Greedy. Arrogant. Ruthless. In Seven Deadly Sins: My Pursuit of Lance Armstrong (Atria), David Walsh paints a picture of the Lance Armstrong who didn’t just cheat to “win” seven Tour de France titles, but would engage in character assassination, destroy careers, lie under oath, and sue those who told the truth.
Armstrong stopped at nothing to get what he wanted, and Walsh stopped at nothing to expose him as a fraud: “The need for inquiry is overwhelming,” Walsh wrote in London’s Sunday Times when Armstrong began his ascension in 1999.
Walsh was almost the only one interested in asking questions—most journalists were busy cheerleading—so he embarked on a 13-year quest to find the truth and tell it to the world. He makes the case that Armstrong’s doping may have caused his cancer, which ironically became the reason so many fans and journalists refused to believe he was anything but a hero. (Warning: Seven Deadly Sins includes bad language, as do the other two books I’m reviewing.)
In The Big Miss: My Years Coaching Tiger Woods (Three Rivers Press), longtime golf coach Hank Haney writes about his six tumultuous years coaching the planet’s most talented player. Haney takes readers from his first meeting with Woods in 1993, to when he became the golfer’s swing instructor in 2004, to calling it quits after the 2010 Masters—a period in which Woods won 31 out of 91 tournaments, including six major championships.
Haney’s account at times bogs down with gossip and detailed information on the mechanics of a golf swing, and he adds few facts about Woods’ 2009 scandal, but the 100 days each year Haney spent with Woods gave him insights into one of the world’s most famous yet reclusive athletes. Haney also explains how Woods’ obsession with the Navy SEALs led to an injury and threatened to take him from the game of golf in the middle of his prime.
Tom Dunkel’s Color Blind: The Forgotten Team that Broke Baseball’s Color Line (Atlantic Monthly Press) tells the story of an integrated, Depression-era baseball team in Bismarck, N.D. Owner and coach Neil Churchill, a car salesman, piled up wins (68 in 1935, against 23 losses and four ties) against anybody who would play his barnstorming team of six white players and six black players, including future Hall of Fame pitcher Satchel Paige.
Dunkel rambles in some places with extraneous information, but his work adeptly pulls back the curtain on the Depression, race relations, and a team that was integrated 12 years before Jackie Robinson broke big league color barriers.