Games of Deception: The True Story of the First U.S. Olympic Basketball Team at the 1936 Olympics in Hitler's Germany

by Andrew Maraniss

An example of nonfiction writing at its finest combines a brief history of basketball... read more

An example of nonfiction writing at its finest combines a brief history of basketball and how it became an Olympic sport with the ethical issues surrounding the U. S. team’s decision to participate in the 1936 Olympics in Munich, Germany. There are so many fascinating threads here in a narrative that combines sports action, politics, and ethics: the organization of amateur sports teams and how they competed; how Avery Brundage, the anti-Semitic head of the U. S. Olympic Committee, worked in both in the United States and Germany to help ensure the United States would participate in these games; how the Olympics were, in the title’s term, a “deception”—meant to showcase German power, rather than international sportsmanship and unity, and how activities behind the scenes, as well as the up-front militaristic might on display by the Germans, were warning signs of things to come. Maraniss is not subtle at all—that isn’t his intent—but he never loses sight of the basketball narrative, which included a gold medal game between the United States and Canada, played in pouring rain on a muddy court; the ball was so slippery players could hardly hold on. U. S. player Sam Balter (who was Jewish and had debated whether to go) described the final as a “hilarious travesty.” (Age 11 and older)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2020

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