The one-season, one-team structure is the most elemental form of the sports book. Its classics — David Halberstam’s The Breaks of the Game, John Feinstein’s A Season on the Brink, Buzz Bissinger’s Friday Night Lights — are many. They spotlight a particular sports community and use that focus to tell us something about American society at large. On first glance, it seems remarkable Frey was able to find such an insular world within the biggest city in the United States. But Coney Island, as he writes in The Last Shot, is not New York City: “Surrounded on three sides by water, and cut off on the fourth by the great ethnic divide of Brighton Beach, the Coney Island peninsula feels like a separate territory, as removed from the rest of New York as Guam.” The neighborhood’s pitfalls — marked back then by the ever-encroaching drug trade — were omnipresent. And as anyone who’s ever fallen asleep on a Brooklyn-bound subway can tell you, Coney Island is the end of the line.
This is a must-read for anyone who read “The Last Shot.” And if you haven’t read “The Last Shot,” and you consider yourself either a thoughtful sports fan or a sociologist (in my estimation, the intersection of that venn diagram is pretty large), then what the fuck are you waiting for?