York, hold’em poker, cryptography, and 70s art rock group Yes.

Without any further introduction, here’s my current top ten favorite hockey books:

Last Season, Roy MacGregor. The only fictional book in the list, and one of the few sports-related books that’s ever made me profoundly sad. Perhaps it’s “Bats” discovering his limitations as a man and player; perhaps it’s the surprise ending.
Ice Time, Jay Atkinson. A book for hockey dads by a hockey dad himself, who also happens to be an outstanding sports writer. Atkinson follows the trials, travails and training of the Methuen, Massachusetts high school team, but this book truly digs into what it means to be a good youth sports parent.
Boys of Winter, Wayne Coffey. Of all of the content scribbled about the Miracle on Ice, this is far and away my favorite collection of insights and stories. Coffey takes a look at each player, and how their lives were shaped before and after the famous 4-3 game in Lake Placid. I quote from the introduction frequently as our youth hockey season winds down, as Jim Craig’s few pages alone are worth the cover price.
Blades of Glory, John Rosengren. Sort of the foil to Ice Time, Rosengren follows big-time high school hockey in the first state of hockey (Minnesota). Another great look at a season from deep inside the locker room. Casual references to players from rival high schools read like a who’s who of young NHL players, with the New Jersey Devils’ own Zach Parise and Paul Martin making cameo appearances as themselves.
Home Team, Roy MacGregor. He’s so good he gets two slots. Non-fiction and closer to home (literally). Blend Last Season with Ice Time and you get this book, a look at fathers and sons in and around NHL draft events. Expectations, met, exceeded, undershot or crushed, and how hockey families sometimes are more about family than hockey.
They Don’t Play Hockey in Heaven, Ken Baker. You’ve probably never heard of Ken Baker, as he was a goalie for Colgate but never “made it”. I only discovered this book after reading Kathyrn Bertine’s All The Sundays Yet To Come (figure skating and anorexia in South America, but quite funny), as she and Baker were friendly at Colgate. As an adult league player, and someone who has met many guys who always wondered if they could have made it in the ECHL, this is a great read: Baker tells a story of fulfilling his dream of playing professional hockey well after he had hung up his skates, and the result has the poignancy of a Disney movie blended with the rough edges of “Slap Shot.”
The Game, Ken Dryden. Stanley Cup, Montreal Canadiens, Cornell University, and now big-time Canadian politician. Awesome read, and in a newly released reprint.
Beyond The Crease, Martin Brodeur (and Damien Cox). Not at all what I was expecting. Rather than the usual “I was taped to the goal by my older brother who fired pucks at me from a carbon-dioxide powered air gun” story of his life from 3 years old to 3 Stanley Cups, Brodeur’s book focuses on much more recent events, including his relationship to the Devils management and the league, how he sees the sport evolving, and what it was like to represent his country in the Olympics. His reflections on playing in Torino, and echoing his father’s footsteps on Italian Olympic ground, are alone worth the purchase price.
Breaking the Ice, Angela Ruggiero. So this one is about brother-baiting and boy-badgering, but it’s about the only book I can find that addresses women’s hockey.
The Hockey I Love, Vladislav Tretiak. Yes, the Russian goaltender, who was pulled from the Miracle on Ice game. The book ends in the late 70s, a few years before the Lake Placid Olympics, so you don’t get Tretiak’s views on the game for which he’s probably best known in the States. What you do find is a discourse on playing in some of the most famous international hockey series of the 70s.

What’s missing? A book about Jeff Halpern . Something focused on hockey diversity, featuring Scott Gomez and Jarome Iginla, perhaps. The hagiography of Saint Patrik (Elias), with a whole chapter on how he can consume dumplings and kolachi and still be pure muscle.

Bertine to Beijing

Got an email from Kathryn Bertine, former ice skater, ice show skater, and very funny writer, about her deal with ESPN to pen a column chronicaling her quest to compete in the Beijing Olympics. She’s published one more sports book than me, used to skate at the rink in Colorado that used to bear my company’s logo, and she answers her own email. Good buying signs for her work: the column is a great read.

Challenging Convention, One Sunday At A Time

Scott McNealy likes to pick on “conventional wisdom” as lacking wisdom. It’s one of the reasons why so many coaching books, and books written by coaches or athletes, ring hollow: they’re full of conventional wisdom or hackneyed phrases that you could glean from an hour or two of ESPN Classic.

In my on-going recovery reading room, I recently finished Kathryn Bertine’s funny and revealing memoir of her life as a professional figure skater, “All The Sundays Yet To Come”. Shocking to some, I put Bertine’s book in my personal list of top five sports books in terms of the non-obvious lesson within. Before googling, here are the other four that made the cut (subject to change and based on most memory, portions of which are clouded by painkillers):

  • 1. Pete Carril, “The Smart Take From The Strong,” ostensibly about Princeton University basketball but really a dialog on doing what you do well, and passing the ball to someone else when required. It’s the only sports book Jonathan Schwartz has read. Seriously.
  • 2. Pat Riley, “The Winner Within”. Don’t complain about someone else’s playing time unless you’re man (or woman) enough to tell that person, face to face, that you’re better and more deserving of the minutes. I’ve used that line more than once.
  • 3. Roy MacGregor, “The Last Season,” which has such a powerful ending that I remained upset by it for nearly a week. No engineering lessons, it’s out of print, but it’s an eye-opening tale of a washed-up player’s attempt to deal with his perceived demons.
  • 4. Michael Lewis, “Moneyball,” the baseball equivalent of Carril’s book, and a wonderful treatment of the science of statistics.

    So what does a hockey playing middle aged engineer find in a figure skating book, except perhaps the logical converse of Robby Benson in “Ice Castles” (groan later, there’s a message here….). While pursuing her dream of becoming a professional figure skater, Kathryn Bertine bound herself to increasingly lower-caliber productions, ending up in a trailer-portable show in South America. While on tour, she found that the emphasis in her chosen career had shifted from athleticism and skating ability to her appearance – and most particularly, her weight. Bertine developed a full-blown eating disorder, the roots of which she explores in some fantastically funny and moving flashbacks to her beginnings on blades. The title of the book is derived from the ritualistic Sunday weigh-in that served as Bertine’s eating and purging metronome.

    What’s the lesson? We cannot be happy with how others see us, only with the way we need to see ourselves. Others’ perceptions of right and wrong should never starve us of that which we need to grow, mentally or physically.