Winners & Losers: Rants, Riffs & Reflections on the World of Sports

Winners & Losers: Rants, Riffs & Reflections on the World of Sports

by Bob Latham

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781608323944
Publisher: Greenleaf Book Group, LLC
Publication date: 10/02/2012
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 216
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Depending on the context in which you meet Bob Latham, he is either a sports writer disguised in the body of a trial lawyer, or a trial lawyer masquerading as a raconteur and a walking encyclopedia on sports. Clinically speaking, he is a practicing lawyer based in Texas, who moonlights as a columnist for SportsTravel magazine.

Bob has never met a sport he didn’t like. He has held a number of positions in the world of sports including Chairman of USA Rugby, member of the Board of Directors of the United States Olympic Committee, and member of the International Rugby Board Executive Committee.

Bob’s columns in SportsTravel are known for their funny, original, and sometimes poignant perspective on sports. He has examined a curious decision by FIFA President Sepp Bladder, visited Ted Williams’s cryogenic resting place, and managed to work Fonzie and Nelson Mandela into the same column.

In his day job, Bob has been ranked as a top commercial litigation attorney and has been included in the Best Lawyers in America in multiple disciplines.

A graduate of Stanford University and the University of Virginia Law School, he is a sought after speaker on legal issues and matters relating to sports.

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Greenleaf Book Group Press

Copyright © 2012 Bob Latham
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-60832-394-4

Chapter One


Kiwi Love

December 2011 – Ah, New Zealand, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

1. I love that your motto for the Rugby World Cup, which you hosted (and where I spent time in September and October), was "a stadium of 4 million"—and that it was actually true. There is no another country where the DNA of one sport is so ingrained in the culture. And during the RWC, in remote fishing villages or the tiniest hillside vineyards, every single citizen was conversant in the match results from the tournament.

2. I love that your national team, the All Blacks, facing the enormous pressure of a stadium of 4 million people, won the World Cup with a tight, physical 8–7 victory over France. And—due to injuries—you did it with your fourth-string flyhalf, showing the incredible talent you have. That is akin to an NFL team winning the Super Bowl with a fourth-string quarterback. Your citizenry deserved the pride that comes with that crown.

3. I love that your political leaders are true fans like the people they serve. Your Prime Minister, John Key, attended two of the four United States Eagles' pool matches and we were not even playing New Zealand. The fact that your public officials consider themselves part of the throng was evidenced by my encounter with Harry Duynhoven, the mayor of New Plymouth, where the United States played two of its matches. Mayoral status brings with it the title of "Your Worship" in New Zealand. When I addressed Duynhoven as "Your Worship" he stared me in the face and said, "'Harry' would be fine."

4. I love that you were able to overcome tragedy and disaster earlier this year, specifically the earthquake in Christchurch—a city that could no longer host seven of the RWC matches. Many in your country consider the Christchurch area to be the spiritual home of New Zealand rugby, and it is fitting that the All Blacks paraded the championship trophy through the streets of Christchurch (as well as Auckland and Wellington).

5. I love that your national team players are part of your local and national communities, and are known by everyone as simply "Richie" or "Dan" or "Sonny Bill" (yes, the latter is from New Zealand and not from Texas).

6. I love that the people of New Plymouth held a memorial service for the U.S. team on the 10-year anniversary of 9/11 where townspeople spoke from their hearts in their church, and where the reverend revealed that he long had an eagle tattoo on his bicep, to the delight of our Eagles.

7. I love that your 4 million people seemed to follow every team and every player. I traveled with U.S. team captain Todd Clever from New Plymouth to Auckland for a disciplinary proceeding after the U.S. victory over Russia. On the plane back to New Plymouth, the flight attendant came to our seats and said the pilot would like to know if Clever was going to be eligible to play in the Eagles' next match against Australia, New Zealand's archrival. We were as pleased as the pilot as we reported that he was.

8. I love that small towns on the South Island adopted teams from countries such as Georgia and Romania, studied their history and their players, and attended matches in those teams' colors.

9. I love that the president of the New Zealand Rugby Union and former All Blacks great, Bryan Williams, following the awards banquet the night after the final, led an impromptu sing-along with his guitar in the host hotel bar, up to and beyond last call. We could not picture our own Bud Selig doing the same thing in a hotel bar in St. Louis after the Cardinals won Game 7 of the "World" Series.

10. Finally, I love that your spirit is so infectious that it causes reciprocal sportsmanship. In the final—the All Blacks versus "Les Bleus"—only one team would be able to wear their preferred color. The other would have to wear a lighter alternative jersey. French team manager Joe Maso won the coin toss and the right to select France's color. Remarkably, he deferred to New Zealand, thereby allowing the All Blacks to wear their iconic color, as a show of respect and appreciation for their hosting of the event—a magnanimous gesture. But it was no more that what you deserved.

