Bronze Medal, Sports, 2017 Independent Publisher Book Awards
Will lightning ever strike twice? Can David beat Goliath a second time? These questions haunt everyone in the small town of Milan, Indiana, whose basketball team inspired Hoosiers, the greatest underdog sports movie ever made. From a town of just 1,816 residents, the team remains forever an underdog, but one with a storied past that has them eternally frozen in their 1954 moment of glory. Every ten years or so, Milan has a winning season, but for the most part, they only manage a win or two each year. And still, perhaps because it’s the only option for Milan, the town believes that the Indians can rise again. Bill Riley follows the modern day Indians for a season and explores how the Milan myth still permeates the town, the residents, and their high level of expectations of the team. Riley deftly captures the camaraderie between the players and their coach and their school pride in being Indians. In the end, there are few wins or causes for celebration—there is only the little town where basketball is king and nearly the whole town shows up to watch each game. The legend of Milan and Hoosiers is both a blessing and a curse.
|Bill Riley tells a very compelling story about the small town of Milan, Indiana where residents still believe in the message of Hoosiers, the movie, and the mythologizing that has surrounded Milan since the school won the Indiana state basketball championship in 1954. Riley is an excellent author to explore the subject, having grown up in Indiana with a heartfelt love of basketball and a long held belief in the Milan Miracle.The accomplishments of a group of young men in 1953-1954 forever put Milan on both the Hoosier and national basketball maps. Numerous authors have revisited Milan to contrast its' current condition with those of the 1950’s, but none have quite honestly captured the full view of what Bill Riley relays in The Milan Miracle. Despite a glorious past, things aren’t quite so glamorous for the Milan Indians these days.For a game that is so centered around arcs and geometry, numbers and statistics, there is a permeating mythos that transcends through the game of basketball--of shots that go in from impossible angles, dead spots on the floor, ghosts in the rafters. Riley's book is an examination of what happens when the odds are defied: instead of the game being forever changed, the anomaly resets--that sometimes instead of focusing on the outlier, there is beauty and fascination found in the status quo; the consistency of layup lines, the players and coaches scrapping to break even.Here's a book that reveals something about what makes a young man keep playing for a team that he suspects will most likely lose its next game, while introducing us to a coach who tries to right the ship while knowing the same thing. This is a story about losing, but it's not about losers. It's about grit, and getting back up.This book takes us to the small town that inspired Hoosiers, that Hollywood crowd pleaser to measure the burden of a once and former glory. In mellifluous prose, Riley shows us that it takes as much humility as grit and determination to live under the shadow of a nearly sixty-year-old sports legend. Riley shows us that the real drama of sports less often lies in the last-minute shot than in the long run of acceptance of circumstances that are usually beyond our control.In this mesmerizing book about hope, dreams and community, Bill Riley creates an unforgettable portrait of tiny Milan, IN, a town sliding into poverty and lost illusions but still carried by the memory of one long-ago championship season. Writing with steely honesty, rich empathy and deep intelligence, Riley explores the heartland of contemporary America and tests the endurance of a particularly American dream.Bill Riley's carefully observed and often lyrical book makes us feel what's at stake for the players, coaches, and families of 21st century Milan. We're given access to the sounds and sights of the small town gym: those strangely beautiful and often struggling cathedrals of Indiana's state religion. And we watch as the town and team work to forge a new identity while shadowboxing with the mythology of the miracle of Milan. This book is an important addition to the literature of basketball.
CommentsThere are currently no reviewsWrite a review on this title.
Table of Contents
Measurements and Priorities
Growing Up Milan
We Ask For a Chance That’s Fair
Working For Free
Games Within the Game
Change For the Nice Boys
The Milan Everyone Expects
Both Lion and Lamb