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Upon Further Review: The Greatest What-Ifs in Sports History

3.46  ·  Rating details ·  236 ratings  ·  55 reviews
From Mike Pesca, host of the popular Slate podcast The Gist, comes the greatest sports minds imagining how the world would change if a play, trade, injury, or referee's call had just gone the other way.
No announcer ever proclaimed: "Up Rises Frazier!" "Havlicek commits the foul, trying to steal the ball!" or "The Giants Lose the Pennant, The Giants Lose The Pennant!" Such
Hardcover, 308 pages
Published May 15th 2018 by Twelve
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3.46  · 
Rating details
 ·  236 ratings  ·  55 reviews

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Jul 01, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: audiobook
Enjoying alternate history discussions and the pull of organised sports, I was curious to read Mike Pesca’s collection of essays on ‘what if’ moments in sporting history. From the outset, Pesca explains, as editor, that he was not looking to have contributors focus too specifically on a single event and how that might have changed a game’s outcome, but more how an event might have led to a complete change in the sport or how the public came to accept this. Academic? To a point, but I like to thi ...more
Jill Hutchinson
Jul 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sports
Sports fans are constantly asking themselves the question, "What if...........", especially when a fumble, a missed catch, a penalty, an interception, etc made all the difference in a game or sport. This humorous book is a look at counterfactual sporting scenarios and how they might have had more effect on a sport than just a loss or win. The author assembles 31 chapters, written by sports historians, athletes, reporters, and fans, of "what ifs" and the sometimes unusual results as imagined by t ...more
Chris Jaffe
Jun 01, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: sports
This is a real hit-or-miss mixed bag of a book. I guess that makes sense given the nature of it. Pesca is the editor, not writer. He's assembled a collection of 31 pieces by various sportswriters and fans, each taking on the question of "What if" -- what if some event in sports history played out a bit differently. Some do a really good job, and others ..... really don't. Basically, the articles fall into two categories: 1) those where the writer makes a serious effort to try to seriously envisi ...more
Jul 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: blog, net-galley, sports
Not just in sports, but in many aspects of life, “what if” is a question often asked when wondering if something could have happened differently. For 31 sports occurrences, this question is answered by many authors in an entertaining book edited by Mike Pesca, who also wrote one of the stories.

Many different sports are addressed in the book, from baseball to horse racing to an obscure Olympic event, the tug of war. Most the stories make for great reading. The reader will see that there is really
Alex Abboud
Jul 14, 2018 rated it liked it
Great concept, the essays themselves are a mixed bag. Shira Springer on a hypothetical US boycott of the ‘36 Olympics was my favorite. I also enjoyed the chapters by Katie Baker, Jeremy Schaap, Peter Thomas Forntale. Louisa Thomas, Will Leitch, Michael Macambridge, and Claude Johnson, to name a few. Most readers are probably best served to pick and choose or breeze through the subjects of less interest.
Jun 07, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
As I kind of expected, I liked some of the essays more than others, because I cared about some of the sports or teams/individuals more than others. But some I really liked: “What if the United States had boycotted Hitler’s Olympics?”, “What if the 1999 U.S. women’s national soccer team had lost the women’s World Cup?” (which featured a nice twist), and especially “What if basketball rims were smaller than basketballs?”. I’ll be thinking about that last essay for a long time.
Allen Adams
May 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing

Sports fandom is a funny thing. Not only do we love talking about what happened in a given game or season or career, but we also love asking questions about all those things. Specifically … what if? What if something changed fundamentally about the games that we love? And what if those changes resulted in more changes and those changes led to still more changes and so on?

That’s the guiding force behind “Upon Further Review: The Greatest What-Ifs in Sports
Matt Ely
As several reviewers have noted, the challenge in summing up this book is its dramatic variability from essay to essay. It depends greatly on the particular interests of the reader, as many essays will be unable to capture personal interest, even if it does the service of offering sufficient context.

