Tuesday, October 17, 2006

BOOK REVIEW: "Overtime Is Our Time!" Okay, loyal blog readers, it's finally here: the BasketCases' first ever book review! Yes, the rumors are true, besides watching women's basketball at every chance we get, we actually DO read books! Well, at least books about women's basketball! And what better book to read right now as the college season approaches than Brenda Frese's just-released "Overtime Is Our Time: The Inside Story of the Maryland Terps' 2006 National Championship." (We hope the subtitle didn't spoil the ending for you.)

While we're sure that Brenda can write (indeed, her Acknowledgments page at the beginning of the book is one of the most beautiful and heartfelt things about it), the book was actually written by sportswriter Chris King, currently a writer for the Terrapin Times, the magazine of the Maryland Terrapin Club. King, already familiar with the Terps from his day job, obviously had extensive access to the team for the writing of this "inside story." And indeed, the best reason to read this book is to learn more of those behind-the-scenes, never-before-told or little-discussed factoids and tidbits that basketball junkies like us live and die for. For example, it was pretty frightening to learn how close Maryland came to losing high school recruit Marissa Coleman to Florida (not that we have anything against Carolyn Peck, but come on now, she already has a Natty). Or how easily Kristi Toliver might have ended up at UConn. (Eat your heart out, Geno.)

As the subtitle suggests, the book covers the many highs (and the few lows) of last season. Indeed, for rabid Terps fans, particularly those who have watched "Under the Shell," much, if not most, of the content of the book will be quite familiar. (We certainly all know how close the virus-plagued Maryland team came to ending its NCAA tourney hunched over toilets in Albuquerque. And who hasn't heard the Brenda-drove-through-a-whiteout-blizzard-over-a-recruit story?) But there is additional biographical detail, not just about Brenda, but also about her coaching staff, that adds another layer of interest to the story of how this particular team, coached by these particular people, came together at this particular time, to win a national championship.

Now admittedly, the BasketCases are homers (you hadn't noticed?), but even we have to point out a few weaknesses of this book lest we lose all credibility. First, and while it pains us to say this, Chris King's writing is rather pedestrian and sometimes hard to follow. ("Maryland blasted Xavier 93-68 in its home opener." Uh, Chris, was that Maryland's home opener or were the teams playing in Cincinnati?) Also, a bit more fact checking would have been a good idea. King proclaims that Kristi Toliver's game-tying shot at the end of regulation in the National Championship "is arguably the second-most memorable in tournament history, ranking only behind the buzzer-beating jumper by North Carolina's Charlotte Jones that propelled the Tar Heels to a 60-59 win against Louisiana Tech in the 1994 title game." Charlotte Who? Apart from the fact that the Charlotte Smith who famously sank that winning shot went on to play in the WNBA (including right here in DC for the Mystics), she's been an Assistant Coach at Carolina for years. Which makes us wonder how "extensively" King really has covered women's college basketball, as claimed on the book jacket.

The book is choppy and segmented, and though it retells the story of what Brenda so correctly calls a "glorious ride," it does not succeed in truly capturing the magic of last season. Readers who followed the Terps on that thrill ride will often have to supply the emotions of the games for themselves. And while King recounts various anecdotes about particular players, there's little sense of how the players themselves were reacting as the season progressed and Maryland rose ever higher in the rankings. At times it's almost as though King is writing as a reporter or as an observer, rather than telling Brenda's story with a real sense of the emotions being experienced by the coaches and players (and even the fans) who lived it.

But when all is said and done, if you are a Terps fan, of course you must buy this book. And what could be more perfect as a holiday gift for all your friends and relatives? In the BasketCases' opinion, that's one of the best things about this book . . . our holiday shopping is done!

You can order the book online at this site.


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