A fun, frenetic memoir of one of the more volatile college gridiron campaigns in recent memory.

SATURDAY RULES

A SEASON WITH TROJANS AND DOMERS (AND GATORS AND BUCKEYES AND WOLVERINES)

Attention college-football fanatics: If you couldn’t find your way to either the Golden Dome in South Bend or the Swamp in Gainesville last season, never fear, Austin Murphy (How Tough Could It Be?: The Trials and Errors of a Sportswriter Turned Stay-at-Home Dad, 2004, etc.) is here.

College football always has its share of soap-operatic story lines, but the 2006-07 season was about as gripping as it gets. It had enigmatic Coach Urban Meyer overseeing the University of Florida juggernaut, Notre Dame quarterback/golden boy Brady Quinn going through a roller-coaster senior year and the University of Southern California Trojans trying to pick up the pieces in their first post–Reggie Bush/Matt Leinart season. For these college football powers, the year had a compelling natural arc, making their parallel journeys a natural subject for a book-length memoir from an intrepid, fly-on-the-wall reporter. Enter Murphy. Once referred to by Dallas Cowboys behemoth Nate Newton as “that preppy motherf***** from Sports Illustrated,” Murphy wears his love for the sport on his sleeve (or, in this case, on the page). Rather than merely cover the season, he takes a put-the-author-into-the-story tack, a tricky approach that succeeds thanks primarily to his unabashed enthusiasm, unpretentiousness and insider access. Nothing is taken too seriously, which is exactly the way it should be; after all, it’s just a bunch of kids playing ball. The prose is loose, the reportage at times flat-out comedic—think Frank Deford meets Nick Bakay. Murphy also makes the wise choice to periodically step away from college football, reporting on Terrell Owens’s suicide attempt, professional golfers and his fellow journalists. All of which is why you don’t have to be a Trojan, or a Gator, or a Buckeye or even a college football aficionado to appreciate this book—you just have to be a sports fan.

A fun, frenetic memoir of one of the more volatile college gridiron campaigns in recent memory.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-06-137577-4

Page Count: 336

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2007

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More than just a game book of college football, The Sweet Season at the innocent appeal of sports in everyday life.

THE SWEET SEASON

A SPORTSWRITER REDISCOVERS FOOTBALL, FAMILY, AND A BIT OF FAITH AT MINNESOTA’S ST. JOHN’S COLLEGE

Sports and human interest intertwine as a man rediscovers the pureness of amateur sports as well as the joys of family life.

Journalist Murphy spends a much-needed sabbatical from his stint at Sports Illustrated by taking his family to rural Collegeville, Minnesota, in order to interact with the coach and players at St. John’s, a small Benedictine college, which happens to have the best record in college football history. Through 2000, the Johnnies have won the conference title 23 times, advanced to the national playoffs 16 times, advanced to the title game 4 times, and have won it 3 times—thanks mainly to its head coach, John Gagliardi, the NCAA’s winningest active coach (second on the all-time list to the retired Eddie Robinson) and a regional celebrity. Gagliardi is a friendly and sometimes elusive, Yoda-like coach who insists that his quarterbacks call their own plays and who hides a strategist’s mind behind an unassuming style. But besides Gagliardi, and talented players such as Tom Linnemann, it is the atmosphere of the school itself that Murphy credits with the success of the Johnnies. At first experiencing some culture shock, Murphy and his family settle into life at this place where the Benedictine monks set the reflective tone and unhurried pace. And while Murphy gets involved with the team, he also reconnects with his wife, Laura, and his two young children. With appealing humor, Murphy recounts how he acquires newfound respect for what his wife goes through on a daily basis and how, in turn, Laura sees in her husband “more of the guy she fell in love with.” The epilogue gives a brief synopsis of the 2000–01 year, when the Johnnies lost to Mount Union in the Stagg Bowl.

More than just a game book of college football, The Sweet Season at the innocent appeal of sports in everyday life.

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2001

ISBN: 0-06-019547-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2001

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A passionate, well-reported history of the role Texas football played in America’s racial integration.

THE KIDS GOT IT RIGHT

HOW THE TEXAS ALL-STARS KICKED DOWN RACIAL WALLS

Consummate sports chronicler Dent (Courage Behind the Game: The Freddie Steinmark Story, 2012, etc.) examines a transformative football event in Texas that blurred racial boundaries.

Back when sports “lacked the glitz, the megamillions, and the idolization,” one popular all-star game stole the spotlight from all other arenas: the Big 33 Football Classic. Pitting two teams of 33 high school football all-star players against each other, it was the ultimate rivalry competition. Dent begins his coverage of two pivotal incarnations of the event in 1964, as Texas bowed to Pennsylvania in a crushing 12-6 loss. The defeat enraged Texas coach Bobby Layne, a former superstar quarterback saddled with a drinking habit and relentless hubris. With the able assistance of longtime friend and former teammate Doak Walker and the approval of then-mayor John Connally, the Texas all-star team enlisted three exceptionally talented but largely ignored black players who had yet to be integrated into the Texas games: James Harris, George Dunford and Jerry “the Jet” LeVias, a beefy yet swift scholarship athlete who fought through a polio-riddled childhood to emerge a gifted athlete with the NFL. LeVias was befriended by talented white high school quarterback Bill Bradley, his “blue-eyed soul brother,” who rejected segregationist norms of the time to become LeVias’ roommate and best friend. The sold-out, media-frenzied Big 33 game in 1965 found Texas taking victorious strides in both football and racial equality. Dent includes generous sections of lively game play, personal profiles and interesting postscripts from Coach Layne, Walker, Bradley, LeVias and respected black Texas high school coach Clifton Ozen.

A passionate, well-reported history of the role Texas football played in America’s racial integration.

Pub Date: Aug. 20, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-250-00785-8

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2013

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