THE END OF AUTUMN: Reflections on My Life in Football by Michael Oriard

THE END OF AUTUMN: Reflections on My Life in Football

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An ex-football player's resolutely balanced review of his 20-year relationship with the game. In the first of the book's four sections, high-schooler Oriard gravitates toward football (""football players seemed to me more heroic than other athletes"") and discovers himself on the gridiron. As class valedictorian, he also stresses the importance of discipline and academics. Then he's at Notre Dame, awed by varsity players and by legends like Knute Rockne and Paul Hornung. He works his way up from prep squad cannon fodder to offensive co-captain; likens ND football to a religious experience; and, as of 1968-69, claims the sport was neither a bastion against moral decay nor a fascist breeding ground. After graduation, Oriard begins a mediocre career with the Kansas City Chiefs. Training camp is brutal, but not purposeless. Coach Hank Stream could be petty and Lombardo-like, but ""deep inside. . . was a kind and enthusiastic man."" Black players associated more with blacks, but interracial friendships were possible. Altogether, Oriard is no Jim Bouton or Pete Gent. In the fourth section, on the mortality of athletes, he relates the tragic suicide of a former teammate who couldn't cope with football's afterlife. Oriard, now a teacher, recommends that ball players detach themselves from their sport, put their heroics into perspective, and prepare for a difficult adjustment. A salubrious middle ground, true, but too evasive and equivocal to be convincing.

Pub Date: Sept. 10th, 1982
ISBN: 0252076699
Publisher: Doubleday