A Father, a Son, and Sunday Afternoon Football
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A sometimes teary and always beery memoir of a son, a dying father, and their mutual love affair with Cleveland and its football Browns.

U.S. News and World Report editor McGraw begins in August 1999 on the day his father, terminally ill with colon cancer, entered a hospice. First identifying himself as “the family fuckup” (a characterization he proves beyond a reasonable doubt in subsequent pages), the author then adopts a rough chronology, following in desultory fashion the dismal fortunes of the 1999 Browns, the NFL expansion team awarded to Cleveland after the previous owner, Art Modell, had whisked the old Browns away to greener (i.e., more profitable) pastures in Baltimore (a “little rape act,” as McGraw puts it). Intercut with brief accounts of the 1999 Browns’ 2–14 season are descriptions of the author’s Irish Catholic boyhood and extraordinarily dissolute adolescence, of his father (a noted Cleveland trial attorney who was both hero and nemesis to his son), of the “old” (highly successful) Browns, of other professional athletic teams in Cleveland, of the hours the author spent in neighborhood bars (where he was a popular regular), and of his father’s final moments of life. McGraw is disturbed that the new Browns seem more interested in luring yuppie families to the games than in catering to their old fans (who, as the author admits, were noted for drunkenness, violence, and urinating in drinking fountains). “[E]verything about these new Browns seemed regimented and scripted,” he complains—and in one manic, indecent burst of hyperbole he compares the current team management to Nazis. McGraw’s other principal concern is to make certain we know about his prodigious drinking problem; for most of his adulthood, we learn, he has been drunk—a condition that would explain some of his more bizarre declarations (e.g., women have not played football, so they are more likely than men to hold grudges).

In the Wild West, bullets flew in barrooms; today, it’s epiphanies. One should beware of both.

Pub Date: Sept. 5th, 2000
ISBN: 0-385-49833-0
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Doubleday
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 2000