________________ CM . . . . Volume XVII Number 12. . . .November 19, 2010.


Game Day: Meet the People Who Make It Happen.

Kevin Sylvester.
Toronto, ON: Annick Press, 2010.
188 pp., pbk. & hc., $12.95 (pbk.), $21.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-55451-250-8 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-55451-251-5 (hc.).

Subject Headings:
Sports-Vocational guidance-Juvenile literature.
Sports-Juvenile literature.

Grades 4 and up / Ages 9 and up.

Review by Dave Jenkinson.





Scott Lowell walks towards the UPS facility. He is holding a Styrofoam box wrapped in what's called a "biological shipment bag." This odd package contains two sample bottles of warm urine.

Yes, urine. Scott is a doping control officer for the United States Anti-Doping Agency. He just collected the pee from a member of the US rowing team at its training site in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

I have a list of athletes who live or train near my house. I get a note via our secure website saying, "You have two days to test a particular athlete," and I have to track them down and get them to provide a sample for me.

While many of us may aspire to have a professional career in sports as players, the reality is that very few of us actually possess the skill level needed to achieve that goal. However, our not being elite level athletes does not mean that we need to entirely abandon our dream. Instead, we could explore other avenues which will allow us to remain connected to our favourite sport, though not as a player. In Game Day, CBC Radio sports broadcaster Kevin Sylvester introduces readers to 20 individuals, 15 males and five females, who have full or part-time jobs that are connected, in the main, to one or more professional sports. As the book's subtitle, Meet the People Who Make It Happen indicates, these are individuals who, for the most part, will not be known to the average sports fan, but, without them, the athletes would not be able to compete or the fans in the stands or at home would not be able to enjoy watching the game/sporting activity.

     Sylvester has selected a most diverse group that ranges in membership from more public figures, such as Ken Daniels, the play-by-play announcer of the Detroit Red Wings, and tenor Ronan Tynan, a former member of the Irish Tenors group, who now sings at various sporting events, to the virtually "invisible," like Sarah Kawahara, who choreographs figure skating routines, and Patrick Reynolds, a NASCAR mechanic. Others, including Lynn Welch, a tennis chair umpire, Bob Young, an NBA timekeeper, and Scott Lowell, a doping control officer (see excerpt above), ensure that their sports operate according to the rules. Still others, like Jimmy MacNeil, a Zamboni driver, and Nicole Sherry, the head groundskeeper for the Baltimore Orioles, see to it that their particular sports' playing services are properly maintained while Marc Rizzardo, a physiotherapist, helps to maintain athletes' bodies. Our in-person enjoyment of sporting events are enhanced through the efforts of people like Bobby Freeman, the organist for Arizona Diamondbacks, Kelly Finglass, the head cheerleader of the Dallas Cowboys, and Ted Giannoulas, San Diego's Chicken mascot. TV cameraman Brian Burnett brings sports into our homes while journalist Mary Ormsby provides us with a printed record of game outcomes. And without individuals like John Kazanas, a scout for the Chicago White Sox, Rick Curran, a hockey agent, and Brian Lemon, who is a game scheduler for lacrosse, some sports might not be played. Not all athletes have two legs, and Ian Black is a trainer of race horses. Perhaps the book's most unusual inclusion is Albizu Rondon who designs baseball-style hats for all sports.

     Each of the 20 chapters, which vary in length from 6-13 pages, is introduced by a colour photo of the chapter's subject while a textbox provides a thumbnail introduction to the person. For example, Rick Curran's reads:

Rick learned about hockey on and off the ice during a summer working for the great Bobby Orr.
Job: agent
Location: Philadelphia, PA
Sport: hockey

     The very readable text is an almost even split between Sylvester's informative prose and direct quotes from the chapter's subject, with the latter appearing in a blue-coloured font. Together, these text elements generally reveal the path the individual followed to arrive at where s/he is today while providing a real flavour of what the person's present job entails and how it contributes to one or more sports. Each chapter is enlivened by numerous full-colour photographs as well as the occasional textbox that provides snippets of trivia connected to that person's role. For instance, the entry for Kelli Finglass, head cheerleader of the Dallas Cowboys, includes a textbox informing readers that:

Making it onto the cheerleading squad on your first try isn't easy, to say the least. Every year more than six hundred hopefuls show up for the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders - and that includes returning DCCs as well. There's even a TV reality show that follows the progress of the auditions.

     Game Day is an excellent introduction to just some of those who facilitate the staging of the sports events that we follow either in person or via the media. Hopefully, Sylvester will do similar books which focus on other areas, such as the entertainment industry, which are also supported by numerous behind-the-scenes people.

Highly Recommended.

Dave Jenkinson, who is CM's editor, is the father of a former organist for the Winnipeg Jets (now, alas the Phoenix Coyotes).

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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