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And the Walls Came Tumbling Down: Kentucky, Texas Western, and the Game That Changed American Sports

Fitzpatrick, Frank

Editore: Simon & Schuster, 1999
ISBN 10: 0684835517 / ISBN 13: 9780684835518
Usato / Quantità: 1
Da Nearfine Books (Brooklyn, NY, U.S.A.)
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Titolo: And the Walls Came Tumbling Down: Kentucky, ...

Casa editrice: Simon & Schuster

Data di pubblicazione: 1999

Condizione libro: very good


Gently used. Expect delivery in 2-3 weeks. Codice inventario libreria 9780684835518-3

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I remember sitting in Mr. Grillo's high school English class one Friday afternoon in 1966 when the subject of that weekend's NCAA basketball tournament arose.

As basketball fanatics, my friends and I argued the merits of the Final Four participants. No one mentioned Texas Western except to disparage the stunning racial makeup of their starting five.

Five blacks! It was one thing for an inner-city high school to start five blacks, but for a college team at the Final Four, it was unprecedented.

"All you have to do is get ahead," said one of my friends. "They give up when they're behind."

"Kentucky is too smart," said another. "I'll bet all Texas Western can do is run-and-gun."

The sad part was I believed it too.

So when Kentucky was upset by Texas Western, with their tenacious defense, disciplined play, and marvelously named players like Big Daddy Lattin and Willie Cager, we were all stunned. My beliefs were shaken as severely as they would be in religion class that same junior year. Maybe I was wrong about the capabilities of black basketball players. About Catholicism. About a lot of things.

So begins Frank Fitzpatrick's stunning account of the 1966 NCAA championship game.

Late on the night of March 19, 1966, in the University of Maryland's Cole Field House, five unassuming black men from Texas Western stepped onto the court to face five white men from the University of Kentucky. On the surface, this was just another basketball game. But there were hidden forces at work. Kentucky's legendary coach, Adolph Rupp, had resisted the pleadings of his president to recruit his first black player in thirty-six years. Meanwhile, Texas Western administrators were concerned that coach Don Haskins was playing too many blacks. Almost everyone believed the game's result was a foregone conclusion: There was no way Texas Western's unheralded blacks could beat Rupp's mighty Kentucky Wildcats, featuring All-America Pat Riley. Yet Texas Western did win and American sports embarked on a new era.

That 1966 NCAA title game -- played at a turbulent moment in civil rights history -- marked the first major sporting championship in which an all-black starting team had played, let alone defeated, a white one. Not since Jackie Robinson broke baseball's color barrier in 1947 had such a cultural watershed occurred in American sports. Sociologically and historically it was the most significant game ever in college athletics.

In And the Walls Came Tumbling Down, veteran sportswriter Frank Fitzpatrick examines the game, the history that preceded it, and the sweeping changes that followed in its wake. In profiling the coaches, the players, and the administrators, he details the impact of that championship game and paints a nuanced portrait of the events that belied the easy black-and-white characterization. Through his close look at this rare moment when sports led rather than followed the forces for social change, Fitzpatrick takes readers on an unparalleled journey that brings the riveting story of this landmark season to life.

Recensione: Fitzpatrick wastes no time making his point in this fertile and compelling story of perhaps the most important college basketball game ever played: "What a piece of history," Arkansas basketball coach Nolan Richardson exclaims in an opening quote. "If basketball ever took a turn, that was it."

Richardson may be underestimating. The 1966 NCAA championship final between the heavily favored, all-white University of Kentucky, and the "No Names from Nowhere" all-black starting five of upstart Texas Western (now the University of Texas-El Paso) was a sporting insurrection in a time of social chaos and upheaval. Played out in black and white, everything about this David-and-Goliath confrontation was washed in complex and layered shades of gray.

Through strong interviews and contemporary accounts, Fitzpatrick builds toward the ineffable climax, recreated in spirited detail, on a Saturday night in Maryland. He lays his foundation with a contextual chronicle of the turbulent times, emphasizing the importance of white basketball to Kentucky's image of itself. He lays up strong profiles of the universities, their hoop traditions, the players, and the two extraordinary coaches who led them--the Miners' rumpled tactician, Don Haskins, and the Kentucky squire, Adolph Rupp, whose legend is sadly choked by his racist roots.

"No one has ever studied the effect Texas Western's victory had on integration, nor would such a thing be entirely measurable," Fitzpatrick observes, but it was nevertheless unmistakable. "The number of black athletes at major colleges surged immediately afterward ... and basketball, which had always been linked with sweet-shooting country boys from places like Indiana and Kentucky, became the 'City Game.'" And for young blacks in America, the accomplishment provided something beyond a national title; it held out a hint of hope. Walls' ultimate achievement--by no means a small one--is not letting us forget that. --Jeff Silverman

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