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The Last Amateurs: Playing for Glory and Honor in Division I College Basketball Hardcover – November, 2000

3.4 out of 5 stars 90 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

If there's any doubt about John Feinstein being one of sport's true believers, The Last Amateurs readily dispels it. After years of smartly dissecting our games at their highest levels in bestsellers like The Majors, A Good Walk Spoiled, and A Season on the Brink, he returns to dissecting our games at their purest level, ground he first staked out quite stirringly in A Civil War, his chronicle of Army-Navy football.

In The Last Amateurs, he mines the 1999-2000 season of Patriot League basketball. Given the high-stakes, high-profile, and often dirty world of college hoops these days, Feinstein comes up with a remarkably refreshing place to visit, a sporting environment short on scandals, prima donnas, and sneaker contracts, but long on a pure passion for the game that complements achievement in the classroom. In the league's seven schools--Bucknell, Lehigh, Lafayette, Colgate, Holy Cross, Army, and Navy--academics come first, the hardwood second. These are campuses populated by students who happen to be athletes, not athletes stopping off on the way to lucrative careers in professional sports. Indeed, these are young athletes who have their post-college focus on the rest of their lives, not the NBA. Sports, for them, builds character, not bank accounts.

Still, the Patriot League is a Division I conference, with its champion earning an automatic berth in the NCAA tournament. It takes the games seriously--often, as Feinstein reveals, heartbreakingly so--even if it doesn't necessarily play to ACC, SEC, Big 10, and Pac-10 standards. Feinstein's interviewing, skillful as ever, brings the players, coaches, and administrators of the colleges in this league to full form, making The Last Amateurs a rarity among sports books--a smart volume about smart people with their heads and priorities pointed in the right direction. Like the conference itself, it's in a league of its own. --Jeff Silverman

From Publishers Weekly

Army, Navy, Lafayette, Lehigh, Bucknell, Holy Cross and Colgate: these seven colleges make up the Patriot League, basketball's smallest Division I conference. In this book, NPR commentator and bestselling sportswriter Feinstein (A Season on the Brink, The Majors, etc.) gives an exhaustive account of the Patriot League's 1999-2000 season. He illustrates that exciting basketball can be played in front of crowds that can be as small as 1,000 and that rivalries such as Lafayette-Lehigh can be just as intense as those played by colleges in major conferences on national television. But Feinstein's intent is to do more than just provide details about the year's important games; he uses the Patriot League as an example of "what college sports are supposed to be about." Feinstein maintains that the conference's members are among the few colleges that can call their players 'student-athletes' with a straight face. Patriot League colleges hold athletes to rigorous entrance and academic standards and most scholarships are offered on a need-basis (although some schools are giving a limited number of basketball scholarships). Moreover, players regularly attend class since they are smart enough to know that there is little chance they will be playing ball at the professional level after graduation. Feinstein's portraits of these players and their coaches, his exploration of why they stay in the game and their encounters playing against soon-to-be-pro athletes of other teams bring an unusual emotional depth to this accountDwhich, like Feinstein's earlier books, should make a run toward, or on, the lists. (Nov.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 394 pages
  • Publisher: Little Brown and Company; 1st edition (November 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316277010
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316277013
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.5 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (90 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #913,971 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