A GoodWalk Unspoiled

July 2009 – It's a Sunday in Scotland and I find myself with a few hours to spare. I am pleasantly surprised that the sun does know where Scotland is after all, and is presenting itself on this day. Thus, it seems to be an ideal time to visit the Old Course at St. Andrews.

Not many sports have a universally acknowledged spiritual center. Wimbledon may have that status in tennis, but you would be hard-pressed to have a consensus as to the signature venue of most sports. In golf, however, there is no course as venerable or as famous as St. Andrews, and a visit there readily confirms its stature. Interestingly, no golf is played on the Old Course on Sundays. Rather, its stewards (the St. Andrews Links Trust) make it available for the public to wander around its legendary features.

I can hear the counterargument brewing: "What about Augusta?" After all, Augusta is the only golf course to host a major every year. But part of the magic of St. Andrews is that it hosts "the Open" (no one in these parts would ever it call it "the British Open") just once every five years, feeding the appetite for it even more. Plus, St. Andrews represents not only the roots of golf but also the present home of golf—the rules of international golf are set by the R&A (The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews), right behind the 18th green. Perhaps only Lambeau Field in American football can similarly boast not only a deep connection to the origins of its sport but also current prominence and relevance.

The idea of allowing the great unwashed to descend upon it one day a week serves to perpetuate and enhance the St. Andrews brand, unlike the approach of Augusta, which is hermetically sealed. The Old Course is of the golf, by the golf and for the golf. So, sorry, Augusta, the nod goes to St. Andrews.

The first thing I note upon arrival in the town of St. Andrews is how accessible the Old Course is from the town itself. Golf courses, and particularly famous ones, are often in remote, set-off areas. In St. Andrews, you can be browsing through any one of countless golf-themed stores in the main section of town and within minutes be walking onto the Old Course.

I stroll up the 17th fairway, perhaps the most famous hole at St. Andrews, and I get close to the Road Hole bunker when a 75-year-old woman walking her dog points to it. "There's where Nakajima needed four shots to get out of," she says, referring to the 1978 Open when Japanese golfer Tommy Nakajima fell out of contention because of his troubles in the bunker. "Same thing happened to Duval," she says, referring to David Duval's travails in 2000. Is everyone in Scotland a golf historian?

I spend some time examining the vastness of Hell Bunker on the 14th hole. I watch as countless tourists have their pictures taken on Swilcan Bridge on the 18th, most in poses suitable for a prom. I wander across the expansive land that forms the 18th and 1st fairways toward the North Sea, where I view another piece of sports history, albeit this one a dramatization: the beach where the training scenes in the movie Chariots of Fire were filmed.

Leaving track-and-field and film history behind, I drop into the British Golf Museum before returning to the real-life history that comes alive on the Old Course. And therein lies one of the many beauties of the Old Course: It does not give you the impression that it actively set out to create golf history. Rather, it let golf history create itself upon its ground. I have to think that even the most hardened of professional golfers experiences a different feeling in the years when the Open is played here.

I pop into the Jigger Inn, which is certainly among the best-positioned pubs in the world: an 1850s structure that abuts the Old Course Hotel. I'm pondering the majesty of what I've just seen, as well as admiring the views of the 17th and 18th holes, when a group of 16 golf tourists from the Isle of Jersey—specifically the Royal Jersey Golf Club—walk in, having just finished a round on one of the St. Andrews courses that is open for play on this Sunday. They quickly identify my accent and point to a member of their group, a man perhaps in his early sixties with a healthy head of white hair. "Who from your country does he remind you of?" one of them asks me. Before I can even consider the question, the answer is provided by the other 14, who start chanting: "Jerry! Jerry! Jerry!" Great. Scotland exports the game of golf; we export Jerry Springer. The U.S. trade deficit continues to grow.

As I say goodbye to the Channel Islands version of Jerry Springer, the words of Mark Twain are in my head. Golf, he said, is "a good walk spoiled." And it would have been a special, though no doubt frustrating, experience to have walked the Old Course with clubs in hand. On this Sunday, however—not having landed in Hell Bunker, not having shanked a shot into a window of the Old Course Hotel, not having dribbled a ball into the Swilcan Burn, and not having to blast my way out of the "Sands of Nakajima," as the Road Hole bunker became known in 1978—this was a good walk unspoiled.

A Day at the Races

July 2010 – I had never been to a Triple Crown horse race. But, through some fortunate timing of a business trip and the generosity of a friend, I found myself at New York's Belmont Park in June for the 142nd running of the Belmont Stakes.

