Review: Tigerland


Tigerland: 1968-1969: A City Divided, A Nation Torn Apart, and a Magical Season of HealingWil Haygood. New York: Knopf, (Forthcoming September 18), 2018.

Summary: The story of the 1968-69 East High School Tigers championship basketball and baseball teams at a black high school in segregated Columbus, Ohio during the tumultuous aftermath of the killing of Martin Luther King, Jr.

I’m a Columbus, Ohio transplant, and like many, know little of the city’s history, even sports history, beyond Ohio State football. But I love history, and sports, and so when Wil Haygood’s new book on the legendary East High School Tiger basketball and baseball teams came up for review, I snagged a copy.

Columbus, Ohio in 1968 had a segregated school system. And it was far from equal. Facilities, text books, and sports facilities at black East High School were inferior to other schools. The death of Martin Luther King, Jr. hit the community hard. King had preached regularly at Union Grove Baptist Church. What would happen among the students in the high school that was the centerpiece of that community?

This book tells the story of the leadership of three men at East High School. Jack Gibbs was the black principal of the school, Bob Hart, the white basketball coach, and Paul Pennell, the white baseball coach. All three were marked by a deep concern for their students and players, and their families. Gibbs tirelessly advocated for the school, and even found a way to transport families to the basketball championship against Canton McKinley. Both coaches recognized the raw talent of the black athletes and convinced them they could be champions.

The book also is a narrative of the championship season of each team, divided into Part One for the basketball team, and Part Two for the baseball team. Two of the basketball players, Eddie “the Rat” Ratleff and Bo Pete Lamar were later college All-Americans in the same year and Ratleff played on the 1972 U.S. Olympic team. Personal stories of the players mix with game accounts leading up to the state championships for each team (Ratleff played on both). He tells us the story of the subsequent lives of a number of these figures–both good and painful.

Haygood, who has written biographies of Thurgood Marshall, Sammy Davis, Sugar Ray Robinson, and Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. and a family memoir on growing up in Columbus, brings his knowledge of the city and the history of race in the U.S. together in this work. He sets the story of the Tigers against backdrop of the racial segregation in the city, including the court ruling by Black judge Robert Duncan, upheld in the Supreme Court desegregating Columbus schools. He narrates a challenged, yet vibrant Black community centered around churches, the schools, and Mt Vernon Avenue businesses. He weaves enough of the national history in–from King to Jackie Robinson to give context.

There is a tendency on the part of some to want to isolate sports from the issues of race in our country. There is also a tendency to focus our discourse on race at a national level and forget that real progress has to find expression in each of our local contexts. Heygood weaves sport and racial history together, as well as the challenges we face as a nation and the possibilities in our local communities. He makes us consider who will be the Jack Gibbs, the Bob Hart, the Paul Pennell of our day.


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.


Repost: Both-And by Rich Nathan (A Review)

Last year local Columbus pastor Rich Nathan authored what I thought an outstanding vision for how a Christian communities might transcend the either-or polarities that are tearing our country apart. What he wrote seems to me no less relevant, and perhaps even more, a year later.

* * * * *

both-andI live in Columbus, the city in which Vineyard Columbus ministers but am not a part of this congregation, the largest congregation in the Vineyard movement and in central Ohio. The work of Vineyard Columbus is regularly featured on our local news outlets, and it is not in images of angry protesters with a hateful message but rather images of people serving throughout our community in the name of Christ. The congregation sponsors a community center providing free medical and legal assistance and other services to local residents and has planted at least 24 churches in central Ohio and around the world.

This book, authored by their senior pastor, Rich Nathan, with the assistance of Insoo Kim, pastor of ministry strategies, helps explain the vision of this church, which so many have found so attractive. In brief, Nathan calls this a “both-and” church in an either-or world tired of the kind of polarization we see in our politics and civic life. Nathan believes that the Christian message holds in a creative tension the polarities that often divide us.

The book is organized around a series of both-and polarities that Vineyard Columbus seeks to hold together and commends to other churches. Nathan describes an identity that is both evangelical and charismatic. He speaks of a community that enjoys unity and a racial diversity that matches the diversity of our city. He articulates the church’s concern and activity around both showing mercy and pursuing justice. The church pursues its mission through both proclamation and demonstration of the gospel. He challenges his congregation to holiness in both its personal and social ethics. He expresses the church’s kingdom vision in terms of both the miraculous works which might already be sought and the final transformation of our lives and world yet to be hoped for. He concludes with calling the church to both relevant practice (orthopraxy) and orthodox doctrine.

Each chapter includes personal stories and illustrations from Vineyard Columbus ministry and the author’s personal life. At the same time, Nathan writes with a lawyerly (he was an attorney and law professor before becoming Vineyard Columbus’s pastor) carefulness on key doctrinal issues of our day. For example, to the contention that opening leadership in the church to women leads to opening leadership to those engaged in same-sex relationships, he observes a key distinction rarely noted in these discussions between roles, which are culturally determined, as in the case of women, and behaviors which carry moral implications that are trans-cultural.

