Book Review: The Last Amateurs

The Last Amateurs, by John Feinstein

Having listened to an audiobook by the author previously [1], I was intrigued by the author’s humane touch and interest in more obscure aspects of sportswriting, and I thought it would be worthwhile to read more of the author’s somewhat prolific body of work. As I have long had a critical view of the NCAA’s policies of amateurism and the hypocrisy of elite college conferences concerning the athletes whose talent is the product that these colleges, and everyone else connected in the game, wishes to profit from [2], I figured this book would provide itself an intriguing and worthwhile perspective. Having also written, from time to time, humorous examinations of lovable teams in college basketball [3], I was hoping that this book would have a sense of humor as well. For the most part, these hopes were realized, though not in a necessarily straightforward way.

In terms of the organizations and structure of this book, at least, there is something straightforward about the book. The book begins at the ending of the 1999-2000 basketball season, examining why the author chose to write about the Patriot League and the contrast between the amateurism of this conference and the semi-professional attitude of many NCAA conferences, where school is worked in between the main business of life, basketball. After this ending, the book goes to the preseason, giving a personal look at the coaches and players and colleges of the Patriot League in that season, which was made up at the time of seven colleges: Lafayette College, Lehigh, Bucknell, Colgate, Holy Cross, Army, and Navy. The book then looks, game by game, at how the season progresses for the schools, looking at their rivalries, at the guarantee games they play, at the ups and downs, the locker room conversations at halftime, the petty indignities of having cars towed and the crises of dealing with injuries and family problems, and the struggles of keeping up the love of the game in the midst of life’s concerns and pressures. The end result is a book that shows an author with a keen eye for detail and dialogue who does a really good job of making the reader care about obscure people they would never have heard of before, a worthwhile achievement.

That is not to say, though, that the book is perfect. For one, at about four hundred pages, this book is a bit bloated in size given the obscurity of its subject matter, and there are quite a few areas of repetition in the book as well which could have been trimmed. Most notably, the book spends a bit too much time speaking about the SAT scores of players in the Patriot League and referring to them over and over again as “boards,” which is a bit ambiguous, perhaps intentionally so, given the fact that rebounds are also called boards, making the book somewhat ambivalent at times in discussing either the athletic or academic prowess of students in the Patriot League. The author also appears to show a bit of politicizing in his discussions of commitment to athletics and the desire to encourage those schools which did not give out any athletic scholarships, which ended up not lasting. Even so, despite the failure of that initiative to set a model for other schools, those who appreciate seeing a season in the obscure ranks of college basketball in the Patriot League, where there are never bubble teams except for the CBI or CIT or Vegas 16 tournaments, will find much to enjoy and appreciate in this warm and humanitarian account of college basketball life in the slow lane.

[1] See, for example:

[2] See, for example:

[3] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in Book Reviews, History, Sports and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Book Review: The Last Amateurs

  1. Pingback: The College Football Power Conference That History Forgot | Edge Induced Cohesion

  2. Pingback: Book Review: Welcome To College | Edge Induced Cohesion

  3. Pingback: Book Review: French Revolutions | Edge Induced Cohesion

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