Still, I don't want to hold the book back too far based on its inclusion of topics that couldn't interest me anyway. It's going for breadth, and that's fine. Instead I'll note some general trends an
Ty Perrrin
Jan 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
“What if...” is a common question asked when something better or worse could have happened in a certain situation, especially in sports. Mike Pesca has taken the stories of thirty-one writers and edited them into a collection of “the greatest what-ifs in sports history”. Upon Further Review takes an in-depth analysis with many famous “what-ifs” in sports history. With no clear theme to these stories, there is a wide variety of sports ranging from baseball to horseback riding and almost every of ...more
P.e. lolo
Sep 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sports-history
The what if book of sports. That is what this book is about, the author has taken essays written by others and put together an interesting tail of what if? The United States boycotted the 1036 Olympics, would that have made more of an impression on the World to what was happening in Germany at the time, we would do it in 1980, interesting why we did not in 1936. What would have happened if the Giants did not win the pennant in 1951, the broadcast of the “Shot heard around the World”. A world ser ...more
Scott Martin
Jul 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
(Audiobook) I tend to like history and sports, and I really like counterfactual history, especially when it comes to sports...thus, this work is very much in my proverbial wheelhouse. I really enjoyed reading/listening to the various scenarios postulated in this work. Pesca compiles a work that is an entertaining mix of very realistic scenarios to some of the more whimsical and imaginative counterfactuals you could come up with in an article.

Yet, there is so much to learn and gleam from the anal
Brandon Anderson
Oct 04, 2018 rated it liked it
This is an interesting premise that needs no selling to any sports fan, since all fans wonder about the what-ifs in sports. What if X had happened? What would the effect have been, and what about the butterfly effect? The book is hit or miss. It's a big collection of essays, all by different authors, so there's no through line. Some of them are overly detailed and serious. Some are imaginative. Some are humorous, or at least meant to be. Some are by Jesse Eisenberg, for no real reason at all. Th ...more
Greg Stoll
Feb 12, 2019 rated it liked it
This book was...fine. I think I didn't appreciate it as much as I could of because I'm not a huge sports fan (plus I have a terrible memory), so a lot of the chapters were, I'm guessing, very clever about mentioning things that didn't really happen, etc. But a lot of it was lost on me.

I bought the book because I saw Jon Bois wrote a chapter, and as expected "What If Basketball Rims Were Smaller Than Basketballs?" was funny! Other chapters I particularly enjoyed were:
- "What If Billie Jean King H
Roger Smitter
Sep 28, 2018 rated it liked it
The theme of the book is an attractive: What would have happened in sports if.......? Editor Mike has Pesca has wide a wide range of sports for his contributors. The problem is one of editing. The chapters are so different in form and content that it’s difficult to find a theme.

Chapter 19 has a long !?and sometimes tedious analysis of NBA in juries.

The chapter on “what would have happened” if the Dodgers stayed in Broklyn asks a big question about urban life but.....there are too many things t
Mar 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
Are you a sports fan who likes to play the what-if game? Perhaps you've asked yourself, what if the United States had boycotted the Berlin Olympics of 1936, preventing Jesse Owens from winning five gold medals and showing up the Nazis on a global stage? What if pro football had evolved with a whole different set of rules than what we have now, of if the sport of track and field, improbable as it may seem, had somehow grown into the hot media commodity that pro basketball is today? How might the ...more
John Deardurff
As a fan of sports and of alternate history and the concept of What if... stories, I thought this would be a great read. I was actually disappointed with this collection. Of the 32 short stories, there were more misses than hits with an average of below the Mendoza line. I would have liked it to have focused on a single sport instead of dying sports like horse racing and boxing. Most disappointing is that the stories were more flight of fancy and not real What If... scenarios. For example: "What ...more
Sep 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Pesca is one of my favorite commentators/authors/podcasters. I have enjoyed his contributions to NPR news, Hang Up and Listen, (but struggle with The Gist) as well as guest appearances on Sez You and others that I can't remember anymore. It is fun to see old names of people Mike has worked with as contributors to this volume.

After realizing that I was not going to read stories similar to what if the Nazi's won the war, I settled down to read short thought experiments on counterfactuals, as Malco
Josh Cothran
Aug 29, 2018 rated it liked it
A collection of mostly so-so essays and inside jokes (if you're not already a sports fan) with the occasional flash of brilliance.

Easily the highlight of the book is "What If Football Were Reinvented Today?" - a true gem and worth the cost of the book. I truly hope this becomes the blueprint for an American pastime that causes less traumatic brain injury, especially for the thousands and thousands of young athletes who just want to play ball.

Thought-provoking honorable mentions include What If.
Jul 27, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, sports
More of a 3.5 star read, with each essay justifying its existence through at least one insightful point. Highlights include Nate Jackson's examination of how to fix professional football and Claude Johnson's extensive dive into how one play by almost-forgotten legend Nat "Sweetwater" Clifton changed the course of basketball history.

