Forgrave, Reid. Love, Zac: Small-Twon Football and the Life and Death of an American Boy. Chapel Hill: Algonquin Books, 2020.
Reason read: as a member of the Early Review Program for LibraryThing, I was asked to read and review Love, Zac.
The entire time I was reading Love, Zac I was asking myself why this book wasn’t written sooner. It is not Forgrave’s fault for coming to the table with Zac’s story after the fact; when it was too late to save Zac himself. I believe this is the kind of book that could save lives if the right people read it at the right time and read it the right way. Don’t look at it as one kid’s story; one instance of a brain injury gone wrong. Don’t diminish the damage by arguing Zac didn’t even play football in college. Read it for what it is, a plaintive cry, a demand to take a harder look at a hard hitting sport. There is no denying the fact an epidemic of football-induced concussions ruin lives long after the game is over. Forgrave writes in a manner that is straight to the heart; a punch to the gut.
Love, Zac was advertised as a book every parent should read. I am not a parent. I am not a coach. But, here is the irony. I sit with Love, Zac on my knees while my husband shouts “hit ’em!” at the television. Opening day of the NFL’s 2020 season in a pandemic.
I don’t even know where to begin with September. It was the month from hell in more ways than one. The only good news is that I was able to run twice as many miles as last month. That counts for something as it saves my sanity just a little bit more than if I didn’t do anything at all.
Here are the books:
- In the City of Fear by Ward Just
- Jim, The Boy by Tony Earley
- The Shining by Stephen King
- Thank You and OK! by David Chadwick
- Foreign Correspondence by Geraldine Brooks
- Ayatollah Begs to Differ by Madj Hoomin
- Agony and Ecstasy by Irving Stone
- Tripwire by Lee Child
- Foundation and Earth by Isaac Asimov
Early Review for LibraryThing:
- My Life on the Line by Ryan O’Callaghan
O’Callaghan, Ryan with Cyd Zeigler. My Life on the Line: How the NFL Damn Near Killed Me. and Ended Up Saving My Life. Brooklyn, New York: Edge of Sports, 2019.
Reason read: as part of the Early Review program for LibraryThing.
When I requested My Life on the Line I was not prepared to have my heart broken. This is the simple story of an NFL football player trying to conceal his true self throughout his sports career. For twenty eight long years he had a secret. Hiding behind anything and everything to make himself look “manly” Ryan O’Callahan was in constant fear of being outted as a homosexual. No one could find out. No one. Tough language, big trucks, country music, guzzling beer, deer hunting, drugs, and bullying were all part of the smoke and mirrors game; all tactics O’Callaghan used so no one could accuse him of even a hint of being gay. His perception was a homosexual man wouldn’t use foul language. A gay man wouldn’t drive a big truck or take drugs and he certainly wouldn’t listen to Garth Brooks! At the center of it all was being a professional football player. For as long as O’Callaghan was playing this manly game he reasoned he could stay alive. Without football he was convinced he couldn’t hide; being exposed meant certain death at his own hand. Even when people close to him started to suspect, O’Callaghan would emphatically deny it, thinking the NFL was his perfect cover.
Then came the injuries and the surgeries and the pain, one after another like unrelenting sea surge. The more O’Callaghan damaged his body the faster his addiction to pain killers grew. He had easy access to prescriptions and at one point was using from nine different doctors. The prospect of playing football professionally hung in the balance as his drug use spiraled out of control and like all dangerous games, it had to come to an end sooner or later.
An added bonus to O’Callaghan’s story was learning a little more about NFL quarterback, Aaron Rodgers. His story was a little disappointing…
It feels like it’s still summer. Never mind the nights are getting somewhat cooler. Never mind that we are back in school. Never mind there is a seasonal hurricane ripping its way up the eastern seaboard. Never mind all that. I’m still in summer mode. I started the month off by a good 3.24 run. Yes!
Here are the books planned for the month:
- The Shining by Stephen King – in honor of King’s birth month.
- In the City of Fear by Ward Just – in honor of Just’s birth month.
- Thank You and OK!: an American Zen Failure in Japan by David Chadwick – in honor of September being Respect for the Aged month.
- Foreign Correspondence: a Pen Pal’s Journey From Down Under to All Over by Geraldine Brooks – in honor of International Reading Day.
- The Ayatollah Begs to Differ: the Paradox of Modern Iran by Hooman Majd – in memory of the Iran-Iraq War of 1980.
- Tripwire by Lee Child – to continue the series started in July
- Foundation and Earth by Isaac Asimov – to
continuefinish the series started in January.
- My Life on the Line: How the NFL Damn Near Killed Me and Ended Up Saving My Life by Ryan O’Callaghan. If you have been keeping score, I started this last month.
- The Miracle on Monhegan Island by Elizabeth Kelly – because of the title.
Grisham, John. Playing for Pizza. New York: Bantam Dell, 2007.
Reason read: the Verdi Fest in Parma is traditionally held in October.