This example also underscores how this will not be a book that those wedded to an either-or view of reality will embrace. Nathan speaks both of the loving acceptance their church shows all who seek services in their community center and all who come to the church and of the church’s uncompromising call to things like sexual integrity and its decision to only appoint leaders and pastors who exemplify that integrity. Similarly, in another place, Nathan both speaks critically of our nation’s militarism and warmly of those who serve in the military.

My sense is that we like to define the world in either-or terms because it makes life seemingly simpler. However, what we miss is that in doing so, it also makes life smaller and leaves no way to include those who think differently. One of the most delightful aspects of this book were the repeated instances where Nathan shows how this “both-and” thinking brings us into a far richer reality than the “either-or”. Here’s one example, from his section on both evangelical and charismatic:

“If we emphasize the Word without the Spirit, we dry up. If we emphasize the Spirit without the Word, we blow up. If we hold the Word and the Spirit together, we grow up….

“The most exciting aspect of the Both-And marriage of evangelical and charismatic Christianity is the bringing together of evangelicals’ historic focus–the salvation of the lost–with the charismatic power to get the job done.”

Are you one of those like me who tires of being presented with the polarities of “either this, or this” in the church or in the culture and wonder, is there a third option? If so, you will find this book helpful in casting a vision of a different paradigm and as well as an explanation of the powerful ministry Vineyard Columbus has had in its host city.

First posted here on August 7, 2014

Bookstore Crawling in Columbus

[Note: This post was updated April 23, 2019 with info about store closures, moves, and an actual upcoming bookcrawl on April 27, 2019]

I’ve heard of wine-tasting tours, gallery hops and pub crawls in Columbus, Ohio. I’ve yet to hear of a bookstore crawl in Columbus and I’m kind of wondering when the booksellers around here will get their stuff together to pull one off. Searching online, I found a San Francisco Bookstore and Chocolate Crawl, a London book crawl, a blog post about book crawling in Houston, a Literary Crawl in Nevada, a Cambridge book crawl (a GREAT place for a bookstore crawl), and more.

B & N

Barnes and Noble Easton Town Center

But I think we have the makings for a great bookstore crawl in Greater Columbus. I would have no problem spending a day visiting some of the great bookstores in our area. So I’ve come up with my own book crawl itinerary. In some cases, there are multiple outlets for some stores and I’ve chosen a favorite out of these. Since I live on the north end of the city, I’ll start there and work my way south.

1. Barnes and Noble Easton Town Center. This is probably the biggest and classiest Barnes and Noble in the city and if you were to go to one retail outlet for new books, this is it. Biggest danger here is being distracted by all the other boutiques in this trendy shopping district.

Village Bookshop

Village Bookshop

2. Village Bookshop2424 W Dublin Granville Rd Columbus, OH 43235‎. This is a used and remaindered bookstore located in an old church building, with both first and second floors. You can ramble from room to room, from sections of children’s books, to a table of biographies, to sections of American, world, and military history (including a great selection of military prints) to literature, philosopy, fiction, and much more. Update April 2019: This store is now closed.

3. Cover to Cover Books for Young Readers, 3560 N High St, Columbus, OH 43214. I have to admit that I’ve never visited this indie bookstore focused on children’s books but they’ve been around a long time and must be doing something right. The pictures on their website suggest this is a delightful place for children! Update April 2019: This store has moved to an Upper Arlington location.

4. Karen Wickliff Books, 3527 N. High St., Columbus , Ohio 43214. They claim to be the oldest and largest used bookstore in Columbus. This is the place to go for out of print, scholarly, and collectible books. I’ve found their religion section among the best of any used bookstore I’ve visited.

5. Half Price Books, 1375 W. Lane Ave. Columbus, Ohio 43221. Half Price Books is a national chain of used and remaindered books, music, and video. I’ve been to all their Columbus locations and think this is the best (though we like them all!). It’s located just west of Ohio State, and because of this has a bit more academic selection of books including a great section of $1 and $2 books.

6. Acorn Bookshop, 1464 West 5th Avenue, Columbus, OH 43212. Even the entrance to their website is fun and what makes this store, located in Grandview, to the west of Ohio State, is the effort all the booksellers make to know their customers and how much they love bookselling. George Bauman is co-owner and has been bookselling for 50 years. On one visit, I met Norman Knapp, who “Norman-izes” their books which includes cleaning, repairing, and on books with dust jackets, putting a protective plastic sleeve like libraries use to protect the book. Make sure to go down to the basement, which has more extensive selections in all the categories you find upstairs. [Update: Acorn Books closed its doors in March 2018 after 25 years of bookselling.]

