The Hustle: One Team and Ten Lives in Black and White

The Hustle: One Team and Ten Lives in Black and White

by Doug Merlino


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The experiment was dreamed up by two fathers, one white, one black. What would happen, they wondered, if they mixed white players from an elite Seattle private school and black kids from the inner city on a basketball team? The team's season unfolded like a perfectly scripted sports movie: The ragtag group of boys gelled together to win the league championship. The experiment was deemed a success.

But was it? How did crossing lines of class, race, and wealth affect the lives of these ten boys? Two decades later, Doug Merlino, who played on the team, returned to find his teammates. The result is a complex, gripping, and at times unsettling story. An instant classic of narrative nonfiction, The Hustle tells the stories of ten teammates set before a background of sweeping social and economic change, capturing the ways race, money, and opportunity shape our lives.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781608192595
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
Publication date: 01/31/2012
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 658,143
Product dimensions: 5.56(w) x 8.54(h) x 0.84(d)

About the Author

Doug Merlino is a veteran journalist who has written for Wired, Men's Journal, Legal Affairs, and many other publications. He previously lived in Budapest after leaving Seattle. He now lives in New York with his wife.

Table of Contents

Part 1 The Season 1

One for All 3

Black Seattle/White Seattle 13

You'll All Work for Us Someday 36

More Than Just Running Up and Down the Floor 52

Welfare Queens, the Huxtables, and Unlikely Champions 70

Part 2 Transitions 83

Moving On 85

Part 3 Money, Work, Career 109

Strictly for the Money 111

Boom, Bust 130

Gentrified 146

Saved 155

The System 171

Part 4 Schools 189

Our Kids Are Not Getting What They Need 191

Between Two Worlds 208

Lakeside Revisited 222

Part 5 Structure and Manhood 251

What It Means to Be a Man 253

Play Hard and Keep it Clean 270

Acknowledgments 293

Notes on the Sources 295

Index 298

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Hustle: One Team and Ten Lives in Black and White 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 17 reviews.
Aradanryl More than 1 year ago
The Hustle is one of those books that will linger in my heart and mind for a long time. Once started, I was mesmerized until the last page was read. The description said "The result is a complex, gripping, and, at times, unsettling story." In my opinion, this book far exceeded that. This is a book about far more than what happened to 10 boys on a basketball team. Perhaps because of the author's journalistic background, there is a definite lack of condemnation in the book, even when describing difficult, heart-wrenching issues. This underlying respect for the reader's ability to evaluate the situation without being told what to think/feel was immensely appealing to me. Equally impressive was the masterly weaving of historical context throughout the book, creating a multi-layered story that provided the information necessary to understand the individual stories within the context of past and present. I learned a lot without ever feeling it was interfering with the story. And it changed how I look at some issues, for the better. Perfect for book clubs. A heart-felt thank you to the author, Doug Merlino, and all the members of the team, for sharing their lives in such a deeply moving way. *This book is crossposted from Goodreads. The book was provided free through the Goodreads First Reads program with the expectation of an honest review. My opinions are my own.
janemarieprice on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I¿m a bit unsure how to approach reviewing this book. Framed as the story of a mixed race youth basketball team formed in 1980s Seattle, the book speaks more about race relations in general, the fractious neighborhoods in post-segregation America, and how this affects our lives. Merlino, after reading about the murder of one of his teammates, sets out to track down all the members of the team and see what has happened in their lives. The white students, all of the most prestigious private school in Seattle, are very successful, while the black students range from somewhat successful to almost without hope. While the story is interesting, it is also unsurprising. These are the things we see and live every day ¿ a team of demographic statistics ¿ which makes for a pretty depressing read. Merlino doesn¿t try to offer any easy answers, or even suggest that the team changed their lives in any large way. But at the same time, he does think that it was meaningful and ultimately a good thing. I suppose that¿s why I find myself so conflicted. The book is well written, and entertaining, but I don¿t feel like I came to any conclusions or learned anything I didn¿t already know.
EmScape on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I received this book as part of the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program, requesting it because the description made me assume it would be akin to a novelization of the kind of movie that features a rag-tag group of youngsters who come together to form a winning athletic team and learn life lessons along the way, with the added bonus of checking in on them 20 years later and finding out how they turned out. However, the book is filled with many digressions about the history of Seattle, cocaine and crack, hedge funds, gentrification, the Pentecostal religion, the criminal justice system, the Seattle school system, and modern masculinity. While it's very informative to his story, and helps to round out the situations faced by himself and his teammates, these portions can seem sort of dry and irrelevant. The story shines when he relates the actual experiences of himself and his other subjects within this framework, and you can't help but wish he'd included more of these and less of the historical stuff. In each chapter, after Merlino has laid out the topic to be commented on, he includes a paragraph or two about how one or more of the guys dealt with the situation. Throughout, I found it difficult to keep track of which guys were which and how they had commented on an earlier topic, especially JT and Damien, as they were the most similar. A few more photographs would have been welcome, too.All in all, though, if you approach the book as more of a sociological study of race relations in Seattle, with an emphasis on how they affect a specific group of individuals, you can certainly see that it delivers. For a debut author, who is extremely close to his subjects, the result is largely a success.
gtown on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Hustle starts with what seems like a simple concept but really turns into an epic story. As a kid, the author was part of a mixed race/class/income basketball in the 80's. 20 years later, he tracks down the team to see the effects of this social experiment. That's the framework for the story, but really it's more about race/class/income in Seattle, acting as a microcosm for the country over the years.It was a very interesting story, and I only took off a star because I wanted more stories about the players. In many ways they were more captivating than the history lessons.I received this book for free through Library Thing Early Reviewers.
sallylou61 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Although at first glance, this appears to be a book about basketball, it is actually a sociological study of the city of Seattle. It is the story of a basketball team which combined black players for the Central Area, the poor black district of Seattle, with white players from the prestigious, primarily white private school, Lakeside School, in the North End of the city. The team only existed for the 1986 basketball season, and the team playing as a team is described in the first 80 pages of the book of slightly over 300 pages. Although the boys played basketball and rode in a van to the games together, the blacks and white did not see how each other lived; they did not go inside the homes of the team members of the other race. Even in the ¿basketball¿ section, the author describes the family backgrounds of the different players, and gives some family and city history. The basketball coach, Willie McClain, who was black, was a father figure for many of the black players, and several of them spent a considerable amount of time in his house.The author, Doug Merlino, was one of the white team members who had minimal basketball skills but was on the team for racial balance. A journalist, he decided to get in touch with his former teammates approximately 15 years later. Tyrell Johnson, one of the black teammates was already dead; he had been murdered in 1991. Doug met with the other teammates, either in their homes and/or places of work, a number of times over several years. This included prison visits to Myran Barnes who was incarcerated for drug dealing.Doug shows that playing on a basketball team with whites did not keep the blacks out of trouble in later years. Several of the black teammates were involved in drug dealing as older teenager or as adults. Doug discusses both the drug situation in Seattle, and also the justice system. He got first hand information about the latter from a white teammate, Sean O¿Donnell, a prosecutor in the Seattle area.In discovering and describing the lives of the different teammates, Doug discusses various institutions in Seattle including those in education and religion and how they have changed in the recent past. Much of the discussion, although it is centered on Seattle, would be true of other locations.In his narrative, Doug keeps referring to his former teammates by their first names. Unfortunately, there is no list of the teammates with brief descriptions of them ¿ something which would have been helpful for the reader. I kept going to pictures of the team members in the front and back of the book to see who they were. Another problem is that although the subtitle of the book is ¿One Team and Ten Lives in Black and White,¿ there were actually more than ten on the team over the course of the season. Some appear in only the picture of the boys as players, and some in the picture of the men at a reunion 20 years later. The book is written in a popular style without footnotes although there is a bibliography and a good index.
sjurban on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed the sociology aspect quite a bit. I'm not a basketball fan, so that didn't draw me in. Good thing basketball wasn't really what this book was about. My daughter recently read a few studies about racism experiments, so I was eager to get my hands on this one. It's well written and interesting. I like Seattle as well, so the history and facts about the area keep my interest.Overall, good book. Not groundbreaking, but a interesting read none the less.
pinklady60 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An African-American basketball coach in Central Seattle integrates his all-black team with some white players, hoping to give his boys an additional life experience. The author of this book was one of those white kids. He tells the story of the boys on his team, how the roles of race and class affected their lives, and what became of them as adults. I was actually expecting more about the team itself, so was surprised that two-thirds of the book was devoted to Merlino¿s research of race relations in Seattle, the educational system, and the boys as adults. The part I found most interesting was how the private Lakeside School struggled for more diversity in its student body and faculty. To quote Merlino, ¿While nearly everyone agrees that ¿diversity,¿ in a broad sense, is a desirable thing, what exactly that means in the real world is hard to define.¿Unfortunately at times I had trouble keeping track of the characters and their individual stories and found the team photo helpful. Although I would have preferred a more organized and linear writing style, the book did make me examine my own thoughts about racial and cultural diversity
book58lover on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Despite what the cataloging says about this book, it is NOT about basketball. Maybe a few early teenage boys got together to play some games of bball, but that's not what this book is about. Author Doug Merlino participated an interracial team in 1986 and now twenty-five years later decided to look up his teammates to see what their lives have become. Part of the team was intercity boys and the other part was wealthier suburban boys mixed together by two men who thought an interracial team would be a good experiment for Seattle. Although they didn't play together for very long, it was quite a social experiment. Many of the intercity boys were invited to attend an elite private school where the suburban boys attended because of this team play.The book describes the lives of these boys both before and after the team was established. It also explains the connundrum of the elite school which served a wealthy white clientele that wanted to diversify. This served to enrage the parents and alums who felt entitled to attend that school and didn't want to give up a spot to a diversity candidate. The author attempts to explain the difficulty of a large city coming to grips with its racial makeup and the educational opportunities for their youngsters. The ending brings the adults together for a reunion which the author organizes. Predictibly the boys followed the courses their racial and economic makeups seemed to demand. It was very sad that nothing seemed to be learned in the decades after the civil rights movement. Drugs and unemployment took its toll on the intercity kids and ulcers seemed to press on the 'successful' ones. The topic is so complicated that just throwing together some boys to play ball won't solve it but it certainly made many of them think. Unfortunately that didn't happen to many others but it should have.So, if you want to read about layups and three point plays this book isn't for you. If you are interested in social issues of race, class and economics this will be an interesting read and I would recommend it.
