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Sole Influence: Basketball, Corporate Greed, and the Corruption of America's Youth Hardcover


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing (January 11, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0446524506
  • ISBN-13: 978-0446524506
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 5.9 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,060,966 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

This book examines a particularly seedy side of contemporary sports: the devious, distorted, duplicitous multibillion dollar search for the next Michael Jordan. That is, not for the next great basketball player but for the supreme corporate pitchman for the new millennium. According to Wetzel (managing editor, Basketball Times) and Yeager (a staff writer at Sports Illustrated), the principal players in this debased drama are Nike, Adidas, NCAA athletics, prep schools, summer basketball camps, and AAU teams and tournaments. Strikingly, all these influences are coming in contact with younger and younger kids, dipping down to the junior high school ages of 12 and 13. When these kids go to choose a college, a contributing factor is whether that institution's shoe endorsement contract matches their own. The story is very convincingly laid out and makes the ironic point that the phenomenon of Mr. Jordan so changed the landscape that there probably never will be another player with the same drive and relative innocence who so appeals to such a wide demographic. Highly recommended for all libraries.
-John M. Maxymuk, Robeson Lib., Rutgers Univ., Camden, NJ
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Review

"Details a war waged by two multinational sneaker companies and profiles the two men who serve as field marshals for each side.... A sobering read for anyone who cares about the future of basketball." -- Alexander Wolff, Sports Illustrated

"For all its clever advertising campaigns, the real story of the sneaker industry is one of influence peddling and the unholy, unscrupulous recruitment of children. This is that story, in excruciating detail." -- Phil Mushnick, New York Post and TV Guide

"For those who care about the game, SOLE INFLUENCE sends a most disturbing message. Read it and weep. But read it. The nasty Vaccaro-Raveling rivalry and the story of Nike pitchman Myron Piggie are alone worth the price of admission to college basketball's house of horrors." (Armen Keteyian, CBS and HBO Sports) REVIEW "We always knew something stunk about basketball and the sneaker business, and SOLE INFLUENCE lets us know where the stench is coming from.... A most revealing and insightful book." -- Jackie MacMullan, Sports Illustrated

Details a war waged by two multinational sneaker companies and profiles the two men who serve as field marshals for each side....A sobering read for anyone who cares about the future of basketball. -- Alexander Wolff, Sports Illustrated

For all its clever advertising campaigns, the real story of the sneaker industry is one of influence peddling and the unholy, unscrupulous recruitment of children. This is that story, in excruciating detail. -- Phil Mushnick, New York Post and TV Guide

For those who care about the game, SOLE INFLUENCE sends a most disturbing message. Read it and weep. But read it. The nasty Vaccaro-Raveling rivalry and the story of Nike pitchman Myron Piggie are alone worth the price of admission to college basketball's house of horrors. -- Armen Keteyian, CBS and HBO Sports

We always knew something stunk about basketball and the sneaker business, and SOLE INFLUENCE lets us know where the stench is coming from....A most revealing and insightful book. -- Jackie MacMullan, Sports Illustrated

