In Review: November 5, 1997

Love and hate between cities and sports
The business of baseball, basketball, football, and hockey

Home Team: Professional Sports and the American Metropolis
by Michael N. Danielson *62
Princeton University Press, $29.95

MICHAEL N. DANIELSON *62'S book on the love-hate relationship between professional sports and the cities where they're played is impressively researched and smoothly written. The author, a professor at the Woodrow Wilson School, provides readers with an excellent overview of the business of baseball, basketball, football, and hockey--one of the best (and clearest) explanations of the topic, in fact, that I can recall reading. Danielson reaches so deep into the Byzantine history of rival leagues, expansion politics, and team relocations that even sports experts will find themselves digesting a lot of pleasantly unfamiliar material.
Perhaps most admirably, the author has provided some wonderful accessories: two dozen insightful tables, a first-rate bibliographic essay, and a fascinating appendix that lists every major-league sports team ever to operate in 23 leagues, right down to the Tonawanda (Pennsylvania) Cardex of the American Professional Football Association and the Kankakee (Illinois) Gallaghers of the National Basketball League. I found myself returning to the list for reasons both functional and whimsical.
Unfortunately, however, the book falls somewhat short. For one thing, the author and editors let slip about a dozen errors of spelling, syntax, and fact. Danielson also fails to adequately assess why certain teams make money while others in the same city don't--or why some lovable losers like the Chicago Cubs thrive, while some winners either can't hold a fixed address (such as the Oakland Raiders) or always seem to be on the verge of relocating (say, the Seattle Mariners).
More important, as good as Danielson is at explaining how the sports world operates, he has the tendency to meander without a clear focus or argument. Danielson says he wrote the book when he did because municipalities have been engaging in an ever-more-outlandish bidding war to attract sports franchises. According to many experts, the subsidies that cities and states offer to owners are worth far more than the economic impact they will ultimately generate. But Danielson never directly assesses whether these deals are worthwhile until the final chapter, and even then, he does it rather unsatisfyingly.
"The point," he writes, "is not that major league sports are unimportant or even unworthy of government support; instead, the need is for public sports investments to be put into perspective, for reality to be substituted for fantasy, and for officials and publics to understand what they are buying and why." Yet he never actually compares the usefulness of sports investments to other kinds of infrastructure projects. Danielson's prime piece of advice seems to be that "individual localities need to play a tougher game with professional sports." Admirable sentiments--but not much of a payoff after 300 pages. Some best-and-worst examples might have been more helpful.
But give Danielson credit for one good insight: Though fans are the primary fuel in the economic engine of sports, they too rarely figure into the decisions of sports moguls. Then again, the interests of fans probably weigh too heavily in the minds of city officials who keep on subsidizing sports at almost any cost.
-- Louis Jacobson '92
Louis Jacobson, on the staff of National Journal, writes about sports for The Economist and urban planning for Planning.

Money and what to do with it
The basics of investing

The Dean Witter Guide to Personal Investing (Revised Edition)
by Robert M. Gardiner '44
Dutton, $24.95