goodinthestacks on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Like an episode of "The White Shadow," this book is just as much about basketball as it is about race. And just like "The White Shadow," it's pretty good, but not great.
woodsathome on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I'm conflicted about this one. The book description suggests this is an account of a mixed race/economic basketball team formed in the '80's and what happened to them as adults. And yes, that is present in the book, but mainly as a poorly sketched out framework for a treatise on race relations in the city of Seattle.It felt like, and indeed may have been the case, that the author spent more relating the number of blacks living in Seattle in 1880, 1890, 1900 as infinitum, than he did detailing what actually happened in the season the boys shared. Even the present day stories of the team felt disjointed and superficial. Again more time was spent talking about the founder of the Zion school that was spent talking about how Tyronne was murdered.The sociology stuff was interesting, but I wanted more of the personal stories.
dmcco01 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In the mid-80s, Doug Merlino is a member of a Seattle youth basketball team that brings well-off white boys and inner-city black boys together in an experience that is eye-opening for all and door-opening for some. Twenty years later, Merlino sets out to reunite the team and discover how the social experiment has impacted the lives of his teammates as adults.This is a story more about sociology than basketball. And the story is fascinating, if familiar in many ways. Merlino does an excellent job of researching the history of Seattle and race in the United States and examining how that history impacted the experience of his teammates. An excellent, thought-provoking work for anyone interested in race, distribution of wealth, and the role sport can play in uniting disparate individuals.
velopunk on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The author was on a mixed race youth basketball team in greater Seattle during the 1986 school year. He was one of four whites on the team. The team was put together by one of the white fathers and one of the black fathers who was also the coach. It was an attempt at diversity involving some of the tonier private schools in the Seattle area including the famous Lakeside School of Bill Gates fame. Gates donated $40 million to Lakeside stating that "Without Lakeside, there would have been no Microsoft." Lakeside students were the children of the movers and shakers of greater Seattle. Supposedly when losing a basketball game this cheer would errupt from the Lakeside student body, "That's alright, that's OK, you'll all work for us someday." Black students were placed with Lakeside School and other Seattle private schools through this basketball pipleline. The author, Doug Merlino, follows the team members through the 20+ years since that 1986 season. All the white students have done well. The black students have had mixed results. All talked about the disconnect between their communities and the private school communities they spent their days in. One player was killed in a drug deal at 19. Another has done time in prison on a variety of charges. Some have become teachers, gone into business, and been active in the black church. I found it an interesting sociological look at Seattle and the history of race in that area.
Illiniguy71 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In the 1980s, as a junior high youth, Doug Merlino was a member of an amateur basketball team composed of inter-city blacks and mostly suburban whites. In its year together, the team won a local championship. Twenty years later, Merlino, then a reporter, decided to explore and explain what had become of his teammates.The resulting book is much more a study of the workings of race and social class than of basketball. Although the events of the book happened in Seattle, similar events might have taken place in almost any American city. Race and class work much the same everywhere in urban America. Merlino provides much information, appreciated by this reader, about the history of blacks in Seattle, the spread of crack cocaine in the 1990s, resultant incarceration rates, and about attempts to integrate one particular prep school. All this is placed within a story of how overprivileged and underprivileged boys came together in a common project. Nevertheless their varied family origins largely determined their separate futures. Merlino has a better understanding than most Americans of how culture, class, and race intersect in our society or fail to intersect.This book deserves the widest possible readership due to its readability and for what it implies about our efforts to deal with some of America's most important public policy issues.
jsewvello on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I am a big basketball fan and I was excited to get this book. When I started to read the book, I realized that it was more about race and society than basketball. But that was fine too because the book is really interesting. Seeing what happened in the lives of these players over the past two decades reminded me of the Up series movie documentaries. Many of these players have led interesting lives. One is a dot-com millionaire, another is a prosecutor who tried the notorious Green River Killer. There are others who weren¿t so successful: a recovering crack addict, a weed dealer, and a murder victim. This book does a good job capturing the ways race, money, and opportunity shape our lives.
reenum on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
When I picked up this book, I expected a pure sports book. Even though that is not what this book was, it was engaging enough to not leave me disappointed.In the first part of the book, Merlino recounts his time on an integrated kids' basketball team in 1986 Seattle. He weaves the narratives of the games and time the team spends together with the history of Seattle's founding and early history. The book's transition takes place when Merlino learns of the murder of one of his teammates in 1991. The second part of the book finds Merlino reconnecting with the teammates, black and white. These encounters prompt a deep analysis of the sociology of education in the US and the divide between black and white. Merlino's analysis is incisive, and the limited sports vignettes are well done. The book was marketed as being similar to Michael Apted's Up series. It did live up to this billing, but not fully. I think most sports fans with no interest in American society will be bored by this book. People with an interest in sociology and race relations will have a much better time.
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