CM . . . . Volume XIX Number 20 . . . . January 25, 2013
Eric Crookshank, US-born captain of the Halifax Rainmen basketball team, describes his life from his birth in California, through years spent in Galveston, TX, where his father dealt drugs, to living with his dying mother in the projects of Oakland, to living with his grandmother while attending college, to his eventual signing with the National Basketball League, where he spent three years as a superstar in Halifax, dodging conflict with team management and controversy over his party lifestyle, and seeking to spread his message of bettering yourself to young audiences all over. Relying on the strength of his mother's memory, of both his grandmothers, of his close friends and teammates, of his Christian faith, and of his natural drive and ambition, Crookshank overcomes his sometimes difficult and violent childhood to concentrate on his musical, athletic, and public speaking talents to become a success and a positive role model for youth.
Certainly Crookshank's life is fascinating, and what emerges is not a portrait of a sports star as much as one of an intelligent, business-savvy, ambitious, educated young man, whose life is inspiring to all, but especially to minority youth. But the problems with this book begin with the first chapter, quoted above, and continue throughout: confusing, self-contradicting editing; loose ends; a sloppy, choppy writing style; and an overabundance of half-baked philosophy, mushy emotion, and even didactic advice.
Thinking back to the dangerous, dirty alleys of Oakland where he lived with his sister Shirley and his drug-addicted mother, Crookshank seems to suggest that he was motivated to protect his sister despite, rather than because of, their dangerous living situation:
In the same way, he seems to misuse the word "although":
And then there's sentences like this, where an attempt at imagery comes out in a way he likely did not intend:
And again, when thinking how much his mother's memory sustains him during games:
There are currents in his life that seem to go nowhere, and others that come from nowhere. He alludes to a party reputation that seems to have soured some fans and hurt his performance, yet subsequently describes nothing but adoring fans and high scoring. The episode where he was suspended for criticizing team management, then reinstated when fans protested, is fascinating, yet he glosses over his disagreements with the club, never satisfyingly defending his position. And although he turns away from faith after his mother's death, one is surprised to hear him to say, when his future wife Tamara asks him to come to church:
Editing is certainly poor in this sentence, where he describes a summer spent playing for a team in Finland, ignoring that it is the country's location straddling the Arctic Circle that accounts for a period of weeks where the sun never rises in winter:
His philosophy and faith, although convincingly a strong part of his life, leads to convoluted passages like this, describing his close relationship with Dawn, a Halifax resident he meets in the Rainmen office building:
And the last sentence of the book is certainly a reach in itself:
Heavy on mushy inspiration and low on photos and facts, the things that usually make sports books fascinating to young people, this is a book that will be welcomed by Rainmen fans but likely not inspire anyone else.
Todd Kyle is the CEO of the Newmarket Public Library in Ontario.
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