NO REASONABLY SANE, mostly solvent Princeton graduate of the last 20 years should be without Robert Gardiner '44's book. I am, of course, excluding those whose love of bungee jumping over shark-infested wading pools means that they have rather short life expectancies, and thus no need to save for retirement.
For the rest of us, Gardiner's book admirably covers the investment basics. How do you get started? How do you set goals? What are the relative advantages and disadvantages of all the tax-favored retirement plans? What are the ins and outs of municipal bonds, zero-coupon bonds, debt versus equity investments, mutual funds, U.S. Treasuries, real estate, and high-risk investments like derivatives? Gardiner inspects--briefly--all the possible fruit in the investment salad. This is the sort of book that you should read through once as a recent graduate, and then refer to from time to time as those financial windfalls come your way.
If Gardiner errs, it's on the side of conservative investing. But that suits a sober, responsible book for the general public like this one. His chapter on high-risk investments, indeed, is rather dismissive. He defines a sampling of them in brief form, and provides a clear warning that they are not for the naive, the faint-hearted, or the middle class. Thus, you cannot learn what you would need to know about options, for example, to be able to take a really well-educated flyer on them. Gardiner's advice is basically "don't--unless you already know what you're doing." This is definitely Investing 101. Those with a great deal of experience, or a yen for the more exotic flora in the investing jungle, should look elsewhere.
The occasional humor in Gardiner's book is unintentional. I was amused by his Eight Steps to Investment Success. Most of them are obvious: Convert income dollars to capital dollars. Start while you're young. Have a simple plan. Be realistic. Be patient and disciplined. Avoid flat years. Leave it to compound interest to generate your wealth. This is the kind of good advice that's so sensible it's hard to follow. But then there was also Avoid major life disruptions.
Avoid major life disruptions! As advice goes, this is wonderful. Setting aside accidental disruptions for a moment, to have one's options so simply and graphically stated puts a number of life choices in perspective. Should you quit your job and take up the life of the boulevardier in Paris? Lead a National Geographic expedition through the Andes by llama? Or perhaps begin bungee jumping? Gardiner's answer is clear: not unless you're willing to pay the financial price for this kind of excitement. Successful investing can be so dull.
--Nick Morgan '75
Nick Morgan is a speech consultant and playwright based in Pennsylvania.

Hubbard's strong tenor featured on new album
NATHAN CHURCH Hubbard '97 and Joti Rockwell (Haverford'97) sat next to each other in first grade in Bethesda, Maryland, and while music historians do not yet celebrate that fact with quite the same reverence they do the first meeting of Lennon and McCartney on the tough streets of Liverpool or Jagger and Richards in a south London playground, there's plenty of time for the rest of the world to learn what recent Princeton classes have known for years: Their duo, Rockwell Church, makes ambitious, jazz-tinged folk that at times sounds like one of Hubbard's old favorites, James Taylor, and at others like Steely Dan or the Dave Matthews Band (which shares both RC's management company and producers). The melodies are strong, and Rockwell's guitar-playing is a wonder--synthesizing bluegrass, jazz, and classical influences into a precise and elegant whole.
The pair has been making music together virtually since that first meeting, says Hubbard, first "writing songs about the children's books in Joti's basement" then graduating to performing together at school functions. "That's the strength of Rockwell Church," says Hubbard. "I do the songwriting and write this kind of box that Joti is able to fill up and make into the final song."
Hubbard wound up at Princeton, with Rockwell 50 miles away at Haverford, but they continued to write music and perform together. Their first album, Inches from the Ground, was released on Homey Music, an independent label Hubbard founded during his sophomore year at Princeton, and was sold at the Chancellor Green Cafˇ in the student center. The album was nominated for seven Washington Area Music Awards and featured on AWARE III, a compilation of the nation's best unsigned bands, the previous installation of which included such notables as Better Than Ezra and the ubiquitous Hootie and the Blowfish.
A politics major, Hubbard spent the summer of 1996 in Cape Town, South Africa, conducting interviews for his senior thesis on the Tripartite Alliance (the African National Congress, the Communist Party, and the Congress of South African Trade Unions). It was a heady experience--"my first time in a Third World country, seeing death and oppression," he says--during which he managed to visit jazz clubs in both Cape Town and the townships and write most of the 13 songs on Through the Fall. The album was released on March 1, and though thesis pressures prevented Hubbard from promoting it with a tour, it sold over two thousand copies in three weeks.
Through the Fall kicks off with "Better Days," a catchy, uptempo song whose guitar hook recalls avant classicists Penguin Cafe Orchestra, and moves from one intriguingly arranged cut to the next. Rockwell Church understands dynamics and proves you don't need loud electric guitar to generate intensity. Hubbard does all the lead singing in his strong tenor, with Rockwell adding harmonies and, as the liner notes indicate, "everything else," which is quite a lot: keyboards, banjo, mandolin, fiddle, and a whole orchestra's worth of other instruments. "He's incredible," marvels Hubbard. "What you hear on the album is literally the first time he played either the Indian banjo or the pedal steel. He practiced the pedal steel for about two hours and said, 'I think I've got something to add to "Doves Outside My Door." ' It worked perfectly." So does most everything else on this subtle, gorgeously textured album (which can be ordered from the Rockwell Church merchandise hotline, 804-971-4829).
--Merrell Noden '78
Merrell Noden contributes regularly to Sports Illustrated and a variety of music magazines.

Walking the plank with
JOLLYROGER.COM takes a fascinating concept--Generation X embraces the Western Literary Canon--and promptly mangles the execution through a self-indulgent, chaotically designed Web site. consists of several subsites, throwing together the Great Books (with Ayn Rand and Rush Limbaugh the latest additions to the Pantheon), fiction, essays, literary chat rooms, gigantic photos of Website founders, reader mail, and links to conservative Websites. As its name implies, positions itself as a pirate ship, steered by renegades battling secular-humanist culture. The "Constitution of the Jolly Roger," published under a skull and crossbones, states as much: "All crew members aboard this brigantine are united in their quest to revive Great Literature such as that which has been banned for promoting violence against whales."
That excerpt typifies the main difficulty with the site. The incontestable value of presenting literature from a young perspective gets dragged down to the briny deep when readers have to slog through endless gobs of generic conservative ranting. Editor-in-chief Elliot McGucken '91 yokes literature to conservative politics and devalues both in the process. The conservatism itself isn't so much a problem as the tedious tone and lack of imagination. Consider this typical line from a letter McGucken wrote to President Shapiro and posted on the site: "The feminists, multiculturalists and other resentniks you employ have destroyed the language and eradicated the Western Canon for a good reason--in the context of the Great Books the inferiority of all they pen is exposed." And so it goes throughout, with thousands of words jammed on to Web pages that frequently ignore the basic ideas of Website design.
That's a shame, because has the potential to present the Western Canon and a diversity (oops! wrong word!) of conservative thought to young people who may know nothing about either. The ad hominem attacks detract from the obvious intelligence behind the site. There are hints of a thoughtful approach to conservatism. One essay quotes philosopher Russel Kirk as rejecting "practical conservatism which has degenerated into mere laudation of private enterprise, economic policy almost wholly surrendered to special interests." That's powerful and provocative, but too rare. The talk-radio tonality is far more common, along with stale Generation X slang--cool, rocks, sucks, stuff--the lingo of the MTV doofuses that attacks.
So, nice try, terrific idea, but would sail a lot sprightlier with some of the polemical barnacles scraped off.
--Van Wallach '80
Van Wallach, a writer in Westport, Connecticut, is an avid Web watcher.

Drifters on the run in a first novel by Fred Leebron '83

Out West
Fred G. Leebron '83
Doubleday, $21.95

A FIRST NOVEL can often miss the mark. The author, anxious to make an impressive literary debut, may unknowingly create a story that is complicated and chaotic. However with an M.F.A., Wallace Stegner Fellowship, and numerous short-fiction awards under his belt, Fred G. Leebron '83 understands the credo of "less is more," and Out West, his first novel, is a spare, yet enthralling, tale of the mayhem that envelops two drifters, Benjamin West and Amber Keenan, in a seedy San Francisco neighborhood.
The novel opens with Benjamin speeding across the Nevada desert, toward a job as a hotel desk clerk in the Tenderloin district and away from his six-month stint in prison. On arrival, he meets Amber, a volunteer literacy teacher who, back in Los Angeles, jealously set a fatal gas leak in her philandering boyfriend's apartment. Despite their questionable morals, Lebron's characters invite sympathy. Of Benjamin, Lebron writes, "The job . . . would give him a chance to put some distance between himself and prison, to figure out what the next step was." Of Amber, "She stood facing the learners. She wished she had a real job. She wished she had a future. She had been educated, what happened?" The two begin a casual relationship that soon leads to a murder. Disposing of the body leads them on an unpredictable road trip.
Leebron, who worked for four years at a nonprofit housing organization in the Tenderloin, brings a wealth of detail to the story, which makes the writing affecting and memorable.
--Theola Labbé '96
Theola Labbé has worked in publishing and lives in Berkeley, California.

Madison Smartt Bell '79 analyses structure
A writer's guide that uses short stories as models

Narrative Design: A Writer's Guide to Structure
by Madison Smartt Bell '79
W. W. Norton, $24.95.

