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

3.9 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"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

"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. Hoffer writes of the unexpected Dick Fosbury, the rocky origins of George Foreman, and the pride of John Carlos and Tommie Smith with equal power while foreshadowing the future: the emergence of the Kenyans as a dynasty and the nascent rise of performance-enhancing drugs as a vexing issue. 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: DRUGS, POWER, AND THE FIGHT FOR THE SOUL OF MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL

"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 both at its finest and most fun." -- FRANK DEFORD, SPORTS ILLUSTRATED SENIOR CONTRIBUTING WRITER, AND MEMBER OF THE HALL OF FAME OF THE NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF SPORTSCASTERS AND SPORTSWRITERS --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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: #1,497,627 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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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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