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5.0 out of 5 stars Not only for sports fans
I picked up this book in an airport bookstore intending to give it to my brother. I found myself in dissolving into tears as I read the first chapter; I kept going for six solid hours as I traveled around the country. I find the repetition appropriate: the moment of supreme disaster replays itself again and again, in the book as in the lives of the participants. In an era...
Published on Nov. 25 2003

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3.0 out of 5 stars Redundant as All Get Out
The first 40 pages of "The Punch" will have you racing to the next page- It's a great opener to a great story about the most infamous fight in basketball history. Feinstein has a great oportunity to tell the story of Rudy Tomjonavich and Kermit Washington before and after the punch, and for the most part, the book is fairly interesting. The problem is that he...
Published on Jan. 23 2004 by Nathan I. Stromberg


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2.0 out of 5 stars Misses his own point, Feb. 9 2004
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In the introduction, Feinstein tells us how compelling he found this subject and how he pursued Tomjanovich and Washington rather than writing a book on golf. Then he inexplicably rushes through the book without apparent editing or proofreading. As many of the other reviewers point out, the repetition is extremely distracting. Of course, Feinstein's work never really qualifies as fine literature, but he's usually a very good sports journalist. This plainly is not his best work, which is too bad because he was right -- there was an interesting story here.
Regarding that story, the author's presentation was reasonable but could have been more comprehensive. In particular, he presents the punch and it's aftermath as an unfortunate incident -- almost an accident. Although he mentions in passing that Tomjanovich came close to dying, he never explores just what that would have meant, both to Washington and to professional sports. Instead, he recounts both players' careers and alternates between sympathetic and pathetic portrayals of Washington. He seems to want us to choose sides and then tells us that there are no sides.
As for Washington, it's unfortunate that this one event has overshadowed all of the good things that he has done inside and outside of basketball. But I have to agree with John Lucas that Washington has never owned up and taken responsibility for his actions. He refers to events using the passive voice. He childishly blames someone else for starting the fight. Heck, Tomjanovich takes more responsibility for what happened than Washington does. And if we use the measure that bad people are people who do bad things, for one moment at least Kermit Washington was a bad person.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Deja View all over again, Feb. 3 2004
By 
This review is from: The Punch: One Night, Two Lives, and the Fight That Changed Basketball Forever (Paperback)
Like so many other reviewers, I concur with their repeated assaults on the repetitiveness of this book. I tend to read several books at a time, never having a problem picking up where I left off. However, with this book, I kept feeling that I was reading backwards with the rehashing of events and personalities time after time. A good story, yes, but a difficult read.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Redundant as All Get Out, Jan. 23 2004
By 
Nathan I. Stromberg "natestromberg" (St. Paul, MN United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Punch: One Night, Two Lives, and the Fight That Changed Basketball Forever (Paperback)
The first 40 pages of "The Punch" will have you racing to the next page- It's a great opener to a great story about the most infamous fight in basketball history. Feinstein has a great oportunity to tell the story of Rudy Tomjonavich and Kermit Washington before and after the punch, and for the most part, the book is fairly interesting. The problem is that he describes the incident and the immediate effects brilliantly in the first 40 pages, so for the next 250 pages there is a strong redundancy. At times I was amazed that I was reading the exact same paragraphs I had already read previously in the book. The book would be exceptional if the author had the trust in the reader to know that they would remember the events of the books beginning and thus cut all the re-telling. Still- I enjoyed this book because it shed a lot of insight not just into these two players lives, but also the NBA and basketball as a sport. It is definatly worth the read but be prepared to skim-
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1.0 out of 5 stars Promises the world, delivers squat, Dec 30 2003
By A Customer
This review is from: The Punch: One Night, Two Lives, and the Fight That Changed Basketball Forever (Paperback)
I hadn't read a sports book since junior high school, and if John Feinstein truly is one of the best authors in the genre, this stinker may well be my last. I expected so much more, and Feinstein promised a gripping tale: One split-second mistake overshadowing a lifetime of good works, forever altering two lives and changing how basketball operates.
That's a great premise, but Feinstein never comes anywhere close to proving his point. He's not even in the same zip code. What he does prove is this: Kermit Washington (the puncher) grew up poor, had a so-so basketball career, almost killed a guy, got numerous second chances, but continues to blame everyone else -- racism, other players -- for something that most have forgotten. The punchee, Rudy Tomjanovich, got his face mangled by Washington, missed a year, then had a nifty comeback and became a rich and successful NBA head coach who for some crazy reason doesn't like talking about a dark period of his life. As for the league: It added another referee. Whoop de doo.
Feinstein relies heavily on cliches and writes like a freelancer for "Basketball Digest." Chapters drone on and on recapping NBA seasons from the late '70s that could be summarized in a paragraph or two.
"The Punch" could have been a fairly interesting 4-page magazine article. Too bad it stretches for more than 300 pages.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Mind-numbing repetition, but strangely compelling, Dec 25 2003
By 
E. Davis "E. Davis" (Bloomfield, NJ USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Punch: One Night, Two Lives, and the Fight That Changed Basketball Forever (Paperback)
If you are reading this, then you already know what the book is about, so there is no need for me to describe "The Punch" and who was involved. Unfortunately, the author does not share this belief and not only wants to tell you, but insists on telling you over and over again in mind-numbing repetition.
The reason for this is clear to me: this is not really a book. It is a long magazine article masquerading as a book. Some judicious editing would have shown exactly that. But the publishers would have had to issue the book at less than one-half its length which surely would have impeded sales. It is now a respectable length thanks to the author's need to describe the personalties of both men and the surrounding cast too many times. Nevertheless and despite my carping, it is a strangely compelling story and one that most sports enthusiasts may find interesting. Give it a try if the subject interests you, but don't have high expectations.
