Games of Deception by Andrew Maraniss is a meld of writing styles, mixing poetry and prose, and covers a large swath of history, beginning in the inter-war period and going through the Nazi régime; the story focuses on the history of basketball and its role in the 1936 Olympics, held in Berlin. The book is well-researched, delving into social issues and cultural concerns of the time; it includes the inspiring story of the inception of basketball and its development, from peach baskets on ten foot poles in a YMCA in Springfield, Massachusetts, to its role in the 1936 Olympics. The book’s focus is very specific, giving a behind-the-scenes view of basketball and its players, both before and after the Olympics, as well as the two faces Berlin exhibited during the games.
Maraniss depicts in detail the charade of the host city toward its international visitors, and its treatment of the Olympiads as the country geared up for wide-scale discrimination and war. The hypocrisy is described as “as subtle as a peacock.” The text includes many examples of the lives of everyday Americans as they prepared for the Olympics, performed during the Olympics, and after the games were over. The lives of Jews and Jewish athletes during this time, and the effect of the rise of Hitler is also highlighted and developed. The presentation includes numerous quotes and photographs.
Geared to young adult readers, Games of Deception deserves a spot on the shelves. It will inspire basketball enthusiasts to visit the “Basketball Hall of Fame” in Springfield, Massachusetts. This is a well-researched and well-documented historical text, and with factual materials included in the back of the book to illustrate timelines and listings of the All-Time Olympic Basketball Results which graphically support the story.
Dina Weinstein is a Richmond, Virginia-based writer.