John Feinstein spent years on the staff at the Washington Post, as well as writing for Sports Illustrated and the National Sports Daily. He is a commentator on NPRs "Morning Edition," a regular on ESPNs "The Sports Reporters" and a visiting professor of journalism at Duke University.His first book, A Season on the Brink, is the bestselling sports book of all time. His first book for younger readers, Last Shot, was a bestseller.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I bought the book because I'm a Lafayette alum, and wanted to read an account of the season that they ultimately won. While the partisan in me loved reading about Lafayette's trip to the NCAA tournament, I thoroughly enjoyed the information about each of the teams and the players at each school. Feinstein has a gift for finding the numerous stories inside the story - and The Last Amateurs is no exception. You'll get to know the students, their coaches, their challenges, and the numerous successes.
The Last Amateurs detalis a league untainted by shoe contracts, agents, and TV money. It looks at true student athletes, most of whom will play their last basketball game when the Patriot League season ends their senior year.
This was a fantastic book. Definitely worth a read.
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Format: Hardcover
John Feinstein transports us to a world where in which Division I college basketball players care more about their grade point averages than points per game and are more likely to discuss the latest public utterances of Dick Cheney than Dick Vitale. It is a place where the players are all smarter than the vast majority of college students but must still work hard at thier studies-- regardless of their on-court skills. Best of all, this is not a world cleverly imagined by a gifted satirist, but rather the Patriot League as chronicled by an insightful observer.
In detailing a season where there are no television millions, agents, shoe contracts, recruiting violations, NBA scouts, or academic scandals, the reader is rewarded with a book that deals solely with college basketball, its players, coaches, fans, and rivalries. As such, it is the best book about college hoops, or for that matter college sports, that I've ever read. It's a must read for the cynical, the jaded, or merely those who love a great sports story.
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Format: Hardcover
The basketball playing Patriot League consisting of teams from Army, Navy, Lafayette, Lehigh, Bucknell, Holy Cross, and Colgate has a few features unique to most Division 1 leagues in this era of big time college basketball. There are no big bucks national TV contracts, Dick Vitale doesn't hyperventilate over the awesome talents of its athletes, the academic standards are high, and the players actually graduate. Yet the competition within the league is intense and the level of play is surprisingly good. While there are no national champions here, the athletes who play for the love of the competition and the game do get a chance to meet with the "big boys" on occasion. The winner of the league receives an invitation to the NCAA Tournament (where they are usually ousted in the first round) and big time teams are sprinkled throughout the schedules. This year, for example, Penn State, Syracuse, Duke, Arizona State, Texas, and Wake Forest show up among the opponents. John Feinstein takes us on an extended guided tour of the league, its athletes, coaches, and administators and gives us an inside look at college basketball as close to it roots as it gets these days.
This is a nicely told tale of the fight to win the league's championship and its only bid to the NCAA Tournament. Its nice to read about athletes going all out to win even though the arenas may be small and the crowds might sometimes number in the hundreds rather than thousands. Caution though, Feinstein includes so much detail, so many names, and so many events that the reader may have a tendency to suffer from information overload. Nevertheless, this is a refreshing look at another aspect of collegiate competition.
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Format: Hardcover
In "The Last Amateurs" (a title that sounds like it could be a Bruce Willis film title), author John Feinstein ("A Good Walk Spoiled" and "The Majors" to name a few), returns to his true love, college basketball. In revisiting a subject that he last broached in his "expose'" of Bobby Knight and the Indiana Hoosiers in "Season on the Brink", Feinstein proves very quickly that this book is a labor of love and that he is indeed a true fan of the sport.
His subject matter is the 1999-2000 basketball season of Patriot League members, Navy, Lafayette, Lehigh, Army, Bucknell, Colgate, and Holy Cross. Although I consider myself a serious fan of college basketball, I must admit, I knew very little about this league or its teams until reading this book. Having grown up a fan of Big Ten basketball, I'm not sure I could have identified the states, let alone the cities, that these Patriot League teams called "home". And, while I was certainly recognized the names of the league best known coaches, Ralph Willard and Don Devoe, the rest of the leagues coaches and players toiled away in basic anominity.
Feinstein changed all that.
His description of the dedication and effort that these teams put forth every year, with little national recognition, was intriguing. He drove you to get to know these players and coaches better. And, along the way, gave the reader a vision of what college basketball (and athletics) should really be about - working toward graduation and playing for your school's pride (instead of playing to impress NBA scouts). This is the purist's view of college basketball and it was refreshing to read!
I would encourage any fan of college athletics to give this book a try.
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