Tag Archives: college football

Over The Top and Far Away

Tribal

The player accepts, even welcomes, the pain he will suffer, a sacrifice for the good of the team. Just like Jesus, come to think of it.

Tribal: College Football and the Secret Heart of America by Diane Roberts (Harper, $25.99, 246 pages)

This book might well have been titled Fear and Loathing in Tallahassee. In theory, this is a book about a person’s love and hate relationship with college football (“A great game or a waste of money…”), specifically Florida State University football. I say in theory because the writer’s Gonzo-style of journalism means that she’s all over the place – as if there’s no filter between her mind and what she places on a page. For example, Roberts spends some time on the topic of football and religion. Oh, yes. After quoting from Saint Paul in Corinthians 6:19 she writes:

“…the (football) player begins to use his body to inflict pain. Not like Jesus… The First Church of Christ Linebacker doesn’t hold with gentle Jesus meek and mild. The Lord is a tough, manly dude, and football is an allegory of the soul’s struggle against evil.”

Wow. Seriously?

Doak 5

doak 3

It’s hard to tell if Roberts is putting everyone on – in the style of Hunter S. Thompson (Thompson once accused a major party’s presidential candidate of being an ibogaine addict), or if she’s simply being provocative for the sake of being so. This is a silly work which might have made for a mildly entertaining airline magazine article. But it’s not for the serious, grounded reader.

Joseph Arellano

A review copy was provided by the publisher. This book was released on October 27, 2015.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Turn! Turn! Turn!

last season hardcover

The Last Season: A Father, A Son, and a Lifetime of College Football by Stuart Stevens (Knopf, $24.95, 224 pages)

“All along, the football season had been just an excuse to spend time together, and now that we were toward the end of the season, it seemed less important to pretend the games were really the best moments.”

A reader wrote on Amazon that, “Every Ole Miss fan, every SEC fan… will love this book.” Well, no. A key flaw with this book is that it is horribly and sadly biased. Political consultant Stevens writes that, “The SEC draws the best (athletes) in the country.” And he attempts to pile on by calling the SEC “college football’s brightest stage.” Well, this may be true in some years, but certainly not all.

This is intended to be a moving memoir about a son who celebrates what is likely his 95-year-old father’s final year on earth by attending every University of Mississippi football game. But it’s a missed opportunity. Stevens never wastes a chance to go sideways by inserting his ineffable personal opinion on, oh, almost everything. For example, “I didn’t really like New Orleans. It wasn’t interesting, it was boring and predictable.” Really?

Stevens also makes broad characterizations which are clearly not credible: “This love of college football and it’s importance in life’s schemes are natural for a southerner but difficult for (others) to grasp.” Really?

Last-Season-Stuart-Stevens

Steven’s father never comes to life in this work. And the conclusion leaves the reader wondering if this was, in fact, the final season.

Joseph Arellano

A review copy was received from the publisher.

The Last Season was released on September 18, 2015.

My Losing Season 2

Note: A great book that the sports-minded reader might want to consider reading is My Losing Season: A Memoir by Pat Conroy. “Loss is a fiercer, more uncompromising teacher, coldhearted but clear-eyed in its understanding that life is more dilemma than game, and more trial than free pass.” Pat Conroy

“…maybe the finest book Pat Conroy has written.” The Washington Post

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

A Raisin (City) in the Sun

Fresno Growing Up

Fresno Growing Up – A City Comes of Age: 1945-1985 by Stephen H. Provost (Craven Street Books, $24.95, 230 pages)

Anyone who grew up in Fresno, California, or who has lived there for a period of years, should enjoy perusing and reading the coffee table book Fresno Growing Up. This is a 230 page biography of the Raisin Capital of the World accompanied by beautiful color and black and white photographs. The first two-thirds of the book is strong as it fondly examines restaurants and movie theaters that used to exist, the once prominent Fulton Mall downtown (similar to Sacramento’s K Street Mall), TV and radio personalities, and the offerings for adults and children in Roeding Park.

Fresno Lost

Fresno Crest Theater

Fresno also provides a detailed look at the past noteworthy music scene. Stephen Provost’s argument that Fresno gave birth to “the Bakersfield Sound” in country music is not fully convincing, but worth considering.

