Serendipity, Baby

Though I didn't plan it, I ended up simultaneously reading Futebol: The Brazilian Way of Life, by Alex Bellos, and Play Their Hearts Out: A Coach, His Star Recruit, and the Youth Basketball Machine by George Dohrmann . . . and while there is no question that Brazil is crazy about soccer and America is crazy about basketball, the craziness exhibits itself in very different ways: Brazilians are superstitious, zealous, and obsessively festive about their national pastime (soccer fan clubs also participate in wildly gala and choreographed carnival events, where tattooed soccer hooligans organize thousands of costumed participants in synchronized marching and dancing) and creative to a fault with their gameplay, as illustrated by their incorporation of religion into the sport, their use of bizarre nicknames and their attempt at an "autoball" league in the 1970's . . . meanwhile, the story George Dohrmann tells of elite youth basketball players and their sleazy, despicable, but wildly successful coach Joe Keller paints a portrait of greed, consumption, high hopes, wild aspirations, hard work, hype, enormous success, great pressure, and epic failure . . . all in the milieu of middle school . . . the story is by turns compelling and infuriating, but the book is a must read, especially if you coach kids, and once you're finished, you can check Dohrmann's blog to see where the players from the book are now.

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