In Review: February 10, 1999

The game of hoops and the game of life

An examination of the glories that make up basketball

Values of the Game
Bill Bradley '65
Artisan, $30

I must admit to some initial skepticism about Values of the Game, a new book by Bill Bradley '65. Bradley's previous books all made sense: His first, Life on the Run, chronicled life as a pro basketball player, while his second and third, The Fair Tax and Time Present, Time Past, recapitulated his tenure as a Democratic senator from New Jersey. By contrast, Bradley's newest volume -- a collection of chapter-long meditations on such topics as "passion," "discipline," "selflessness," "respect," "courage," "resilience," and "imagination" -- sounded, to say the least, rather fuzzy.

My judgment was too hasty. Values of the Game is a gorgeously designed, intelligent study of basketball. True, it's probably not for people who don't already love (or at least respect) the sport, and it's hardly the most obvious way for Bradley to kick-start a presidential campaign, if that's what he'd had in mind. But on a more limited scale, Values of the Game is a terrific guide to basketball for the thinking man or woman.

Backed by first-rate photographs from the Sports Illustrated archives, Bradley displays impressive range, citing players and events from the 1940s to today. (Tales of Princeton hoops under coaches Butch van Breda Kolff '45 and Pete Carril abound.) We learn about his penchant for hard work -- as a youngster, he set up chairs on the court to represent defenders, then dribbled around them for hours, all by himself. The book also reveals his thoughtful introspection, which enables him to fill the role of perceptive color commentator -- only on the printed page in this case, rather than on television.

By chance, the book was released at a pivotal time for the National Basketball Association -- during a divisive and costly labor struggle that led to the scuttling of much of the 1998-99 season. Bradley, a union representative for most of his playing career, nonetheless notes, wisely, that "players have an obligation to assure the game's quality -- not just for reasons of self-interest, but also out of respect for what the game means to millions of fans....
Once the sport is in disrepute, a player's reputation is not far behind."

Unfortunately, Bradley glosses over basketball's downside: its habit of driving America's youth away from the classroom. Even so, his larger point -- that the lessons of basketball are long-lasting -- strikes me as on target. Indeed, it took Bradley's coaxing before I fully realized how important basketball was to my own development. Not once but twice in my youth, basketball proved to be my salvation -- first when I was an eight-year-old only child coping with sleep-away camp, then later as a new student joining the sixth grade at an unfamiliar school. For a shy (and admittedly somewhat nerdy) youngster, a good jump shot and scrappy defense were one-way tickets from outcasthood to peer-group acceptance.

Lest the reader assume that my basketball lessons were uniformly positive, I should add that after a year on the high school junior varsity, my classmates finally caught up with my early growth spurt, and before long I was cut from the team. Even though Bill Bradley was good enough to win a spot in the Hall of Fame, I'm confident that he would empathize with this final, sobering lesson about life.

-- Louis Jacobson '92

Louis Jacobson covers politics and policy for National Journal and also writes frequently about sports.

Scientist, thinker, teacher

John Wheeler recalls his life in gravitation physics

Geons, Black Holes, and Quantum Foam
John Archibald Wheeler with Kenneth Ford *53
Norton, $30

John Archibald Wheeler, who is now an emeritus professor of physics at Princeton and has recently published his autobiography, Geons, Black Holes, and Quantum Foam, initially shied away from working in gravitation physics and relativity, because he worried about the job prospects for graduate students of his who might focus in that area. The idea that space was malleable was a beautiful theory and fascinated the public imagination when Einstein formulated it, but few scientists saw, or were interested in, the possibilities of confronting the theory with new experiments and observations. Wheeler feared his students might have trouble finding a job where further work in the field would be supported. In his book, Wheeler tells the story of how his fascination with gravitation physics ultimately took over. His pioneering work in this area deepened scientific appreciation of the irregularities of space, and led to his coining and putting into usage the terms "black hole," "wormhole," "geon," and "quantum foam" -- all of which describe various contortions of spacetime at the universal and subatomic level.

In the course of his long and productive career, Wheeler traded ideas and theories with many of the leading physicists of the century -- he sought counsel from Einstein, worked with Niels Bohr on the newly discovered phenomenon of fission, and as a novice 23-year-old took long spring walks with Werner Heisenberg. After deciding to commit himself to the study of physics as a freshman at Johns Hopkins, in 1927, when he was only 16, Wheeler went on to do postgraduate work with Bohr at the University Institute for Theoretical Physics, in Copenhagen, a mecca for leading physicists in the 1930s. Their work together on fission came later. In Copenhagen, working on quantum physics, Wheeler developed the "layer of intuition" necessary to a physicist. That intuition, combined with his conviction that a theory must be pushed to its extremes, enticed him to turn his attention to gravitation physics later in his career. On his return from Copenhagen, Wheeler accepted an assistant professorship at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and moved three years later to an assistant professorship at Princeton, where he has spent most of the rest of his career. During World War II, Wheeler was recruited to assist in the design of plutonium production plants in Hanford, Washington. A strong believer in the importance of national service, he also helped with government work on the H-bomb in the early '50s.