Fresno State Football

The book flounders in its third section which focuses on sports. Readers who are not fans of bowling, baseball, college football, boxing or hockey will find that it stretches on for far too long. This space might have been better devoted to the history of dramatic arts in the area, bookstores that once flourished (like the Upstart Crow Book Store), family businesses, etc. And the growth of greater Fresno-Clovis from west to east, and south to north might have been visibly charted. Still, this work might serve as a template for future efforts looking at the modern history of Sacramento, Stockton, Modesto, Chico and Bakersfield.

Go, Bulldogs!

Well recommended.

Joseph Arellano

Fresno+Sign

A review copy was provided by the publisher. Note: The finished product I received contained a large number of typos. Hopefully, these will be caught and corrected in future printings.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Notre Dame Resurrected

Resurrection: The Miracle Season That Saved Notre Dame by Jim Dent

“Parseghian had taught them how to win.   All Notre Dame needed was someone to remind them of just how great they could be.”

Resurrection covers the 1964 “miracle season” for Notre Dame football, during which the new non-Catholic coach Ara Parseghian steered them to a share of the national championship.   This was also the year that the so-called “Touchdown Jesus” mural appeared on a building adjoining the football stadium.   It was the beginning of the Era of Ara.

Jim Dent provides us with what initially appears to be a fine overview of a team’s season in college football.   It’s more interesting than most such accounts, as he focuses on a handful of players who were unable to play for the Fighting Irish prior to ’64 due to suspensions, injuries or personality conflicts with the former head coach.   It gives the feeling of a real-life Bad News Bears aspect that’s entertaining.

This was a season in which the Irish lost only their final game, played at USC.   Dent seems to obsess about this “heartbreaking loss…” during which “Notre Dame was defeated by a far inferior team.”   He spends far too many pages claiming that the game was stolen by the referees, although Parseghian himself said: “I am not going to blame the officials.”

The ND-USC game in question occurred over 45 years ago.   Let it be.

Thomas Dunne Books, $25.99, 306 pages

Reprinted courtesy of San Francisco Book Review

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The Sway of Conventionality

Thinking like the crowd won’t help me now.   Oh Girl (song written by E. Record)

No one is likely to win a popularity contest by playing the devil’s advocate.   Sway

Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior might have been subtitled The Force of Conventionality.   That’s because the pair of brother-authors clearly establish that while following the crowd may make you popular, it is less likely to make you rich or right.   One of the brothers had the idea for this book while sitting in a business school graduate level class and hearing a professor state, “People aren’t rational.”   That is something I also heard in graduate school.   Who, after all, would need a legal/criminal justice system if people acted rationally 100% of the time?

In this book we learn why college football coaches so often lose games when they’re playing not to lose (doesn’t the prevent defense always prevent the team from winning?).   And we learn why presidents enter wars they know they cannot win.   Also, we’re made to understand why we so stubbornly remain in losing situations – whether gambling our fortunes or gambling in love – instead of wisely cutting our losses early on.

One of the ways in which the Brafman brothers explain the notion of loss aversion is that the part of our brain that experiences and seeks pleasure tends to often defeat the part that is responsible for judgment and caution.   The controlling part of our brain, unfortunately, seeks short-term gains rather than adopting a saner long-term view.   As the authors note, “When we adopt the long-term view…  (the) immediate potential losses don’t seem as menacing.”

Most importantly, the authors explain the hazards of group thinking at work and in our society.   Group think so often results in poor, consensus based, decisions that the role of the sole and brave devil’s advocate is essential – he or she should be given a medal rather than castigated.   For the devil’s advocate represents the “…brakes that prevent a group from going down a potentially disastrous path.”   This “can literally save lives.”

To their credit, the authors present numerous examples of poor decisions in many fields from aviation to education and – naturally – the business world.   They also present many examples of exemplary and innovative thinking.   As a bonus, they throw in an explanation of a theory about the four roles that a person can assume within a family (personal or business).   One can be an initiator, a braker, a supporter or an observer.   The reader will enjoy trying to decide where he/she fits in…   I think I’m an observer-braker and occasional supporter.

I’m very rarely engaged by review (or survey) books that cover a lot of territory as I find they often make questionable connections between events of different times and places.   No, I’m not a fan of “connection” based works.   But this book is interesting from page 1 all the way through to page 181.

Reading this book offers the reader lessons which will likely make him/her a better – and certainly more rational – person.   There are also critical lessons to be learned by our society in general; let’s just hope it’s not too late.

Well recommended.

Joseph Arellano

This book was purchased by the reviewer.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Coming Up Next…

A review of Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior by Ori Brafman and Ron Brafman.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized