In Playing Piano in a Brothel, author Terry Frei follows up on '77: Denver,
the Broncos and a
Coming of Age.
As he did in '77 and
earlier books, Frei combines reporting, historical research,
memoir, and opinion, taking readers behind the scenes of some very high-profile
events and settings as he displays
his abilities to observe, to explore, and,
perhaps most important, to listen.
As the son of a longtime major
college and National Football League coach,
Frei has a unique perspective of an observer of sports from several angles.
Here, he opens with
a blunt and unsparing assessment of the state
of contemporary sports journalism that might cause some in his business to
wince, but many to nod in emphatic agreement. After establishing
Frei discusses his experiences and the diverse characters he has encountered
since he was a green
sportswriter during that initial Broncos season of glory in
1977. From football, those figures include 2010 Hall of Fame inductees Jerry
Rice and Emmitt Smith; the father-son combination of Jack and John Elway;
and renowned college
coaches Lou Holtz and Nick Saban. In a section that
follows up on his Third Down and a War to Go, Frei tells the story of two
War II-era college football teams whose players met on
the field, then went off to serve -- many
of them in combat, many of them
heroically, andone of them as a trailblazing member of the Tuskegee Airmen.
Frei's remembrance of being caught in the 1989 World Series Earthquake,
and especially the characters he encountered in San Francisco in the ensuing
days of chaos, will touch readers. His visits to minor-league baseball
outposts -- one,a hardscrabble mining
town, the other the childhood home
of one of American's renowned novelists -- also
echo with a love for the sport.
He also is the rare writer who has extensively covered both the NBA and NHL,
and he includes his
reflectionsand experiences while chronicling the superstars
and even the controversial incidents in those
leagues. A frequent visitor to
world title fights, Frei takes readers into the ring with such boxing legends as
Muhammad Ali, Larry Holmes, Mike Tyson, Ray Leonard, Marvin Hagler, and
Thomas Hearns. And he goes behind the scenes of several Olympic Games,
where he encountered gold medallists, recreational-caliber skiers just hoping
to stay on the course, and even a Catalonian woman who tended
to her beloved
stray cats in a famous park as the marathon passed her by.
Ultimately, Playing Piano
in a Brothel is an ode to sports -- and what they
still can be.