There was a time in this country, shortly after the turn of the twentieth century, when the two most popular sports were horse racing and boxing—each accessible to fans across the socioeconomic spectrum. However, it may now be the general impression that championship boxing fights are for Vegas high rollers and the Triple Crown horse races (Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and the Belmont) are for fans as carefully bred as the horses themselves. With that perspective going in, the Belmont provided a number of surprises and revelations.

The first thing I confronted was attire. I was worried that I might have to wear some sort of Bob Baffert/Nick Zito suit to fit in among women with hats the size of Rhode Island. Although there were a couple of Kentucky Derby starter outfits, most of the people were clad as I was—T-shirt and flip-flops—though there were also more than a few looks reminiscent of Rodney Dangerfield in Easy Money. Oddly, there were different signs on two restrooms under the grandstand—one for "Women" and one for "Ladies." I'm not sure where the dividing line was, but it may have had something to do with the size of the hat the woman/lady was wearing.

The Belmont has historically struggled to find traditions that would stand the test of time, including this year switching to Jay-Z's "Empire State of Mind" as its theme song. Good luck with that. In 1997, someone invented something called the Belmont Breeze as the signature cocktail of the Belmont, a bourbon-based concoction no doubt meant to mimic the Kentucky Derby's mint julep. This may need some more work in the mixology lab.

I knew going in that the Belmont, by its sheer length (1.5 miles), would show itself as the ultimate test for thoroughbreds. It was also clear why there had not been a Triple Crown winner in 32 years. The distance is imposing. Also imposing is the climate. It is a different matter to run a mile and a quarter in early May in Kentucky than it is to run a mile and a half in the heat and humidity of Greater New York in early June.

In fact, the winners of this year's Kentucky Derby and Preakness chose not to compete in the Belmont, leading to a smaller and more subdued crowd of 45,243. In 2002, 120,139 turned out to see if Smarty Jones could capture the Triple Crown.

I also expected to see the legend of Secretariat, the 1973 Triple Crown winner, on display. My seats were almost exactly 31 lengths from the finish line, or roughly where the second-place horse was when Secretariat crossed the finish line in record time. Surely, the Secretariat statue would be as grandiose as the big horse himself. Wrong. The statue looked like something you would see on a wedding cake—a small model of a horse almost invisible to the general public in the paddock area. It's too bad Secretariat's greatness came when New York was having budget problems.

Obviously, any horse, trainer or jockey who wins the grueling race deserves it, so full credit should go to Drosselmyer, a 12–1 shot. But in the absence of a Triple Crown contender, assessing the Belmont's own sporting allure is elusive.

The Kentucky Derby is where we determine the cream of the 3-year-old crop. The Preakness has the advantage of being second, and as long as the Kentucky Derby winner is entered, the buzz of a Triple Crown is still in the air. But the Belmont in a year like this feels like what a day at Belmont Park might have been like 100 years ago.

So the Belmont has sort of a split personality—the center of attention when a Triple Crown is on the line, and the last child in the horse racing family when there is not. In the latter case, perhaps the Belmont should not even try to emulate the Kentucky Derby's traditions. Instead, it should revel in its accessibility for all comers. Take a page from tennis's loud, boisterous U.S. Open, which doesn't try to be the staid, genteel Wimbledon—there is no signature serving at the U.S. Open like Wimbledon's strawberries and cream. Instead it has a little bit of everything. So when someone new to the Belmont asks what the signature drink or the theme song is, the reply could be something that might have come from that most eloquent New York spokesman, Yogi Berra: "We've got nothing. Because we've got everything."

I'm Going to Jerry World

January 2010 – There are certainly different approaches to an economic downturn. One approach, obviously, is to tighten the belt and look for ways to contain costs. The other extreme is to go so far over the top that even in challenging times the world will not only pay attention but will pay to take a look at your creation. Consider this second option the Field of Dreams option. You take a farm on the verge of bankruptcy and create a baseball field—in the words of Kevin Costner's character, you create something "totally illogical."

Not that there was ever any doubt which option Jerry Jones would choose, but I can confirm that with the new Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas—aka "Jerry World"—he has done the latter. My experience at the first regular-season game at Jerry World, which featured an NFL-record 105,000 fans, confirmed it as simply the biggest, baddest stadium in the country. Jones' $1.2 billion edifice may have established him as both the P.T. Barnum and the Ramses the Great of his time. He sought to build the greatest showplace on earth while at the same time creating a monument to himself in which he may someday request to be entombed.

On this night it was not only the focus of the American football world but also the epicenter of pop culture. My base camp for the game was one of the field-level suites, into each of which Jerry Jones deposited a bottle of Dom Perignon along with a personal note. I did have one question going in: With all the celebrities and riffraff on the sideline, how is it possible to see the field from a field-level suite? Indeed I experienced a wall of celebrity before the game as various Cowboys legends, all of whom would be enshrined in the new ring of honor, strolled by. At one point, I was speaking to the conductor of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra and turned to grab a drink off the ledge, almost elbowing Rudy Giuliani in the process as he took his obligatory lap around Jerry World. Women strolled by in outfits that seemed a little excessive for a football stadium, and few of them bearing their original parts. This was all well and good, but how was I going to see the game once it started?


