From two senior Sports Illustrated writers comes an explosive, fast-paced satire that will do for today's NBA what North Dallas Forty did for the NFL a generation ago.
Just months from his Yale graduation, street-smart whiz kid Jamal Kelly leaves school to take a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to join the front office of the Los Angeles Lasers. Once on the West Coast, Jamal gets a quick introduction to a subculture awash in big egos and fast cars, as well as an introduction to the charms of the team's new hard-charging beat writer, Jilly Forrester.
In the spirit of Primary Colors and The Devil Wears Prada, Foul Lines peels back the curtain on the trappings of big-time professional basketball. No other sport encapsulates so many cultural hot-button topics, and Foul Lines at once exposes and lampoons this parallel universe.
Years of behind-the-scenes reporting fuel this fast, funny basketball expos from Sports Illustrated writers McCallum and Wertheim, covering ground both expected (race, sex, the press) and unexpected (reality TV, PR, cars). When the Los Angeles Lasers recruit Yale whiz kid Jamal Kelly to replace their suddenly deceased director of public relations, Jamal finds himself struggling to keep a level head while managing the team brand and the hot shots behind it: players, execs, coaches and one very eccentric team owner. Shocked and seduced by a world of pro sports glitz (strip club lunches, exclusive parties in the Hollywood hills, etc.), Jamal finds support from sexy L.A. Times sports reporter Jilly Forrester and slumping team captain Lorenzen "Lo" Mayne, as well as his own down-and-out brother, Zeke. McCallum and Wertheim take very funny jabs at corporate sponsorship, racialized posturing and professional entitlement. They also manage to cram in the stories of an impressively large cast as they try to deal with the conflicting spheres of team, families and lovers. When a secret that three players have been harboring suddenly surfaces, Jamal must choose between star power and what he knows is right. There's enough plot tension to keep things moving, but it's the insider details that give the book punch. (Feb.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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January 23, 2006
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Excerpt from Foul Lines by Jack McCallum
Los Angeles Lasers Record: 12-4
The first thing everybody told Kwaanzii Parker was not to blow a hundred grand of his signing money on a ride. Which is precisely what he did. "Gonna get me a phat crib, but the ride's gotta come first, yo," he said. Kwaanzii's selection was a Robitussin-purple Jaguar with plates that read KINGKWAAN! Like most professional athletes, Kwaanzii tooled around in an automobile equipped with a jet engine, two elaborate hood ornaments, neon underbelly, and the vanity plates. But he just hated it when somebody recognized him.
Kwaanzii, a tender eighteen, was eight months removed from his high-school prom -- which he attended with rap star Shabeera Slade, an event that rated five minutes on BET -- and seven months removed from his high school graduation, which he passed up in favor of Shaq's All-Star Super Jamaica Jam. From the time he was an AAU star in Las Vegas at the wizened age of thirteen, King Kwaan was in the E-ZPass lane to the National Basketball Federation, never a thought that he would spend so much as one night on a college campus, unless, as one recruiter put it, "He was making a weekend booty call."
Kwaanzii had developed a close personal relationship with an older Los Angeles Laser teammate, point guard Litanium "Tribal Cat" Johnson, one based entirely on an overlapping pharmacological aesthetic and a willingness to reach excessive speeds on the highway. Litanium was currently hiding from the public in an orange Lamborghini Gallardo with plates that read YR O DA CAT. Tribal Cat called Kwaanzii a "Jag fag," though secretly he admired the teenager's ride and pondered picking up one himself, though at the moment he was, to paraphrase his accountant, "slightly cash deficient."
The players bonded when, back in early October, they happened to pull out of media day together and begin a friendly race along Figueroa Street in downtown Los Angeles. Kwaanzii won that one, which didn't sit well with Litanium, who the next day kicked it up to 125 mph and nipped Kwaanzii. Litanium christened their competition Drag Club and felt much pride when it spread throughout the team. Litanium had always considered himself a leader. Quoting one of his favorite movies, Litanium often counseled his teammates, "First rule of Drag Club is you do not talk about Drag Club."
Litanium and Kwaanzii were the most avid participants of Drag Club, though. They had raced a dozen times, and Litanium, nothing if not an inveterate competitor, secretly kept a log of the results. Much to his dismay, the rookie had won eight of their showdowns. Litanium considered their races a show of esprit de corps -- "closing the generational gap," as he put it -- while Lasers coach John Watson, who was almost sideswiped by Litanium as he pulled out of practice one day, called them "brain-dead assholes racing to the morgue."
Having begun as a daylight activity, Drag Club had lately moved to the nocturnal hours. And tonight, as Litanium saw it, seemed ideal for a chapter meeting. Following a 101-83 victory over Seattle, most of the team was scattered about The Vines, a trendy nightclub near Malibu owned by a close friend of Lasers owner Owen Padgett. The occasion was a commemoration of Coach Watson's fiftieth, though the evening's business -- a desultory rendering of "Happy Birthday" and the presentation of a laptop to Watson, a confirmed Luddite -- was over quickly. Litanium had played well with eighteen points and eleven assists, and Kwaanzii hadn't played at all. (Watson didn't have much faith in rookies.) Litanium figured that Kwaanzii would be angry and distracted.