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Hoop Genius…he’s Canadian!

13 May

One of my favorite This American Life  episodes is entitled Who’s Canadian. It makes me laugh, because I am an expat Canadian and it is true that we love to play the game in which we point put people and things that are Canadian.

At first, I was a bit miffed that the text of Hoop Genius: How a Desperate Teacher and a Rowdy Gym Class Invented Basketball by John Coy, failed to mention James Naismith’s status as a Canadian.Yes, it is hard to believe the iconic American game was, in fact, invented by a Canadian.


As I read, though, it became less important because there are so many reasons to praise the book. The endpapers are photographs of Naismith’s original 13 rules of basketball. The simple text clearly explains the dilemma, and how Naismith used trial and error and personal experience to find a game his rowdy boys could play and enjoy. It also highlights the beginnings of basketball for women in 1892. The illustrations by Joe Morse literally move the story along.  Each page truly captures the style of the period. His portrayals of each team sport Naismith tried are especially effective because the alternate orientation, giving the book the  feel  of a sporting event. Indoor football moves left to right. Indoor soccer moves right to left, and the two sides face each other in lacrosse. I loved this and I don’t even like sports!

The author’s note at the end (finally) gives Canada it’s due as Naismith’s birthplace. It also gives some more details about his background. A good book for sports fans.  And Canadians.

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