Excerpted from WINNERS & LOSERS by BOB LATHAM Copyright © 2012 by Bob Latham. Excerpted by permission of Greenleaf Book Group Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Introduction xi

Chapter 1 Places 1 Remember

Kiwi Love 1

A Good Walk Unspoiled 4

A Day at the Races 7

I'm Going to Jerry World 10

Renaissance Revival 13

My Kind of Town 16

Strawberries… and Heat 19

The Unsung Funders 22

Chapter 2 Being There

Playing With the Players 27

Deconstructing Le Tour 30

My NASCAR Experience 33

Too Much to Ask? 36

Seven-Day Adventurists 39

Respecting the Davis Cup 42

Chunnel Surfing 45

The Other All-Star Game 48

Being There Matters 51

Chapter 3 Trouble Ahead, Trouble Behind

The Council of What? 57

Tiger, Joe and Jack 60

The Clear and the Cream 63

What's in a Name? 66

The Pursuit of Perfection 69

Heaven Can't Wait 72

Don't Forget the Game 75

Just Don't Bring Your Guitar 78

A Matter of Antitrust 81

Presentation Breakdown 84

Chapter 4 Learning from the Game

Sports Science 89

When Youth Sports Go Pro 92

Putting in a Good Word 95

Why the Wild Cards Win 98

Sharing the Fandom 101

Hot Dog Gate 104

In the Trenches 107

Chapter 5 Not Your Everyday People

The Ultimate Survivor 113

The Second Time Around 117

A Team of Individuals 120

Mr. Old School 123

Banking on Beckham 126

LeBron: The Early Years 129

The Champ 132

Chapter 6 Happy to be a Fan

My Olympic Lifeblood 137

The Sweetest Seven Days 140

On Frozen Pond 143

The Flat World of Sports 146

A Truly Perfect Game 149

Peak Performances 152

The Canadian Crescendo 155

Wild, Crazy and Green 158

Chapter 7 Taking a Look Back

Wish I'd Been There 163

When It's Not Just a Game 166

A Lasting Legacy 169

Making the Call 172

Time Passages 175

Chasing History 178

Calls to Die For 181

Speaking of Sports 184

Resting at Wrigley 187

Acknowledgments 193

Index 195

Image Credits 200

What People are Saying About This

Kevin Roberts

Passion, harmony and joy. We love all three, and they're all here in these great stories. When Rolf Jensen said 'the heroes of the 21st century will be the story tellers,' who'd have thought he had in mind a rugby playing Texas lawyer?
— KEVIN ROBERTS, CEO Worldwide, Saatchi & Saatchi, New York, USA.

Nando Parrado

Bob Latham is an extreme connoisseur of sports, and his insights into seldom seen parts of many sports are accurate, informative, very well written and above all a joy to read. I highly recommend this book. It covers so many different aspects of various sports that it will be rewarding to any type of reader.
— NANDO PARRADO, author, Miracle in the Andes: 72 Days on the Mountain and My Long Trek Home, Montevideo, Uruguay.

Jim Courier

The real stories in sports are located somewhere beyond the box scores. This collection of essays enlightens, entertains and spotlights why we care so much about sports: the people involved.
— JIM COURIER, U.S. Davis Cup Captain, New York, USA.

Timothy Schneider

When I first met Bob Latham and learned he was a practicing attorney, I thought he'd made a mistake in career choices. He's not only one of the funniest people I've ever met, his humor is imbued with insights that are both intelligent and original. We are lucky that he's shared his passion for sports in a way that leads us to contemplate the very nature of winning and losing.
— TIMOTHY SCHNEIDER, Publisher, SportsTravel Magazine, Los Angeles, USA.

Jim Scherr

George Orwell said 'good writing is like a window pane.' In his book, Bob Latham gives us a clear view of the inner workings of sport with wit and humor and educates us in the process.
— JIM SCHERR, former CEO, United States Olympic Committee, Colorado Springs, USA.


New York, NY

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Winners & Losers: Rants, Riffs & Reflections on the World of Sports 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I'm no sports fan, but I loved this book nevertheless. The stories are alternatively instructive (what it's like to ride in a NASCAR vehicle), provocative (how much parental invovlement should there be in youth sports), amusing (many are laugh out loud funny), inspiritual (meeting with one of the survivors from the plane crash in the Andes), and touching (I won't spoil that one). It's hard to imagine that one person could have had all these different encounters with the world of sports and all these varied reactions to those experiences, but apparently Bob Latham did. It makees for a great read.