________________ CM . . . . Volume XIX Number 20 . . . . January 25, 2013


It's Not Just a Game: My Journey from the Streets to Professional Basketball.

Eric Crookshank.
Halifax, NS: Nimbus, 2012.
110 pp., pbk., $11.95.
ISBN 978-1-55109-959-0.

Subject Headings:
Crookshank, Eric.
Basketball players-Nova Scotia-Biography.
Halifax Rainmen (Basketball team).

Grades 7-11 / Ages 12-16.

Review by Todd Kyle.

* /4



From the first days of my life I had big shoes to fill. I was born November 13, 1978, at Alta Bates Hospital in Berkeley, California. My father was a 6'6", 240-pound basketball legend, and a fierce street gangster-captain on the court as well as in the streets. Growing up, I was unaware of his wrongs; he led by example and I followed willingly.

My father played basketball for Lake Marriott University in Oakland. He worked the court like he worked the streets: with vengeance, confidence, and total control. I looked up to him like he was the president. His passions, basketball and life on the streets, were instilled in me from a young age. I always had a ball in my hand, but my skills would not advance until much later in life. Drumming was my real talent then, and is still very much my passion.

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:

I thought of my mother, who may have been trapped in those same alleyways, lost in the same dealings I worked so hard to keep Shirley from-even that hadn't slowed my determination to protect my baby sister.

      In the same way, he seems to misuse the word "although":

Although prepared for the day when arrest might become a reality, my father would wake me with four hundred dollars every morning, just in case that was the day bail would be required.

      And then there's sentences like this, where an attempt at imagery comes out in a way he likely did not intend:

Night in, night out, I was focused on basketball, as much as my mother had been focused on her addiction.

      And again, when thinking how much his mother's memory sustains him during games:

If only my mother were there, it would sound like ten thousand fans.

      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:

At first, I told her that I had been scarred by church in my life and wasn't sure if I wanted to get involved again.

      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:

It was their leap year, when the sun would set for weeks at a time.

      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:

I knew she was an angel disguised as a second mom for me as she takes the most pride in two things: her family and her garden. I had become a part of her family, but when I was recruited to become part of her garden I knew there was no going back.

      And the last sentence of the book is certainly a reach in itself:

Keep in mind that if your dreams seem too high for you to grasp, I am 6'8" and always willing to reach with you.

      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.

Not Recommended.

Todd Kyle is the CEO of the Newmarket Public Library in Ontario.

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

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