From Publishers Weekly
The mid-1980s introduced an unapologetic athlete archetype that captured headlines and airtime, taking advantage of a 24-hour news cycle and America's newfound appreciation of flashy, independent-minded heroes both real and fictional such as Ronald Reagan and Rocky Balboa. Weinreb expertly tracks this evolution via a quartet of athletes from that era: Chicago Bears headband-wearing, antiauthority quarterback Jim McMahon, who was more successful as a zeitgeist marketing tool than as a player; multi-sport star and Heisman Trophy winner Bo Jackson, who viewed his legendary athleticism as an investment; college basketball star Len Bias, whose fatal cocaine overdose hardened a sports-loving nation and led to its misguided obsession over illegal drugs; and flamboyant college football star Brian "The Boz" Bosworth, whose quest for publicity led him to the University of Oklahoma, where he consciously constructed an outrageous persona. In this lively and smart blend of essay and reporting, Weinreb (Game of Kings) details with conviction how seismic shifts in society and pop culture--soon-to-be behemoths Nike and ESPN were just hitting their strides--forever changed the conditions for attaining fame in sports, paving the way for the media-savvy athletes we know and (sometimes) love today.
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If the amalgam of athlete/pop icon was not created in the 1980s (Babe Ruth, anyone?), that era did produce a unique version juiced up by TV exposure and big money, with rebellion and drugs thrown in—traits all still found on pro rosters. Sportswriter Weinreb profiles four of the signature athletes of the day—former Bears quarterback Jim McMahon, University of Oklahoma standout linebacker Brian “The Boz” Bosworth, pro running back and All Star outfielder Bo Jackson, and Celtics first-round pick Len Bias, who died from a cocaine overdose the day after the draft. If they were their own men, they were also products of their times, and Weinreb does a fine job showing the symbiotic relationship between those athletes and the unfettered capitalism encouraged during the Reagan years. --Alan Moores