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 the context, 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 additional World 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,
one 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'srenowned
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
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.