Engrossing as a cautionary tale for would-be football players and as an inside look at the rough-and-tumble world of college...

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THE WALK-ON

A TV newsman looks back on his years as a struggling college football player in a tale equal parts perspiration and inspiration.

Stewart recounts his trials and occasional triumphs, sometimes on the field but more often on the sidelines, at Northwestern University, a school better known for journalists than jocks. The book chronicles the bruising emotional and physical pain an athlete can endure while trying but mostly failing to become great. For Stewart, a walk-on—a player not deemed worthy of scouting or a scholarship—it’s four years of “torment and torture.” He survives agonizing injuries, grueling workouts, nasty tongue-lashings from coaches who sometimes can’t even remember his name, “toxic fumes of body odor” in the locker room and occasional hazing by teammates who like to throw cups of urine around in the showers. A teetotaling Lutheran from suburban Omaha, Stewart has to adapt to players who drink, smoke pot, take steroids and fix games. Meanwhile, desperate coaches use any means necessary—from motivational speakers to painting the locker room pink—to turn around the perennially losing team whose fans chant “We are the worst!” Somehow, it all works out; by Stewart’s junior year, he and the team go all the way to the Rose Bowl, even though he’s a benchwarmer for much of the game and the season. He sometimes comes off as a prattling pundit of positivism—“One of our best practices ever!”—but there’s reason for it. He starts his college career as a fifth-string safety, and after four years of “pain, soreness, and fatigue,” he finishes on the second string. Yet he summons a stoic acceptance of his lot: “I realized I would never be as good as I wanted to be.” In a way, the message may be curiously appropriate for our dismal times. Even so, Stewart can’t give up without an optimistic parting shot: “Set high goals because even if you fall short, you’ll still go farther than you ever imagined.”

Engrossing as a cautionary tale for would-be football players and as an inside look at the rough-and-tumble world of college football.

Pub Date: May 29, 2008

ISBN: 978-1105612060

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Lulu

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2012

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Smart, engaging sportswriting—good reading for organization builders as well as Pats fans.

THE DYNASTY

Action-packed tale of the building of the New England Patriots over the course of seven decades.

Prolific writer Benedict has long blended two interests—sports and business—and the Patriots are emblematic of both. Founded in 1959 as the Boston Patriots, the team built a strategic home field between that city and Providence. When original owner Billy Sullivan sold the flailing team in 1988, it was $126 million in the hole, a condition so dire that “Sullivan had to beg the NFL to release emergency funds so he could pay his players.” Victor Kiam, the razor magnate, bought the long since renamed New England Patriots, but rival Robert Kraft bought first the parking lots and then the stadium—and “it rankled Kiam that he bore all the risk as the owner of the team but virtually all of the revenue that the team generated went to Kraft.” Check and mate. Kraft finally took over the team in 1994. Kraft inherited coach Bill Parcells, who in turn brought in star quarterback Drew Bledsoe, “the Patriots’ most prized player.” However, as the book’s nimbly constructed opening recounts, in 2001, Bledsoe got smeared in a hit “so violent that players along the Patriots sideline compared the sound of the collision to a car crash.” After that, it was backup Tom Brady’s team. Gridiron nerds will debate whether Brady is the greatest QB and Bill Belichick the greatest coach the game has ever known, but certainly they’ve had their share of controversy. The infamous “Deflategate” incident of 2015 takes up plenty of space in the late pages of the narrative, and depending on how you read between the lines, Brady was either an accomplice or an unwitting beneficiary. Still, as the author writes, by that point Brady “had started in 223 straight regular-season games,” an enviable record on a team that itself has racked up impressive stats.

Smart, engaging sportswriting—good reading for organization builders as well as Pats fans.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-982134-10-5

Page Count: 592

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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A quiet delight of a book.

GRANDMA GATEWOOD'S WALK

THE INSPIRING STORY OF THE WOMAN WHO SAVED THE APPALACHIAN TRAIL

A journalist’s biography of the unassuming but gutsy 67-year-old Ohio grandmother who became the first person to walk all 2,050 miles of the Appalachian Trail three times.

When Emma Gatewood (1887–1983) first decided she would hike the A.T., she told no one what she planned to do—not even her 11 children or 23 grandchildren. Instead, she quietly slipped away from her home in May 1955 and began her walk at the southern terminus of the trail in Georgia. Accomplishing this feat—which she often described as “a good lark”—was enough for her. Tampa Bay Times staff writer Montgomery tells the story of Gatewood’s first hike and those that followed, interweaving the story with the heartbreaking details of her earlier life. He suggests that this woman, who eventually came to be known as “Queen of the Forest,” was far from the eccentric others claimed she was. Instead, Montgomery posits that this celebrated hiker used long-distance walking to help her come to terms with a dark secret. At 18, Gatewood married a man she later discovered had a violent temper and an insatiable sexual appetite. Despite repeated beatings over 30 years, she remained with him until he nearly killed her. Afterward, she lived happily with her children for almost 20 years. Montgomery suggests that an article in National Geographic may have been what first inspired Gatewood to hike the trail. However, as her remarkable trek demonstrated, while the A.T. was as beautiful as the magazine claimed, it was also in sore need of maintenance. Gatewood’s exploits, which would later include walking the Oregon Trail, not only brought national attention to the state of hikers’ trails across a nation obsessed with cars and newly crisscrossed with highways; it also made Americans more aware of the joys of walking and of nature itself.

A quiet delight of a book.

Pub Date: April 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-61374-718-6

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Chicago Review Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 16, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2014

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