The Average Joe’s Super Sports Almanac: All-Star Stats, Amazing Facts, and Inspiring Stories by Steve Riach

Title: The Average Joe’s Guide to Sports Almanac: All-Star Stats, Amazing Facts, and Inspiring Stories

Author: Steve Riach

Publisher: Harvest House Publishers

Date of Publication: 3 April 2018

Rating: 3.5/5


Spanning over eleven chapters is this short guide which is a result of Riach’s many years of fascination with unique sports stories and people from the world of sports. Much of the content comes from his work earlier with athletes for films, television, radio or books. The chapters are of moderate length and the information is presented in a rather systematic manner. The individual chapters include inspiring performances by athletes, information about legendary sports figures, strange and true facts as well as miscellaneous ideas about memorable moments in sports that have caught Riach’s eye and are cherished by him.

The book is highly informative so much so that at times it feels over loaded with technical knowledge. Be it the trivial or the glamorous, every bit has been recorded with accuracy and consistency. The content of chapters do not evade individual chapter titles and fills up the reader with valuable information to the brim. Though aimed at the average person who has little or no knowledge about sports, the title of the book is elusive. The data provided is a lot for any average person to remember or understand. It is herein that the book loses its entertainment quotient. Midway through the guide, the bullet points provide short paragraphs of data next to dates of tournaments, names of players or other statistical information making it too factual. The lack of illustrations for a sports guide is also another negative. Moreover, the guide only focuses on hockey, baseball, basketball and football and leagues based in the States or games that are staple mostly to Western audiences. Surprisingly, cricket (once considered a gentleman’s game provides ample stories of rackets, scams, match fixing scandals and an entirely gravely commercialized enterprise) is now played globally and more recently in leagues, has been given a total miss.

Certain chapters, however, are interesting as they cover in brief the debates around all time best teams like NFL, NBA, MLB and a list of the greatest players with their jersey numbers alongside. Key sports dates, important years of remarkable sporting events and other numerical data make up a significant portion of the book that mentions the number games that go on behind these games. Leagues are not merely about crowds cheering their favorite teams at state of the art sporting arenas but also the excellent business that they all make, from the trading of players to the art and science behind the drafts. Undoubtedly, the research and planning that goes behind putting together an organised guide is commendable. Written in an almanac style, the guide is useful but audience specific. Perhaps, for the average reader what will be of most interest are the chapters on the origin of the games that traces the history of games that might have been started by a group of friends on their college campus. The chapter on inspirational quotes by world class players is exemplary of all that they did and not just said. On the whole, the book is a good pick for big time sports buffs.


Polished Steel: Lessons from the Dojo by Shaz Davis

Title: Polished Steel: Lessons from the Dojo

Author: Shaz Davis

Publisher: FirstLine Limited

Date of Publication: 8 June 2017

Genre: Self-Help

Rating: 5/5

This historical non-fiction written by Shaz Davis is a one of a kind book about real stories recalled and recollected by her and other students of Sensei. Teaching over more than 5000 students, Sensei or Lao Tse or Bob Davis is a trainer in various styles of traditional and sport karate, aikido, jujutsu, and kobudo.

In 1985 Bob felt that the worldwide trend of commercialisation and modification of training for sport and competition was not conducive to effective self defence application, health and personal growth. He immersed himself in Chinese civilian defensive art systems with particular emphasis on wing chung kung fu, tang shou dao, t’ai chi ch’uan, chin na and hsing i-ch’uan. He also studied Phillipine fighting systems and Japanese martial art forms. The afterword in the book reveals the massive stroke that Sensei suffered in 2015 damaging the back right quarter of his brain and affecting the functioning of the left side of his body. To see a teacher who has touched so many lives through his hardwork and sincerity become completely dependent to perform basic everyday acts is heart breaking. This book is dedicated towards taking forward his vision and work by his student and wife Shaz.

The book is well detailed and written in a simple language that is easily digestible. “Training in a traditional dojo is only 50 percent technique. Students sign up to learn self-defence or a particular art, but stay because of the holistic body, mind, and spirit lessons that blend with the teachings in almost every class” are lines from the foreword that sum up briefly the endless gains from the dojo that is a place of life long learning and one needs to maintain practicing until one reaches near perfection and then re-learn all over again.

Each chapter is beautifully illustrated with appropriate hand drawn color sketches. The illustrations add to the already vibrant anecdotes that provide meaningful lessons to anybody looking for answers in the struggle of life. Also, each chapter concludes with a haiku on the lower left corner of the page that provides enlightening metaphoric meanings and thoughtful contemplation. The illustrations are very simplistic but the book largely functions on the binary of orange and white. Chapter names begin with the overall moral of each incident such as “leave your ego with your shoes, if you don’t know: ask, what’s in a shout” and so on. Spanning over thirty nine chapters, this book is meticulously done in terms of content, illustrations and layout.

While Shaz spends much of her time caring for Bob and playing Frisbee with their dog Shanti, she is already an award winning writer. This is a very indulging read for trainers and trainees as well as those outside of the dojo who may be contemplating on taking up a martial art form or enrolling their kids into one.

Click the book cover to grab your copy. Happy reading!