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Book Review: Life on the Run by Bill Bradley

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Bill Bradley seems like a heck of a guy. Playing pro basketball for the New York Knicks and being a Senate member, and then after that being a successful writer seems to scream "remarkable." And yet Bradley chooses not to write about his entire life, only a season on the basketball team. Bradley's account, though, reads more into the life of a person who plays basketball, focusing more on the people and things that make up Bradley's life rather than his sports career.

In Life on the Run, Bradley chronicles 20 days of his basketball season, never skimping on the wins, losses, or the harsh truths of basketball. Bradley is not always cheerful about his profession – it is a job as well as a hobby, and one must see it as both. Bradley points out the ugliness of a sport that requires victories, that needs the players in order to survive as a sport but that will just as quickly trade them away for someone healthier or better. Bradley's account is heartfelt and always truthful, but not always the silver lining that one might expect to see in an athlete's experience.

Life on the Run is a critique of the basketball culture. Bradley points out the flaws of being a popular athlete – while one might assume that to be a celebrity, or the attention of all fans, would be a joyful experience, Bradley discusses the role that success and failure play in the making and eventual breaking of the popular athlete. Basketball is a rigid game, one where a player must face both physical and emotional suffering. Not playing up to expectation possibly means loss of fans' support, and maybe even a trade to a different team. Bradley is always one to point out the stresses of the game; the mental exhaustion that it takes to travel around the country constantly, the loneliness that players feel, and the pressures of advertising campaigns all take their toll on the individual.

Bradley's account reads like a diary. He does not just relate the events; his account is full of analyses on the game that serve to flesh out the culture of basketball more than an unbiased account. These are the facts that one can never hear. Newspapers, magazines, and television make athletes out to be rich stars who have no qualms, but Bradley presents a different side to the story. This is really what makes Life on the Run stand out.

I have to say that I was really attracted to Bradley's prose and his thought processes. His soliloquies stand out as important points on basketball culture, and coming from one who has so much experience within the field, it feels as though Bradley's feelings are truthful and valid.

Overall, Bradley seems to know what he's talking about. Couple his direct views on basketball with his foreword on the book after 20 years of its publishing, and Life on the Run acts as an important critique on sports culture in general. Bradley tackles difficult topics, much of which involved him as much as the sport. For anyone looking to become involved in the events of pro sports, Bradley's book is an essential read to prepare one for the intricacies and conflicts of the game.

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