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Something in the Air: American Passion and Defiance in the 1968 Mexico City Olympics Hardcover – September 22, 2009

11 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“[Hoffer’s] jaunty but disciplined prose puts the wind at the reader’s back and shows us how the leaps, lifts and dashes of 1968 made a significant impact on the civil rights movement and raised the political consciousness of athletes.”—Gordon Marino, New York Times
(Gordon Marino New York Times)

“Richard Hoffer has given us a wonderful cross-section of characters and a thorough portrayal of the controversial events surrounding the 1968 Olympics, so that we learn to appreciate these Mexico City Games in a way we never did before. It’s sports history at both its finest and most fun.”—Frank Deford, Sports Illustrated senior contributing writer
(Frank Deford)

“Richard Hoffer reminds us why sports matter, deftly returning to the roiling 1968 Olympics, when it was the athlete who often stood at the forefront of social change. . . . Something in the Air reconnects sports to America, as it should be. It is a truly terrific book.”—Howard Bryant, ESPN senior writer and author of Juicing the Game
(Howard Bryant)

“Suddenly, as if picked up by some gust, you’re hurtled into the political, cultural, and athletic tempest of 1968, and into the hearts and minds of the American Olympians in its swirl. That gust is Richard Hoffer’s exhilarating prose. Just go with the wind.”—Gary Smith, Sports Illustrated senior writer
(Gary Smith) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

Richard Hoffer has been a senior writer at Sports Illustrated for 25 years. He has written two books: A Savage Business: The Comeback and Comedown of Mike Tyson (Simon & Schuster, 1998), and  Jackpot Nation (Harper, 2007). He lives in Santa Barbara, California with his wife and sons.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; First Edition edition (September 22, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416588949
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416588948
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.4 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,632,741 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Geoff Pietsch on July 24, 2010
Format: Hardcover
The Washington Post's review (above) gives a full overview of the tumultuous events and fascinating personalities described in "Something In The Air". To Richard Hoffer's credit, he interviewed a great number of them and is able to provide readers with many interesting anecdotes. But... then one begins to encounter numerous factual errors (not to mention many typos and carelessly written sentences). The latter are merely annoying; the former, the factual errors, are startling coming from a long-time Sports Illustrated writer. And they make one wonder if he was equally careless - and simply inaccurate - in recounting the recollections of those he interviewed.
Examples: He credits Ray Norton with a "100 meter time of 9.3 seconds". Nope, 100 yards.
He says Jim Ryun was 5 meters behind Keino at the 800 mark in the 1,500 and says "the race had gotten away from him." Yes, it had - but because he was actually 18 meters back, according to Track and Field News's report on the race. Five meters would not have been a big gap, as a sportswriter surely should know.
He writes at length about Dick Fosbury's winning performance in the high jump and says that the first marathoner, Mamo Wolde, was just entering the stadium as Fosbury began his approach. His point: The appearance of the marathon winner usually got huge applause but did not in this case because of the crowd's focus on Fosbury. But Hoffer goes on to describe the reaction of Kenny Moore, the American who finished over 9 minutes behind Wolde. He says Moore was coming on the track when Fosbury jumped and reacted with delight to the crowd's cheering for Fosbury's leap. So... Fosbury's run-up took over 9 minutes?
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By William Capodanno VINE VOICE on November 1, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I got interested in this book while reading an excerpt in a recent issue of Sports Illustrated. I had extremely high hopes for this book, but was somewhat disappointed. Being born in 1970, I obviously have no personal recollection of the 1968 Olympics, but long remembered hearing about Bob Beamon's historic long jump and Tommie Smith and John Carlos' defiance on the medal stand. The opportunity to learn even more about the Mexico City against the backdrop of the turbulence and upheaval that was 1968 was irrestible.

My main criticism of Hoffer's book is that it is quite uneven. There are some strong parts, specifically the chapters about Fosbury, Smith and Carlos. On the other hand, his coverage of Beamon and Foreman did not provide nearly the depth and dimension that I expected and was a letdown when compared to the previously mentioned athletes. By far the most enlightening part of the book centered on Avery Brundage, an American who was head of the IOC. Brundage tried to maintain iron-fisted control of the Games and keep absolute order in what was the first Olympics in a developing nation --- and before the vast commercialization that the Olympics have become today.

Overall, Hoffer's book is a solid contribution, but has enough holes to only be 4 stars. It is a quick read and contains enough back stories to be worth the time.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By hello on February 11, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I had to read this book for an African American Diaspora Studies class, and this is a great read if you're like me and despise reading historical texts. The author presents the information in a way that captures your attention, raising awareness to the hypocrisy and contradicting nature of the 1968 Olympics. The author does a great job in explaining the story behind this historical event and there are moments that make you laugh. I would definitely recommend this book for anyone to read. The only negative is the amount of names the author talks about, but at the same time that's history for you.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Alan M. Mandel on October 19, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Well lets start out by counting how many political things were happenning that summer that had nothing to do with the actual sport of competing with other nations best track and Olympic stars in various sports such as boxing with a young George Foreman walking around with an American flag.
Great human interest stories on the historic two weeks of competition and reviews of winners as well as the losers who trained their whole life for Olympic glory!
Its a facinating read for the olympic fan as well as stories of hyuman sacifice and training. i know that i could not put the book down as a quick paced style of writing.
Run for the gold and pick it up today.
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By WDX2BB on December 22, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The year 1968 has been rather thoroughly scrutinized by authors over the year. After a buildup throughout the Sixties, we entered 1968 as if we were entering some sort of funhouse, not knowing what would happen as we passed through and got to the exit.

The tensions of the time were very apparent in sports, with the civil rights and women's movements gained velocity by the second, it seemed. Take a changing society, and mix it with an amateur athletic bureaucracy that didn't accept change easily, and you have the makings for fascinating confrontation.

That was the case for the 1968, particularly when it came to the Summer Olympics in Mexico City. And that's the backdrop for Richard Hoffer's frequently fascinating book, "Something in the Air."

The American Olympic team goes under the microscope here, and Hoffer must have been filled with glee as he went through the cast of characters that converged south of border that fall. A book like this relies on the athletes and the stories, and Hoffer found a bunch of good ones.

The author focuses on the United States track and field team. We had sprinters like Tommie Smith and John Carlos, forever remembered for their wordless protest about conditions back home while on the podium during the National Anthem at the medal ceremony. Gloved fists in the air and heads down, it became a remarkable moment almost instantly. The two sprinters had been involved in talk of a boycott of the Games beforehand; their attendance, performance and action proved much more effective as support for their cause. Smith and Carlos were great stories in their own right, overcoming much to rank as the world's best.

The other stories on the track team are good too.
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