Coach: Lessons On The Game Of Life Hardcover – May 17 2005
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From Publishers Weekly
Lewis (Liar's Poker; Moneyball) remembers his high school baseball coach, Coach Fitz, a man so intense a room felt "more pressurized simply because he was in it." At the New Orleans private school Lewis attended in the late 1970s, Coach Fitz taught kids to fight "the natural instinct to run away from adversity" and to battle their way through all the easy excuses life offers for giving up. He was strict, but he made such an impression on his students that now, 25 years later, alumni want to name a new gym after him. But the parents of today's students aren't as wowed by Coach Fitz's tough love. They call the headmaster with complaints, saying Coach Fitz is too mean to their children and insisting on sitting on his shoulder as he attempts to coach. A desire to set these new parents straight may be the underlying reason for Lewis's slight book, though he'd probably rather have readers believe he's just written it as a paean to a man who taught him some important life lessons. The book's corny subtitle, lack of heft and hackneyed images of kites flying and fireworks exploding may turn off some readers, but those who persevere will come away with a reminder that fear and failure are the "two greatest enemies of a well lived life." Agent, Andrew Wylie. (May)
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About the Author
Michael Lewis, the best-selling author of The Undoing Project, Liar’s Poker, Moneyball, The Blind Side, and The Big Short, among other works, lives in Berkeley, California, with his wife and three children.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
It's the third one I've read by Mr. Lewis (and I've seen movie adaptations of two others), but even considering the subject matter and what it meant to him, it just doesn't have the usual 'oomph'.
This book is about his beloved high school coach, 'Fitz', but it's more a truncated polemic about misplaced societal values, how 'entitlement' has taken us away from those values, and about parenting that's not quite rooted correctly and clearly not executed in the best way imaginable.
While well-intentioned, I believe that what the author set out to do could have been better accomplished either in a long-form essay...or a book using 'Fitz' as the touchstone and go-to reference throughout, but incorporating much more from modern American life that illustrates what he's maintaining.
As a final stab, I really don't think that the message was relayed as poetically as it deserved.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
But then I heard an interview with Lewis on NPR radio. The book was originally a magazine article in the New York Times Magazine. He summarized the story in a few minutes. A coach he had at his prep school (I didn't even catch what sport Lewis was playing) had changed his life by treating him, in a critical moment in a must-win game, as if he was the clutch player Lewis and every other kid dreams of being. Lewis rose to the occasion and the confidence he gained from the experience radiated to his academic work and beyond. But now, twenty-some years later, the parents at the private school are pressuring the headmaster to oust the coach. They say his heavy-handed ways are hurting their kids' self-esteem. Lewis ended his radio summary by revealing that publicity from the New York Times article had resulted in the coach keeping his job, although the school was now looking for a new headmaster.
What a great story. It was short and had conflict as well as a satisfying ending. But then I read the book, which is simply the article, unchanged.
In it, the coach has a temper that seems uncontrolled and frightening, even to the adult Lewis. Coach takes a second-place trophy his team won and smashes it on the locker room floor, indicating his disgust at not winning first. He refuses to drive home when the team has lost, obsessively walking miles through New Orleans at night (yikes) to punish himself for being a loser. When the team doesn't hustle enough, he makes them practice sliding headfirst on concrete-hard dirt until they are bloody and bruised.
Lewis's interviews with former students of the coach sound like Stockholm Syndrome sufferers, people who've been kidnapped and held hostage but come to sympathize with their captors. The former players speak with admiration as they describe how Coach intimidated them. Lewis tells of being on the mound in another clutch situation as Coach shouts ridicule at him from the dugout, distracting him enough so that he misses a grounder that hits him in the face, causing him to black out. But when Lewis regains consciousness, he loves Coach, just as Winston loved Big Brother.
Lewis mentions that when he was a young pitcher, the coach had him put Ben Gay on the bill of his cap, to use for spitballs when his fastball wasn't doing the trick. I'm not familiar with prep league play, but isn't throwing a spitball against the rules? The more I read, the less I admired the coach.
As usual, Lewis's writing is compelling, and once you start Coach, you won't be able to put it down. You just may not find it as inspiring as Lewis meant it to be.
Lewis' high school coach drives them hard. The kids don't understand why initially. Over time, they learn that through hard work they can achieve their goals--not just in athletics.
Casual readers, based on earlier reviews, seem to think that the coach is obsessed with winning; they miss the point (just as Lewis did when he was in 7th grade). Lewis talks about a season when the team was 1-12: The coaches frustration is not with the win-loss record, but that they kids possess the drive to improve and compete. He is not preparing them to win baseball games, but obtain their goals for years to come in life.
The book is a criticism of a growing opinion among parents that kids are born with respect, instead of needing to develop it. Achievement builds selfrespect, not conception. Parents should be exposing their children to fear and failure to allow them to overcome these obstacles instead of protecting them from it.
The touching element is that a successful author living comfortably in the Bay area champions someone that people no longer believe in, because this person championed him when nobody, including Lewis, believed in himself. It is the ultimate strength of character that Lewis' coach successfully cultivated in Lewis and others.
As a subscriber to the New York Times, I get the magazine. Unfortunately I did not see this article when it was published. To say a book that is a reprint of an article does not have merit is to foolishly presume that everyone gets the Times and has the time every Sunday to devour it. A reprint of an article takes a concept from a select few to the masses. Shame on those who do not appreciate this.
This is exactly the type of book you would want to send your grandchildren or have your own children read.
It sends a powerful message and being written by someone having been coached by this person at the age of 13 makes it even more valid.
It may be short, but that's the beauty of it. It keeps your interest, gets the point across and leaves you wishing for more or better yet, offers the opportunity for discussion with young adults.
Fitz entered Lewis's mind at age 12 and has stayed there ever since. Think about that rare teacher or coach that has stayed with you into your adult life; reminisce with Lewis as he rediscovers the attributes of this relationship and its impact on his life.
Lewis's catalyst for this book was hearing that a former player was organizing an effort to remodel the old school gym and have it named after Fitz. Current players and their parents were doing all they could to persuade the headmaster to get rid of Fitz, while at the same time, cash was pouring in from former players and their parents.
This conflict allows Lewis to contrast a time when Fitz worked tirelessly to give his boys a sense that their lives could be something other than ordinary with a time - today - when values and character are less important. Fitz's effectiveness ended when he could not adapt to the change - the culture of "kids being bestowed with a sense of self-esteem at birth."
The system of values he attempted to instill is no longer in alignment the parents nor with the culture. His system is no longer wanted - it is not "in" - and is no longer tolerated. Getting rid of him is the only solution.
"Coach" transcends the events surrounding Fitz and the gym, revealing the dark side of today's society which has lost its way, one no longer wanting to develop kids for a life filled with honorable values...and meaning.
In this short portrait of his high-school baseball coach, Lewis merges a study of that individual with an affirmation of the effect of his values on the boys who played on his baseball team at a toney prep school, along with an essay as to why such a manly, hard-core method is pretty much forbidden by the realities of parental pressure today.
The book fundamentally expresses gratitude for the author's good fortune to have been at an elite high school in a spartan era. It does not fully explain the basic motivation of the coach, but leaves a melancholy impression that his type of dinosaur is needed now more than ever, just when the system seeks something different.
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