MY COPY of this book has stamped in large gold letters on the rear cover the words INSTRUCTOR'S DESK COPY. That is meant to discourage your selling it 10 minutes after flipping through the "examination copy." For this is a textbook, and everyone in my line of work gets many of them in the mail from publishers who hope that you will "adopt" it for your courses and make them a lot of money.
It is, in other words, not the sort of book that normally gets reviewed except in the sort of professional journal that is desperate for material.
But this one is different. Madison Bell is a novelist, a very good one, and a teacher of writing. This is an anthology of stories, about the right size for a semester of reading, but there its resemblance to other teaching anthologies ends, for the commentary is that of a real pro (that is its first distinction from most other such textbooks), and it deals with structure (that is its second).
Structuralism is old hat, dusty, superseded dreariness for most of the fashionable trendmongers writing about fiction today. To write about structure requires actual knowledge, and the statements made by honest structuralists have the endearing quality of being falsifiable. Like statements by honest scientists, they can be shown to be right or wrong.
Most of what is written under the guise of literary criticism today is not only not falsifiable--it is hardly even discussible. But actual writers, like Bell, know that structure is everything.
Broadly defined, structure is the name for how every detail, from the smallest to the largest, of a work of art relates to every other detail. So defined, it is obviously an ideal that no one ever achieves, for to describe fully the structure of a complex work like, say, Pride and Prejudice, would rival the human genome project in complexity.
Madison Bell has chosen fine stories by writers whose work is not shopworn by having gone from one anthology to another for years. The language in which he addresses the students who have read a story is not shopworn, either. It is the vivid, electric voice of the born teacher. Look at this! he says. Do you know why the writer put that in? It is because she already has her eye on THIS! And desired a structural link that would give this fiction the kind of inevitability we normally associate with reality.
Madison Bell knows what Katherine Ann Porter knew. She said that she composed the ending first and then wrote toward it. That provides a criterion for keeping or tossing a given detail: does it go toward the ending, or not?
As a working writer, he is sensible enough to know that neither Porter nor any other artist is always in deliberate control of what the unconscious mind (known in selected cases as "artistic genius") will produce from its undiscoverable depths.
Bell guides the student to see the details of structure that enter into the dynamic of the story. He distinguishes the supporting walls from those that merely divide interior spaces. His extremely detailed and often brilliant commentary can often take more pages than the story itself.
But there is not a single pedagogical groaner of the type: "Discuss the quality of the humor and how it is achieved." Bell does not in general ask; he tells. And the student is immeasurably better off.
This is the best book of its kind that I have seen since Lionel Trilling's The Experience of Literature.
--Clarence Brown
Clarence Brown is a professor of comparative literature at Princeton. This article appeared in his regular "Ink Soup" column in The Times of Trenton.

Music Received
NOTHING LOVED IS EVER LOST, by Dave Burns '53 and Hot Mustard (888-843-0933)--this CD features Burns crooning songs by Porter, Gershwin, Rodgers & Hart, Mercer, Berlin, Kirn, and more.
PRAELUDIUM: ORIGINS OF BACH'S GENIUS, performed by Gavin Black '79 (PGM Recordings, 212-586-4200)--the works are performed on a Fowkes organ.

Books Received
COMMON PLACE: TOWARD NEIGHBORHOOD AND REGIONAL DESIGN, by Douglas Kelbaugh '67 *72 (University of Washington, $35)--a collection of essays, design projects, and policy proposals that examines problems and solutions associated with modern urban centers, focusing on the Seattle area. Kelbaugh, an architect, is a professor at the University of Washington.
THE TIGER INN, THE COLONIAL CLUB, and THE TOWER CLUB, produced by Will Rivinus '50 (215-297-5409)--individual histories of three eating clubs, all including anecdotes and photos of members through time.
I'M GOING TO HAVE A LITTLE HOUSE: THE SECOND DIARY OF CAROLINA MARIA DE JESUS, translated by Melvin S. Arrington Jr. and Robert Levine *67
(University of Nebraska, $15)--the first English translation of the second part of Quarto de Despejo (Child of the Dark), a diary by a desperately poor Brazilian woman. Levine is a professor of history and director of Latin American studies at the University of Miami.