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1.0 out of 5 stars The first and only book I'll read by Feinstein, Dec 4 2003
By A Customer
This review is from: The Punch: One Night, Two Lives, and the Fight That Changed Basketball Forever (Paperback)
I was extremely disappointed by this book. I have listened to interviews with John Feinstein on several radio programs and always admire his vast knowledge of sports, including its influence on popular culture, and in addition have heard nothing but positives about his books (in hindsight, mainly by radio program hosts who were no doubt sucking up to him during the interviews...). I picked up this book because of this and due to the fact that the only thing I know about this incident (like many others, I presume) I have seen over and over in a 10 second video clip: Kermit Washington knocking Rudy Tomjanovich out with a devastating blow. Sounded like a fascinating incident with which to revolve a story around. This book, however, told me very little, and I was pained in turning the pages. Kermit grew up poor, worked hard, still denies he did it intentionally, blah, blah, blah. Rudy doesn't want to talk about it that much, etc. These points were repeated dozens of times. The only interesting things I found about the book were those ancillary to The Punch and how they were affected. And "the fight that changed basketball forever?" How? A third referee was added and fines and suspensions were increased? Oh boy. Gripping. Racism was mentioned a couple of times as a reason for Kermit's troubles after the incident, both by the author and by Kermit, but nothing more was mentioned (or explored?). Confusing. The author noted that he was originally scheduled to work on another novel, and wrote this book against the wishes of his editors. Next time, John, listen to them.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Not only for sports fans, Nov. 25 2003
By A Customer
This review is from: The Punch: One Night, Two Lives, and the Fight That Changed Basketball Forever (Paperback)
I picked up this book in an airport bookstore intending to give it to my brother. I found myself in dissolving into tears as I read the first chapter; I kept going for six solid hours as I traveled around the country. I find the repetition appropriate: the moment of supreme disaster replays itself again and again, in the book as in the lives of the participants. In an era when people like to affect a cavalier attitude toward violence, I especially appreciated Feinstein's determination to show how truly terrible and devastating even a single punch can be. It is obvious that many of the people who witnessed it were traumatized by the experience.
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2.0 out of 5 stars A broken record of a book, Nov. 6 2003
By A Customer
This was the first Feinstein sports book I've read, and I was mostly disappointed when I finished the last page.
This book is so REPETITIVE, it totally took away my connection to the author. I felt like I had been ripped off, like I was reading something put out by people who didn't care about me, the reader.
Two of the first three chapters are essentially the same. They tell and retell in shockingly similar words the events of the punch itself.
I remember at least three instances in the book where Feinstein writes that Kareem Abdul-Jabbar didn't like physical play against him. I remember at least four instances where he writes that Calvin Murphy was one of the NBA's toughest fighters, and that you didn't want to miss with him.
I remember several instances where Feinstein wrote the same thing twice, such as when Washington said he feared making a mistake in front of Jerry West, how it was hot in Houston in August, how Tomjanovich started drinking at age 15, how his hometown was a blue-collar town and how Murphy felt "devastated" after the punch.
The only good parts of the book are Tomjanovich's recalling of his battle with alcohol and his overall evolution as a person. And, some of the stuff about Washington and his Portland days were decent.
But at the end, aside from the incredibly sloppy repetition, I still didn't feel like I knew the real Kermit Washington, not nearly as much as I knew Rudy T. I don't think Feinstein got him to open up as much as he should have or could have.
Other reviewers were right, too: This should have been a nice long magazine piece. It wasn't worthy of a book, as Feinstein made so painfully obvious with his repetition. He had to fill the pages somehow, he must have resigned himself to thinking.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Blow by blow?, Oct. 14 2003
Feinstein has done an admirable job of research -- but the book CRIES OUT for a series of stills showing the infamous Rudy/Kermit fight. All we get is a blow up on the cover of the book... A frame by frame dissection would have been good here.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Punch Delivers......., Aug. 24 2003
By 
Gary C. Marfin (Sugar Land, Texas USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Rudy Tomjanovich ran toward Kermit Wasington to break-up a scuffle between Kermit Washington and Kevin Kunnert when Kermit, whose back was facing Rudy, turned quickly and landed the punch. It was no ordinary punch. Rudy felt as though the scoreboard had fallen on him; he could taste spinal fluid leaking from his brain. In all Rudy would undergo surgery five times -- plastic surgery, surgery resetting shattered bones, restoring tear ducts. Feinstein's book traces the lives of both men prior to and after the punch. Even more, he chronicles the extent to which the NBA evolved around the punch, how it changed the image of the NBA and the rules governing player fights.
The punch was an unrepresentative incident for both men. Kermit Washington at 6 foot, 8 inch and 222 pounds was enormously powerful. Rudy was not on-guard when he approached. Yet, neither player had reputations for violently aggressive play; many other players were "better candidates" to have been involved in such an incident. Fate saved the moment for Rudy and Kermit. John Feinstein has done a superb job of showing the extent to which both men continued to live under the shadow of the punch throughout their careers. (Also instructive is the ongoing argument between Washington and Kunnert over who started what what between the two of them.) Rudy Tomjanovich is, I think, the better known of the two players, and justifiably commands an honorable reputation in the league. Kermit was less known to me. Perhaps other readers will, as I did, come to have a renewed respect for him as a player and a citizen. The Punch is a quick, absorbing read. As an "incident" in NBA history, it deserved a writer who would bring careful research and lucid prose to that singular event. Feinstein brings both.
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