A common political cause brought scientists together in times such as these; nonetheless, collaboration among Wheeler and his colleagues clearly went far beyond political or military necessity. In one amusing incident, Wheeler tells the story of an "elegant discovery" concerning spacetime and relativity made by Martin Kruskal, a mathematical physicist and colleague of his. At the time Kruskal made the discovery, he related it to Wheeler. When Wheeler found that, for whatever reason, Kruskal had not published the results, he wrote a paper up himself with Kruskal's name, and sent it to Physical Review. He forgot, however, to tell Kruskal he had done so. Kruskal only learned of "his" article upon receiving mysterious galley proofs from the journal; when he figured out what had happened, he suggested coauthorship, which Wheeler politely rejected. With this and many other collaborations, Wheeler makes emphatically evident not only that scientific research is quite the opposite of a solo venture but also that a professor's original thought is inextricably furthered by what is learned in the process of teaching students, both graduate and undergraduate.

With both collegiality and clarity, Wheeler successfully bridges the great gap between the academic community and popular understandings of science as he conveys to the nonscientist the thrill of thinking and researching at science's cutting edge and the elegance of a branch of learning where equations that can be written on a square inch of paper -- Einstein's E=MC2, for example -- spawn decades and decades of new and fruitful insights.

-- Christen Kidd '96

At Yeats's Grave: Drumcliff

Blown mist climbs Ben Bulben like a flight

of Dante's ghosts enshrouding

bald head's rising brow's dead light

is greyed held down

the sea to west is bright


blown mist curls the air down walls to seize

shingle and shutter flap on the tall

narrow flat church tower bears crease

of damp rook call

while trees


drip drip to body-filled unshorn

rolled ground where

puddles fall in green streams borne

between the graves


From The Farm at Richwood, a collection of poems by Hazard Adams '47, a professor of English and comparative literature at the University of Washington. (Castle Peak Editions, $15)

How a museum came to pass

In her third book, Creating the Musée D'Orsay: The Politics of Culture in France, Andrea Kupfer Schneider '88, an assistant professor of law at Marquette University, writes about the history of the Paris museum that opened in 1986 on the Left Bank in what used to be a train station. This book, which grew out of her senior thesis, describes the political and cultural struggles that went on during the 13 years before the museum opened. In looking at the history of the museum, Schneider analyzes the cultural forces in France and compares and contrasts them to those in the U.S.

(Pennsylvania State University Press, $25)



Fantasy lit and E-charity

From the typeface to the illustrations to the big gnarly tree on the home page, the Website ( of writer ThomasA. Barron '74 evokes the imagery of his fantasy series, such as The Lost Years of Merlin and The Heartlight Trilogy, and nature books. Newcomers to Barron's work will find it a thorough introduction with generous selections from the books, including artwork and maps. A Q&A section gives Barron space to talk about his characters, inspiration, and the process of writing, which he terms "the most joyous -- and also the most agonizing -- labor that I know." He even reproduces pages of handwritten drafts complete with scratch-outs and marginal notes. The site allows teachers and libraries to order a "gift pack" with bookmarks, a video, posters, and other promotional items. The only mild disappointment of the site is the links page, which goes only to two publishers (presumably the sponsors of this "official" Website) and the Wilderness Society.

The site cleverly exploits a financial quirk of Internet commerce: the affiliate agreement. It works like this: 4charity features links to various Web marketers, such as, Music Boulevard, eToys, and others. When a viewer gets to, say, from 4charity and buys a book, then Amazon -- through its affiliate link with 4charity -- sends a portion of the sale back to 4charity. Cofounder Carl Anderson '95 has assembled 16 links on 4charity and pitched the affiliate payments as a source of charity donations. The homepage tagline couldn't be clearer: "where shopping online raises money for charity." When viewers register to become 4charity members, they indicate which of six charities they want to support with the affiliate payments from their purchases. Options include the American Red Cross, World Wildlife Federation, and the Special Olympics. The well-designed site describes both the marketers (and the percent of sales sent to affiliates) and the charities. The copy is up-to-the-minute, which can lead to some peculiar juxtapositions. An index page describes how the Red Cross is "feverishly trying to raise money to assist 300,000 victims of Hurricane Mitch," while immediately below that, eToys warns, "Don't be left behind when it comes to this year's coolest toys for children," proceeding to pitch Teletubbies and Happy Holidays Barbie. The site is worth watching just to see if 4charity posts the amount of affiliate money it donates to charities.

-- Van Wallach '80

Books recieved

Privacy on the Line: The Politics of Wiretapping and Encryption, by Whitfield Diffie and Susan Landau '76 (MIT, $25) -- Examines the national security, law enforcement, commercial, and civil liberties issues surrounding the policy debate on telecommunications privacy. Landau is a research associate professor of computer science at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst.

Geometry by Discovery, by David Gay '61 (Wiley, $69.95) -- A text for upper-division undergraduate math students. Gay is a professor of mathematics at the University of Arizona.

The Powers of Preservation: New Life for Urban Historic Places, by Arthur Cotton Moore '58 *60 (McGraw-Hill, $49.95) -- An illustrated discussion of preservation projects in the U.S., including the author's recent work on the Library of Congress. Moore is an architect and preservationist.

The Liberal Civil War: Fraternity and Fratricide on the Left, by Jim Tuck '51 (University of America, $39.50) -- A study of the lacerating post-World War II conflict between the anti-Communist Americans for Democratic Action and the Communist-tolerant progressives who rallied to the Henry Wallace movement. Tuck is a freelance writer and syndicated columnist.

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