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By David Stringer on January 24, 2000
Format: Hardcover
As a pretty dedicated fan of college basketball, I had heard coaches rail on about summer recruiting, AAU middle men and shoe companies. Now I know why. I encourage anyone who cares about the game to read this. It details not only how things have gotten corrupt, but why. Instead of using broad strokes to declare summer recruiting as a bad development, Sole Influence shows why in detail. Myron Piggie stuff alone is worth the read. The solutions are complex, but given the amount athletic directors and college coaches are working on it, something is inevitable. After reading this, fans will know why the sooner the better. The best basketball book I've read in years. Authors make a complicated story very readable and easy to follow.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Charles W. Adams on June 19, 2000
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I've suspected for decades that the college recruiting process was (is), to a certain extent, corrupt.
To even the casual observer of college basketball, at the upper echelon of Division I, there is (has been) an uneven playing field. It's as if some colleges have had the top five picks in the annual draft for several years in a row.
On the surface the uneven playing field seems impossible to explain, but books like "Sole Influence" begin to shed light of the corruption that mars college basketball -- the search for the next Michael Jordan.
In a series of anecdotes, the authors provide case studies of how, especially, Nike and Addidas have made a mess of AAU basketball, especially in large urban centers.
It's difficult, almost impossible, to get first hand information, especially from big-name college coaches -- few go on the record. What "Sole Influence" reveals, seems to me, is the tip of the iceberg.
The most shocking revelations surround the role played by George Raveling, the former head coach at Washington State, Iowa and USC. Thankfully, Raveling made himself available to the authors and provides candid comments which, while attempting to rationalize his role in this sorry mess, tend to indict him as one of the prime offenders.
The book, although poorly edited, contains much food for thought and is worthy of reading and reflection by serious college basketball fans.
The authors include a good index, but omit footnotes and a bibliography of sources. Also, a complete list of names of persons interviewed for the book would have been appreciated. To the layman, many of these "characters" are complete strangers.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 17, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Anyone who has been around amateur basketball can appreciate the intense look Sole Influence takes at the seedy side of shoe companies. As the book explains, the chase for the almighty dollar has escalated into a procurement war for the top high school and even grade school prospects. Some of the tactics of companies like Nike, Adidas and And 1 may turn your stomach, but the book is a must read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Paul Stuart VINE VOICE on December 18, 2007
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
One thing is for certain about 'Sole Influence': this is one well-researched book. Wetzel and Yaeger certainly did their homework over the approximate 5-year period comprehensively detailed in the book. Almost no roundball was left unturned.

Worth nothing, however, is that nearly all of the information gathered is of the second hand variety - especially when it comes to AAU coaches, Nike, prep academy representative, and/or players who benefited from the system Wetzel and Yaeger denounce. Thus, while Wetzel and Yaeger valiantly attempt to provide a semblance of objectivity, the 'other side' appears via second hand quotes weaved in to fit story lines.

To elaborate, the authors' disdain for Nike becomes incredulous at times, especially in contrast to their free passes for both Adidas and Reebok. It appears those willing to continuously go on the record (Sonny Vaccarro, for instance) - and arguably fairly enough - were given love taps.

Also, the attempts at objective balance go out the door once Wetzel and Yaeger find their respective soapboxes. This book feels stretched for 50+ pages, solely (pun intended, I suppose) to feature diatribes against the corruption of the basketball recruitment process as a whole.

For example, Michael Jordan's career evolution is cited as a litmus test for how players should act and be recruited. Still, Jordan's early days in NC lacked the broadcasting revenue, Internet engine and global market that is today's reality. Not to mention the financials of publicly traded companies (eg Nike) almost solely based on athlete endorsements to launch new product lines.

Flaws aside, 'Sole Influence' remains a goldmine in its detailed explanation of the inner workings of hoops development. I wouldn't call it a must-read, per se, rather a nice historical snapshot (1995-2000) of the underbelly of basketball breeding.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By PaulB on February 24, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I knew that high school and in some cases elementary school athletes in sports like basketball and football that are extremely gifted can get free perks, but I didn't think it would go as far as it did. The fact is there is a lot of fingerpointing at the athletes, but very little at the others involved in the game. Let's face it, no one would care about these sports if there wasn't a relatively high standard of quality players available. Everyone involved in the game makes money off the players, from the coaches,universities,athletic apparel companies,broadcasters, etcetera, you name it. It's about time that college athletes and high school athletes receive fair market value for the money they generate. The point is many schools would be probably be in a lot worse financial shape if it weren't for basketball and football. Yes, it exposes the greed behind the players, but it's human nature at work. I don't agree with the tactics employed by the agents and companies involved to get players, but I do understand the motivation for doing so. If they don't get these players, some other competing agent or company likely will get their services. It's no different than when univerisities engage in recruiting practices, and some of these universities can get put on probation for recruiting violations. All in all, this was a realistic look at what goes on in youth basketball. I enjoyed it, and would recommend it to anyone who wants to explore the dark side of amateur basketball. An excellent companion book to this would be the book Money Players, which looks at things from the NBA perspective.
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