Tag Archives: Kevin Ware

A great novel by Ben Fountain about returning soldiers. Louisville-Michigan, for all the marbles. And paying mourners to be at your funeral


You ever read a first novel by an author and decide you’re going to read everything else they write?

That’s kind of how I feel about Ben Fountain, offer of a fantastic novel I just read, “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk.” The story focuses on a group of Army soldiers just back from Iraq going on a two-week U.S. “victory tour,” after footage of their brave actions during a firefight were captured on camera and broadcast in America.

Suddenly a bunch of small-town, unsophisticated kids are being whisked around the nation and feted for bravery and valor. Only problem is, Billy Lynn, a 19-year-old soldier who was apparently the “star” of the video, isn’t sure how he feels about any of it.

The setting for the entire book is a trip Bravo company takes to the Dallas Cowboys Thanksgiving Day football game, and the myriad adventures that take place there. There’s the team owner (clearly based on Jerry Jones) who wants to show the boys off, but later turns out to be not such a great guy; the movie producer trying to leverage a deal for Bravo before they have to return to Iraq in a few days; and a born-again and gorgeous Cowboys cheerleader who quickly falls for Billy.

Fountain’s descriptions and writing are beautiful, and he examines the strangeness of our “instant hero” military culture in a clever way without ever hitting you over the head with his message.

The novel was a finalist for the 2012 National Book Award, and I highly, highly recommend it.


**A great night tonight and a sad one for us college basketball fans; it’s great because a new national champion will be crowned, but it’s a bummer because it means the season is over.

Some scattered thoughts from Saturday’s dramatic, if not really all that well-played, semifinals, and thoughts on tonight’s game between the Wolverines and the Cardinals:
— Michigan is the best team in the country, and I expect them to win tonight. I really thought Louisville was ripe to be beaten Saturday, but the Shockers just didn’t have enough firepower to do it. Michigan does; Trey Burke won’t have two terrible games in a row, and if they get something out of sharpshooter Nik Stauskas at all, the Wolverines will win it.

— I know it was a horrible injury and all, but if CBS shows us one more reaction shot of Louisville’s Kevin Ware on the sidelines tonight, I may vomit. They showed him 424 times, by my count, on Saturday. We get that he’s hurt and cheering the team on!
— Very much looking forward to seeing the Michigan “Fab Five” reunion in the stands tonight (sans Chris Webber, who’s apparently too busy), and clips of those teams. Man were they fun to watch back in the day.
— Pumped for “One Shining Moment,” as always. Lots of great moments and chills from this tournament; why do I have a feeling Georgetown fans won’t want to watch those Florida Gulf Coast dunks all over again?

— My friend Tony doesn’t agree with me, but I think Michigan’s Mitch McGary (above) has a lot of Shane Battier-like qualities. Tenacious rebounder, excellent passer, and just a guy who looks like a winner. And also eminently hateable if he’s not on your team.
He could be the difference tonight.

— Really wanted to see Wichita State get to the finals; what a great story it’ll be when one of these mid-majors finally breaks through and wins the title.

**Finally today, I unfortunately have been at two funerals in the past several weeks, but I’m pretty sure everyone at both of them at least knew the deceased, and wasn’t hired to be there.

That’s apparently not the case in England, though, where a crazy business has sprung up. Apparently now if you want a big turnout at your funeral you can rent mourners.

A company called (appropriately) Rent A Mourner is now offering its services to families of the deceased; for about $68 U.S., they’ll brief they professional attendees about the life of the dead person, and will help “swell the visitor numbers,” the company website reads. “Whether you need to introduce new faces, increase perceived popularity or simply increase numbers, we’re here to help.”

This sounds incredibly tacky and tasteless, and I really hope it doesn’t catch on over here. (Potential conversation: “I’m so sorry about your loss. Bob was a heck of a guy.”
“Um, his name was Steve, but thanks.”)

Then again, we steal everything else from England, so my hopes aren’t high.

Duke loses, a gruesome injury occurs, and the Final Four is set. The tennis shot of the year, already. And “This Week in Unnecessary Censorship”


Before I get to thoughts on my beloved Duke Blue Devils and the end of their season Sunday in the Elite Eight, a few words about the injury from that game you probably have all heard about, and one that won’t leave my mind for a while.

When Louisville’s Kevin Ware ran out to try to block a 3-pointer by Duke’s Tyler Thornton with 6:33 left in the first half, it looked like an innocent play, one college basketball players make 1,000 times.

But when Thornton released his shot, Ware flew past him, and landed on his right leg at a horrendously gruesome angle, with the leg bending under him. If you haven’t seen it yet, I urge you strongly NOT to watch it. I was watching the game with my soon-to-be father-in-law and we both screamed “Oh my God!” upon watching the replay.

It was a terrible injury to watch, and the Louisville players were clearly very shaken by it; several vomited upon looking at Ware’s leg, and others were weeping openly on the court.

It was a jarring reminder of how fragile these athletic careers are; Kevin Ware, as of Sunday night, was expected to recover from his broken leg, but who knows if he’ll ever play again. (Great column on the injury here by Jason Gay of the Wall Street Journal)

In his absence, a basketball game continued, but even I, who normally yells and screams at the TV during Duke games with the best of them, was kinda subdued for a while after that.
It’s just sports, we have to keep telling ourselves when something awful happens.

**Now, as for the games this weekend… I have to start with Duke. So thrilled with the win Friday night, since the Blue Devils played great defense and got just enough offense besides the remarkable Seth Curry to win.
Sunday, for the first 20 minutes, I thought Duke was going to win. They were right there playing with the best team in America. But then, Louisville went to another level, and Duke couldn’t get that high.
The Cardinals are just outstanding, and should win the national title next weekend, I think.
The Blue Devils had a fantastic season and I”m proud of ’em. To come within 1 game of the Final 4, with Curry playing hurt all year, and Ryan Kelly being out for a while, is terrific. I’m salivating thinking about next year’s lineup already.

— Michigan’s comeback on Friday night was sensational (is it me or does Kansas either choke in epic proportions or go the Final 4 every year, with nothing in between), and their beatdown of Florida Sunday was equally impressive. What a talented team, and I think they’re the only ones with a shot at beating Louisville next weekend in Atlanta.
— Wichita State, I mean, did ANYONE in America pick them for the Final 4? What a great, great story; they were eclipsed by the Florida Gulf Coast magic a little bit, but the Shockers getting to the national semifinals as a 9 seed is mighty impressive.

**And now, a tennis shot that you couldn’t replicate if you tried it a thousand times. Aggie Radwanska, last week at the Sony Open, with a volley none of my instructors ever taught me…

**Finally today, a feature I always enjoy but rarely remember to blog about. From Jimmy Kimmel’s show, This Week in Unnecessary Censorship…