Some of the selections are slighter or one-note, and the array of writers could use greater diversity (only three women out of over 30 contributors), but anyone who e
Aug 14, 2018 rated it it was ok
Interesting premise of reimagining key events in sports history to see how things would change, but the execution is quite uneven. With so many different writers taking a swing at it, you see a variety of outcomes. I enjoyed the highly researched approach of Ben Lindbergh as he looked at how baseball would change if stery testing were implemented earlier. I also enjoyed Jesse Eisenberg's fanciful tale on how he contributed to the Phoenix Sun's loss in the NBA Finals. However, most of the efforts ...more
Kevin Larose
May 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Scott Lake
Aug 01, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
About 80% of this book is quite thought provoking as it pertains to sports and American culture and social norms and how these might be different with very simple alternate outcomes of certain plays, games seasons, etc. The other 20% is not really worth reading.

Each ‘what if?’ is written by an individual expert or not so expert author.

Perhaps the most compelling chapters to me where “What if Richard Nixon had been good at football?” and “What if MLB teams only played once per week?”
Melinda M
Aug 16, 2018 rated it liked it
Upon Further Review: The Greatest What-Ifs in Sports History by Mike Pesca as editor takes a look at the greats sports stories but turns it around. An example of the stories is what if the Untied States boycotted Hilter's Olympic which means Jess Owens would not have had his day in the sun in the 1930's. the what -if stories are interesting. It also goes to prove that one thing can make a big ripple effect.

I received a copy thru a Goodreads Giveaway.
Carianne Carleo-Evangelist
Received a copy from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

A mix of sports history and the butterfly effect. What would/could/should have happened if one thing had happened differently. Very easy to read this either cover to cover or dip into and out of as your interests fit. I didn't care for each story as some sports aren't my cup of tea, but this was an overall well written collection of hypotheticals. Great for anyone with an interest in sports.
Jul 03, 2018 rated it it was ok
Some interesting essays - but disappointed that some left me scratching my head trying to figure out what they were trying to say. Perhaps because some names were unknown to myself or my husband - hate having to Google someone that should be known based on the context - sigh. oh well. Maybe the greatest what-ifs should involve the most unknown folks - but they didn't in this collection.

Received as a Goodreads giveaway.
Mar 12, 2019 rated it liked it
Entertaining sports book, but a little uneven as each chapter is written by a different author - Pesca is simply the editor here. My favorite chapters were the ones by Jesse Eisenberg, Jonathan Hock, Nate Jackson, and Will Leitch. Not to mention Jon Bois' article, "What If Basketball Rims Were Smaller Than Basketballs?", that literally had me giggling out loud at the absurdity. Most others were at least thought-provoking and rarely boring. Solid read for a sports fan.
John Cherkas
Aug 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
Some essays and stories are compelling, others are funny, and a few are really technical and difficult to grasp for me, a non-sports person. Despite the occasional complicated pieces, most of the authors were able to write about the topics without getting too "sports-y." The social impacts of the topics made the book well worth a read.
Brakob Arthur
Feb 02, 2019 rated it did not like it
Shelves: essay, sports, abandoned
I gave up on this book after about 65 pages. It wasn't necessarily a bad book. Just not for me. I am not a big sports fan. I was mostly reading it because I heard some of the stories on The Gist and thought I'd like it more than I did. For somebody who follows sports a lot more than I do, they'll probably like it a lot more too.
David Fox
Aug 31, 2018 rated it it was ok
What a disappointment. A collection of poorly written essays. There were some mediocre ones, but most either had a complete lack of creativity or simply way too much of it. There were a bunch of "what ifs" that were far fetched. A few stories were enjoyable or informative, GRetsky, the reinvention of football. But, most just fell a little flat.
Nov 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sports
Really, this is a collection of short stories. Hit or miss - though more hit than miss. It’s great in the sense that you can just read an essay or 2, put it down, and pick up again a few days an easy, casual read. The diversity of writing styles and content ensures there is something for everyone - and you’ll learn something (likely an obscure something).
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Mike Pesca covered sports for National Public Radio for ten years. He has contributed to the Washington Post, Basketball Prospectus, Baseball Prospectus, and Inside the NFL. He is the host of Slate's daily news and opinion podcast The Gist.