Wooden & Me
by Woody Woodburn
Author's Web site:
Reviewer: Ken McAlpine
John Robert Wooden was teacher, mentor and friend to many, but few have gotten to the heart of Wooden (and, with Wooden, it’s the heart that matters) like Woody Woodburn. Woodburn’s Wooden & Me is a marriage made in writing heaven. Two men cut from the same mid-Western cloth -- woven with integrity, honesty and a need to do for others – Woodburn, a national award-winning columnist, and UCLA coaching legend Wooden forged a special bond, and a friendship that lasted over 20 years.
Woodburn first met Wooden as a youth basketball camper in 1975 and the magic begins here. But this is not a book about basketball. Wooden’s gift was to see the bigger picture, and Woodburn possesses the same gift. The end result is a book that moves and motivates and makes you care about the not-so-simple values that make this world a better place.
John Wooden’s sporting accomplishments were almost beyond belief. His won-loss record, his NCAA championship wins, we could list the numbers here, but Coach made little of these accomplishments. “What was the biggest highlight of your career?” he was once asked. “When Nellie married me,” he said. This was a man, writes Woodburn aptly, of “rare grace.” Rare grace also sums Woodburn’s prose. Wooden was larger than life because he didn’t try to be; Woodburn writes a lovely book because he has a simple, unselfish aim. “Coach helped shape my life, and grandly,” writes Woodburn. “My friendship/mentorship with him was a precious gift, one that came wrapped with a bow of responsibility to share with others the life lessons he shared with me… the best I can strive for is to pay forward in some small measure by sharing his wisdom with others…”
That Woodburn knew Wooden doesn’t distinguish him from hundreds of others: what distinguishes Woodburn is he cares about people and good things and Wooden knew this and so the two became real friends (Woodburn has a stack of letters from Coach that he keeps in a fireproof safe along with other pen-and-paper family heirlooms). Because they were real friends, Wooden & Me touches every chamber of the heart. At times the book is funny and upbeat, at times, poignant and bittersweet. Woodburn often got through his own difficult times with help, actual and inspired, from Coach, and Woodburn returned the favor. Together they raised friendship to an art.
The value of friendship, honesty, integrity and hard work, these are things that always merit reminding. Woodburn turns the lessons he learned from Wooden into lessons we can all use. “Remember, Woody,” Coach told him more than once, “good things take time – and good things should take time. Usually a lot of time.”
This book is a very a good thing.
Pre-order your copy of Wooden & Me today at http://www.woodywoodburn.com/
Woody Woodburn is a national award-winning sports columnist and currently a general interest essayist with The Ventura County Star. National recognition for Woodburn's writing includes First Place for Column Writing by the Associated Press News Executive Council; E.W. Scripps Newspapers “Columnist of the Year”; Copley News Service’s “Columnist of the Year”; and the James S. Copley “Ring of Truth” award. Woodburn's work has also appeared in The Best American Sports Writing anthology, The Sporting News, and The Los Angeles Times Op-Ed pages. In 2004 he co-authored Raising Your Child To Be A Champion In Athletics, Arts and Academics with nationally renowned speaker and coach Wayne Bryan.
About the Reviewer:
Ken McAlpine is the author of the novels Together We
Jump and FOG and the nonfiction books Off Season: Discover America
on Winter’s Shore and Islands Apart: A Year on the Edge of Civilization.
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