Jon Hart is not a professional athlete. His one major sports victory is a world championship in roller basketball, which is basketball on in-line skates. More than ten years ago, he started pursuing his own bucket list and embarked on a hilarious and insightful journey into the furthest reaches of the sports world.
Man versus Ball follows Hart’s adventures around the country as he undertakes new missions, often with unexpected results. He becomes a pro wrestler, learning “fake” moves that all but land him in the hospital after a body slam went awry. He plays an entire season for a championship semipro football team, suits up as a U.S. Open ball boy for three years, and is an “amateur caddie” for a Professional Golfers’ Association tournament. After attending mascot school, he performs in a neon gorilla suit in front of several thousand fans at a minor league hockey game. He works as a vendor at several venues around the country, hawking concessions while fending off drunken fans. He even earns a bit of glory for himself, leading his roller basketball league in rebounds for two consecutive seasons. Feeling confident, he takes part in the World Cup of roller soccer, which is soccer on in-line skates. All this prepares him for his moment of truth: a race up the 1,576 stairs of the Empire State Building.
A George Plimpton–style excursion into the athletic unknown, Man versus Ball will delight and inspire readers who have secretly yearned to cross fun items off their life’s to-do list.
"A good, quick read for those of you who would like a first-hand account of what it's like to be part of the "very edge" sports world."—Mighty Quinn Media Machine
"A great book for readers who enjoy sports stories off the field of play and for those who enjoy humor or comedy."—Lance Smith, sportsbookguy.blogspot.com
"One of the most unique and consistently entertaining things I've read recently."—Craig Manning, Independent Publisher
"A New York writer with a unique love for all things sports, Jon Hart's book Man Versus Ball: One Ordinary Guy And His Extraordinary Sports Adventures takes the reader on his personal journey exploring the world of sports in a way that has not been attempted since the days of George Plimpton, in the 1970s. . . . He is an excellent storyteller with a keen eye for detail. In the end, he succeeds in showing a side of sports that few people ever notice. A human side, far from the bright lights and glory one associates with sports. Man Versus Ball is a good read, and one that would make a great gift for any lover of sports."—George Fosty, Box Score News
"Man Versus Ball is a raucous rollick along the frayed fringes of the sports world, where I think Hart finds more real-ness than you typically encounter in real professional sports."—Blogging Joggler
“Humane, heartbreaking and at times hilarious, here are stories of watching everything go sideways on your biggest days and still finding hope by surprise. This book will turn your definition of winners upside down.”—DAN KENNEDY, author of American Spirit and host of The Moth Storytelling podcast
“I would never buy a stadium hot dog from Jon Hart. But I would buy his book. It’s not made from random animal parts, and more important: it’s funny.”—A. J. JACOBS, author of The Year of Living Biblically and The Guinea Pig Diaries
“Jon Hart took me so far behind the scenes on his ridiculous and compelling journey that it changed the way I think about sports. From the zany vendors at Shea Stadium to the fierce competition at the U.S. Open ball boy tryouts to the humiliating injuries he suffered at wrestling school and beyond, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cringe—and often did both.”—ZACK HAMPLE, author of Watching Baseball Smarter and The Baseball
“Man versus Ball gives a raw insider’s glimpse at big-time sports from the little man’s perspective. It takes us on a delightfully strange journey to the basement of The House That Ruth Built, the clod-studded fields of a semi-pro football team, and the sweat-soaked interior of a pink gorilla mascot suit. As funny as he is perceptive, Jon Hart would make Plimpton proud.”—ALFRED RYAN NERZ, author of Marijuanamerica: One Man’s Quest to Understand America’s Dysfunctional Love Affair with Weed
“In Man versus Ball, Jon Hart takes on some of the most indomitable balls since Lucille. You’ll be very glad he did.”—HENRY ALFORD, author of Would It Kill You to Stop Doing That?: A Modern Guide to Manners
“A fun, daring, and beautiful journey, Man Versus Ball delivers us into the fringes of American sports, where people still play for the love of the game, suit up even when no one’s watching, keep going because they believe. There is humanity in every one of these adventures, which is to say that Jon Hart has written about more than sports; he has written about secret dreams.”—ROBERT KURSON, author of Shadow Divers
“Not to give Man versus Ball away, but Ball wins. But it doesn’t stop Hart—with all his heart, humor, and neuroticism—from going back to Ball. It’s a love story that hasn’t been told since Tom Hanks in Castaway. But this is much, much better.”—JOEL STEIN, author of Man Made: A Stupid Quest for Masculinity
"An enjoyable, funny, and engaging read."—Sport in American History
"Man Versus Ball is helpful to remind us that sports in America has more facets to it than meets the eye."—Keith Aksel, Tattered Pennant