The sports world is full of epic comebacks, upsets, chokes, and clutch performances. The most memorable buzzer-beating baskets, double-digit comebacks, and unexpected meltdowns are all here alongside vivid photos and lively writing from award-winning sports author Matt Doeden. From racing legend Man o’ War’s only career loss in 1919 to the 2017 Super Bowl’s incredible finish, sports fans will have plenty to digest. Doeden also writes about the science behind clutch performances and asks if some athletes are more clutch than others, or if being clutch is just one of the stories fans tell themselves about their favorite sports.
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Booklist (September 1, 2018 (Vol. 115, No. 1))
Grades 5-7. It’s no simple thing to explain being clutch. The term itself falls short of fully capturing the intangible quality of the moment—or sequence of moments—that it describes. The best way to explain is to show, which is what author Doeden does in this compendium of sporting highlights. He reviews upsets, comebacks, epic chokes, and memorable last-minute heroics, before examining the science and psychology of being clutch, such as it is. The book is heavily skewed to American sports, with a couple of European mentions. Player profiles and anecdotes that don’t quite fall into those categories are listed in side boxes, such as a 1982 college football game that ended with a receiver plowing into the opposing team’s band, which had entered the end zone for a premature celebration. There is a nice balance of recent glories and legendary triumphs, so even casual sports fans might be familiar with some of the events mentioned. While there is no consensus on clutch, there is plenty for fans to consider and debate.
Kirkus Reviews (June 15, 2018)
A collection of clutch performances—and a few epic flubs. This rich gathering of thrilling finishes in sports history are mostly of recent vintage and cover the range of sports, including professional, collegiate, and Olympian. There is horse racing (Man o’ War, by far the oldest entry here, way back a century ago), the famous victory of the United States over the Soviet hockey team, Doug Flutie’s “hail Mary” pass, Brandi Chastain’s World Cup soccer goal, the New England Patriots comebacks during Super Bowl performances. Then there are famous individual performances from such stunners as Tiger Woods, Michael Phelps, and Simone Biles. Lest they be forgotten—as if they ever will—there are the world-class chokes such as Bill Buckner letting the ball go between his legs, Jean Van de Velde losing a three-point lead at the 1999 British Open on the last hole, Lindsey Jacobellis “showboating” to a loss in the Olympic snowboarding race in the final seconds. In the end, Doeden asks the question that nags at readers throughout the book. Are there just plain old clutch performers, or are they just the best players on the team doing what they do best—score? The answer, Doeden sensibly suggests, is in preparation and the handling of nerves. A fine collection of archival photographs accompanies Doeden’s fast-paced, colorful storytelling. As breezy a collection of sports stories as anyone could want on a lazy afternoon. (Nonfiction. 10-16)
About the Author
Matt Doeden was born in southern Minnesota and lived parts of his childhood in Golden Valley, Minnesota, and Madison, Minnesota. He studied journalism at Mankato State University, where he worked at the college newspaper for three years. In his senior year, he served as the paper’s Sports Editor, which put him in charge of the entire sports section, the sports writers, and the photographers. He covered mostly college sports, but also the Minnesota Vikings, who held training camp at MSU.
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