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A consumer's guide to the best and worst of sports media and merchandise. Ground rules: If it can be read, played, heard, observed, worn, viewed, dialed or downloaded, it's in play here.

November 27, 2001|Lisa Dillman

What: "Alive and Kicking" by Harvey Araton

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Price: $25

It all starts so innocently.

A soccer ball for a birthday present turns into practice ... turns into one indoor team ... turns into one outdoor team ... and turns into one coed team. The new fragrance is sweat and the new colors are brown dirt and green grass.

Harvey Araton's book, "Alive and Kicking," captures the attraction (or is it addiction?), symptoms and underlying cause of the recreational soccer trend among adult women.

The movement landed in Araton's living room when his wife helped start a soccer league for women in Montclair, N.J. Some had never put on a pair of cleats, others were not even remotely acquainted with the concept of competitive sports.

Like most men, Araton was used to the idea of team play from age 8 on. His wife discovered the joy at 40:

"They were forming teams, and there was some anxiety about how sides were going to be formed," he wrote. "Beth got off the phone one night, her face atypically flush.

"'What's the matter?' I asked.

"'Lisa and Ginger want me to be on their team,' she said, referring to two of the better players. Her face was reddening, and out of the corner of her eye escaped a tear. 'No one's ever asked me to be on a team before,' she said, this childlike confession from a public relations executive and mother of two."

Araton does well to focus on the story behind the story, the personal journeys of the women. Far too many sports books get bogged down in minutiae, the mind-numbing play-by-play. He is able to capture the joy of an early practice, the muscle soreness the morning after a game and the thrill of executing a new move.

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