The Book Loft

The Book Loft

7. The Book Loft, 631 South Third Street, Columbus, OH 43206. This store, in the heart of German Village, can be entered from a brick walkway lined with flowers along the side of the building. The store consists of a series of rooms on a couple levels and you will want to print out or pick up a store directory.

Read It Again Books and Gifts

Read It Again Books and Gifts

8. Read it Again Books, 4052 Broadway, Grove City, Ohio. This is a charming used bookstore off the beaten path a bit on the southwest side of Columbus in Grove City’s renovated downtown district. The booksellers have expanded their hours recently and have great selections of the latest fiction as well as a broad selection of children’s books, history, biography and cookbooks (one of which we bought on our last visit there). What impressed me was how they worked with children in the store to find “just the right book.” Update April 2019: This store is now closed.

Columbus is a great place for booklovers. I’ve probably missed some good places and would love for my Columbus friends to add to the list in the comments. And if you are visiting town this summer and love books, I hope this might help you plan your own bookstore crawl.

[Update: Gramercy Books in Bexley opened in January of 2017, the first retail independent to open in Columbus in 20 years. For more information, read my review of the store.]

April 2019: Several new stores have opened in the Columbus market since 2015. Six stores are hosting a book crawl April 27, 2019. Here is a publicity graphic:FB_IMG_1556038889368


Rockin’ With the Oldies

We had the pleasure last night of doing something we have not done for a long time–going to a popular music concert. We were treated by friends to a Neil Diamond Concert at Ohio State’s Schottenstein Center (a very nice treat indeed!).

Neil Diamond was definitely a blast from my past. As something of a loner as a teenager, I identified with his early hit (1966) Solitary Man (one he didn’t sing at the concert). There was that string of hits that followed: Cherry, Cherry, Kentucky Woman, Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show, and, of course, Sweet Caroline (long before it became popular as the theme song of Red Sox Nation, and a fixture at sporting events across the country).

We heard all those songs as well as newer ones I wasn’t familiar with including Pretty Amazing Grace and a love song off his most recent album, dedicated to his third wife. Diamond was on his game all the way to the end when he sang his anthem, “America”. It was a walk down memory lane, as we thought about where we were when we heard these songs first, and sang them again in our minds or out loud (amazing how you can remember these words).

What also struck me from the moment we were lining up to enter the arena was, compared to my concert memories, this crowd was by and large, much older. Then to my chagrin, it occurred to me, so am I! I look like these people.

I’ve seen this phenomenon before, mostly on all those PBS shows bringing back performers from the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s to sing their big hits. And — you guessed it — the audience looks like me. And one thinks, how did this happen — weren’t we just twenty-two? Truth is, I think many of us still think of ourselves this way at times, only to get rudely awakened in the mirror, or when our bodies remind us that twenty-two is way in the rear view mirror.

I found myself musing at points about what this is all about and I had several thoughts:

  • This is simply a wistful trip down memory lane.
  • It’s one more chance (in my case my first chance) to see a music idol from our youth.
  • It’s an inspiration to see someone as old or older than we are (Diamond is 74) looking and singing and moving so well. There’s hope for the rest of us.

But I was also struck that for both him and for us, there is an element in these concerts of tracing the arc of our lives and summing them up. One of Diamond’s songs traced his childhood roots back in Brooklyn (complete with video from old family movies), the sweetness of youth, and the sense that many of these places are no longer what they once were. His songs trace a life of love, and heartbreak, and hope and sometimes, alienation (I am, I said), and redemption. As we listen to the arc of Diamond’s life, it prompts us to think of the arc of our own. And with all the ups and downs, I found myself thinking as we responded to Sweet Caroline that it has been “so good, so good, so good.”

And that is a gift that will endure beyond this evening.

What the Republicans Are Missing! [Update–The Democrats are as Well!]

"Columbus-ohio-skyline-panorama". Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Columbus-ohio-skyline-panorama“. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Gotcha! You were thinking this was a political post–even a rant! No, I just wanted to talk about what I thought the Republicans will miss since they have decided not to have their convention in MY HOMETOWN! I love Columbus and think they would have as well. Here are some of the things they are missing:

1. Jeni’s Ice Cream. Yeah, I know you can get Jeni’s in other cities, but in Columbus, you can get it as soon as you get off the plane at Port Columbus. And you can visit the original Jeni’s in the Short North, just up the street from the Convention Center. Recently rated the best ice cream in the country in one ranking.

2. The Short North. This is a great collection of eateries, galleries and shops, again, just up the street from the Convention Center. Admittedly, probably a bit avant garde for Tea Partiers.

3. The North Market and its great collection of 30+ vendors of a variety of foods, most grown locally.

4. The Arena District. Lots of restaurants adjacent to downtown hotels, Nationwide Arena, a cinema and downtown apartments. This is one city where lots of people live downtown!

