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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A savvy look at the intense preparations for a football game that affects the entire state of Alabama. (16 pp. b&w...

A WAR IN DIXIE

ALABAMA V. AUBURN: INSIDE COLLEGE FOOTBALL’S FIERCEST RIVALRY

Two sportswriters cover the exciting buildup to the 2000 Iron Bowl, a college football grudge match between the Univ. of Alabama and Auburn Univ.

Maisel (Sports Illustrated) spent game week in Tuscaloosa with Alabama’s Crimson Tide while Whiteside (USA Today) stayed in Auburn with the Tigers. Since the 1800s, Alabama, a state school, has condescended to Auburn, with its “land grant” status and agricultural tradition; their rivalry for the Iron Bowl, a state tradition since1893, is judged the most intense in the country by many sports announcers. The Tigers accept their anachronistic underdog status and use it to prepare. Maisel finds a gloomy atmosphere in Tuscaloosa. With a 3-7 record, Coach Dubose and his staff have been given notice, and a recruiting scandal threatens the program’s future. Coaches speak bluntly about the poor leadership of the seniors and the failures of highly touted recruits. Fans, who had expected a national championship, vehemently express their disappointment. Across the state, Tommy Tuberville savors his first winning season at Auburn; with an 8-2 record and a big win over Georgia, he and his staff receive raises during game week. Success has come with running back Rudi Johnson, a junior-college transfer, whose durability and selflessness inspire his teammates and whose gift of a prized game ball to a souvenir-hunting teenager has made him beloved in the community. (An interesting subplot concerning Rudi, his academic advisor, and a paper due on Friday disappointingly vanishes without resolution.) For all the thousands of hours the coaches and players spend watching videotape, Alabama's strategy comes down to stopping Rudi on defense and passing the ball on offense. Local television stations promise viewers that any news from the Florida presidential vote-count will not interrupt the game telecast. On Saturday in Tuscaloosa, no ticketholder stays home because of a massive sleet storm.

A savvy look at the intense preparations for a football game that affects the entire state of Alabama. (16 pp. b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-06-019800-1

Page Count: 272

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2001

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A wryly spun tale of waning warriors.

JUST KICK IT

TALES OF AN UNDERDOG, OVER-AGE, OUT-OF-PLACE SEMI-PRO FOOTBALL PLAYER

Amusing and poignant journal of the author’s first-ever season in organized football—at age 39.

The adventure began in 2004, when St. Amant, a Division III soccer player back in college, got talked into a season tryout as a kicker with the Boston Panthers in the semi-pro Eastern Football League. The lily-white, five-foot-eight, 160-pound author found himself on a chewed-up high-school football field mingling with a bunch of African-American men, most of them a lot younger and a few of them nearly 200 pounds heavier. St. Amant hailed from Beacon Hill, one of Boston’s posh addresses; his teammates were from tough, predominantly black towns like Dorchester, Roxbury and Mattapan. Hoping to become the team’s first regular kicker (lacking one, the coach preferred two-point tries after every touchdown), the author was initially regarded almost as a mascot. Despite never having kicked a football in his life—and few balls of any kind since college—he gradually caught on, but head coach Pittman maintained a wary skepticism, forgoing field-goal tries for fourth-down Hail Mary plays as the Panthers went 2-2 early in the season. St. Amant’s candid portraits of his teammates, some of whom become his drinking buddies, lend insight into the life of the typical semi-pro player: a guy who might have made it in college and maybe even had a shot at the NFL, but who never got the breaks; battered and aging, he just can’t give up the game. The Panthers often beat themselves with careless play and needless penalties, but as St. Amant developed his leg, things improved and the team gelled. The Panthers made the playoffs, then blew the big one. But “the worst defeat of all,” declares the author, would have been living so close to his African-American peers and never meeting or playing with them.

A wryly spun tale of waning warriors.

Pub Date: Oct. 17, 2006

ISBN: 0-7432-8675-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2006

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