5. Huntington Park and the Clippers. OK, we are not a major league baseball town. But Huntington Park, in the Arena District, was rated the best minor league ball park in the country the year it opened. It is a truly great place to spend a summer evening at reasonable prices. And it is great baseball without the big league crowds!

6. The Ohio Statehouse. Frank Lloyd Wright loved its Greek Revival architecture, it went through a wonderful restoration in the last decade or so, there are free, informative tours, and actually a great museum shop in the political hub of Ohio.

7. COSI. COSI (Center of Science and Industry) is one of the best hands-on science museums in the country. Kids love it and parents will learn a thing or two. Also conveniently located downtown.

8. German Village. This is a historically preserved, and revitalized community of brick homes, brick streets, restaurants and other attractions just south of downtown Columbus. My book-loving friends would love The Book Loft where you can meander through 32 rooms of bargain books.

9. The Ohio State University. Summer is a great time to wander around Ohio State. The Wexner Center for the Arts is interesting both for its architecture and for the various shows of contemporary art they host. They also have a summer film series.

10. The Columbus Zoo. This is the zoo that Jack Hanna made famous on David Letterman that was voted Number One Zoo in America a few years back. On a hot day, there is also Zoombezi Bay where you can cool off.

I’m literally just getting started. Columbus is not only a great place to live but also a great place to visit. We are not a “hub” airport and don’t have light rail (the two biggest objections I’ve heard to hosting a convention here). The lack of hub status means several airlines compete for your business which often means low fares, and it is easy via rental or cab to get downtown in ten minutes from the airport, or most anywhere else in under 30 minutes most of the time.  Well, I hear the Democrats are still considering us… [Update one year later: can you believe it–the Democrats gave up all this to go to Philadelphia!]

Ten Things Columbus People Do When Snow is Forecast


It snowed in Columbus yesterday. For days we saw forecasts of 4-8 inches of snow. When I cleaned my walks after the snow, we had maybe an inch on the walk, two inches on the grass. Not a big deal, which made me reflect on the snow insanity that grips our city in comparison with other cities I’ve lived in.

I grew up in northeast Ohio and lived for nine years on the east side of Cleveland in the snowbelt. Our first year there we had 100 inches of snow at the airport (which is not in the snowbelt) which means we probably had 200 inches. Whenever it snowed, it seemed like we had at least six inches. And this happened a good deal. Life just went on. At a foot, life slowed down. Once, we had at least eight inches of snow but a final exam I had to take while working on a Masters at a downtown university was not cancelled–I studied, dug out, drove downtown, took the exam, drove back in the snow, and shoveled some more!  There was a T-shirt being sold at that time showing the Cleveland skyline buried in snow with the caption: Cleveland–You’ve Got to Be Tough!

I think the T-shirt for Columbus would show two snowflakes over the city skyline and have the caption: Winter Storm: Be Afraid–Be Very Afraid! Here are some of the things people do in Columbus when snow is forecast or is falling:

1. Go on a grocery shopping frenzy. The night before the storm the Kroger’s near us was packed–even the outlots were full. You would think people were stocking up for the blizzard of ’78! [That was a real snow storm!]

2. Watch every weather forecast, check the Weather Channel and get really scared, because the forecasts always seem so drastic. It makes for good ratings, though!

3. Clean out the local hardware of shovels, salt and snow-blowers.

4. Cancel school, sometimes before there is any snow on the ground. Yesterday, a number of schools did this and at 3 pm the snow was barely sticking to streets and sidewalks.

5. Related to this, if you live in Columbus and have kids, you make a morning ritual of checking out school closings. Even if you think “aw, this is nothing” the schools might not. Once, went to drop my son off at school when it had snowed an inch and realized NO ONE was around and that school was cancelled. That’s when the ritual began.

6. Columbus drivers in snow do one of two things: either drive at posted speeds and leave no room between them and the driver in front of them or they creep along at a crawl.  Most of us who grew up in snowy areas aren’t afraid to drive in the snow, but we live in terror of natives who haven’t a clue what they are doing!

7. On a related note, Columbus newscasts always run stories on the “snow warriors”–all the snow plows out to keep our streets clear. Freeways maybe, surface streets not so much, neighborhoods, almost never. Columbus residents always complain about snow removal, but it never affects an election unlike snow-belt communities.

8. When it snows, kids run out and build a snowman–you never know when you will get another chance! Often the result of this is a snowman in the midst of a green lawn because you used all the snow to build it!

9. If you are a student at Ohio State and it is the week of the Michigan game, you jump into Mirror Lake. Even if the temps are below freezing and snow is flying. Even with 10,000 other inebriated students.

10. You borrow, rent, or cue up online enough movies to last you a month.

What do you do when Snowmageddon threatens your community?