When we first meet Rick Dockery he is laid up in a hospital bed after a nasty American Football Conference championship game collision. After this latest concussion third string quarterback Dockery’s career is more than over. His agent, Arnie, is told over and over no one will touch him with a ten foot pole. Don’t even ask. Like many athletes with a less than stellar career, but the passion to play, Dockery heads to another country to continue playing the game he loves so much. He arrives in Italy with the stereotypical chip on his shoulder. Where are the cheerleaders? In his mind, it’s only a matter of time before he’ll be back in the States, playing for the NFL…or so he dreams. What follows is Dockery’s slow acceptance of Italy, his education of what Europeans consider football, and (gulp) what true loyalty means. Grisham keeps the plot light and uncomplicated for a quick and easy read.
Confession: when Dockery gets tangled up in a budding romance with a woman already involved in a seven year relationship I thought I would see more drama. Not so. I think that plot line was designed to introduce opera and not much else.
As an aside, Grisham’s descriptions Italy made me want to plan a visit. I made a list of every region and landmark he mentioned.
Funny quote, “Later he learned that Sly and Trey had been driven away by a drunk uncle who couldn’t find Parma” (p 101).
Author fact: Grisham makes a huge departure from his legal mysteries with Playing for Pizza but he didn’t go into it blind. Parma really does have a football team with a few American players.
Book trivia: Playing for Pizza is short enough to read in a weekend.
Nancy said: Nancy called Playing for Pizza “captivating” and described the plot a little.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter simply called “Parma” (p 172).
I don’t know where to begin with trying to explain October. From the beginning, I guess. It started with a trip home; a lovely week off with lots of reading accomplished. Then it was a New England Patriots football game followed by two Phish shows and a political rally for a state in which I do not live. If that wasn’t weird enough, I hung out with a person who could have raped or killed or loved me to death. Take your pick. Any one of those scenarios was more than possible. It was a truly bizarre month.
But, enough of that. Here are the books:
- Playing for Pizza by John Grisham. Quick but cute read.
- Call It Sleep by Henry Roth (AB/print). Sad.
- The Chronoliths by Robert C. Wilson. Interesting.
- Bridge on the Drina by Ivo Andric (EB). Boring.
- Oxford Book of Oxford edited by Jan Morris (EB/print). Only slightly less boring than Bridge.
- Always a Distant Anchorage by Hal Roth. Really interesting.
- African Laughter by Doris Lessing. Okay.
- The Race of Scorpions by Dorothy Dunnett (EB/print). Detailed.
- Finding the Dream by Nora Roberts (EB). Cute but glad the series is over.
- We Inspire Me by Andrea Pippins. Cute.
Early Review for LibraryThing:
- Gardening Under Lights by Leslie F. Halleck. When I set up the reads for October I didn’t include this because it hadn’t arrived yet.
I should add that October was a really frustrating month for books. I never really liked anything I was reading.
Bowden, Mark. The Best Game Ever: Giants Vs. Colts, 1958, and the Birth of the Modern NFL. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 2008.
Reason read: Football season starts in September. Even though Brady is out for the month I have confidence the Patriots will do well. In fact, they won their first game without Brady AND Gronk. Edited to add: 3 out of 4 without Brady isn’t too shabby.
This is the story of a football game, but not just any football game. It’s the nail biting, down-to-the-wire play by play of the December 28th, 1958 NFL World Championship Game (now known as the Superbowl) between the New York Giants and the Baltimore Colts. I’ll pause to let that sink it…the Baltimore Colts…not the ravens nor in Denver. Anyway, Bowden takes the reader through the late 1950s and football’s growing popularity. He builds each team with mini biographies of team owners, coaches and star acquisition athletes like Frank Gifford and John Unitas. He sets the scene for their historic match-up, all the while outlining how the game has changed over the years. It isn’t until chapter six (out of eight, not including the epilogue) that Bowden gets to the night before the big game. 75 pages out of 239 are dedicated to the Best Game Ever. But, if you are a football fan of any kind, you will appreciate those 75 pages! Bowden has the ability to capture the excitement.
Author fact: Bowden also wrote Black Hawk Down (not on my list, but made into a movie). What are on my list are these two: Killing Pablo and Guests of the Ayatollah.
Book trivia: This is not unique to this book, but I really like the photos included up front: Bert Bell, the Giants in mid action, and coaches Tom Landry and Weeb Ewbank. There are other pictures but they are in the typical location, throughout the center of the book.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Baltimore” (p 34). I don’t necessarily agree with the inclusion of this book in the Baltimore chapter, but Nancy says it definitely belongs.
September was a cool month. On the 10th I ran a half marathon (2:10:16), was able to get to Monhegan (and introduce the island to some new people), and get to a lot of reading:
- Curse of the Pogo Stick by Colin Cotterill
- Life and Death in Shanghai by Nien Cheng
- Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner
- Consul’s Wife by W.T. Tyler
- Tears of Autumn by Charles McCarry (AB)
- Life and Death of Edwin Mullhouse by Steven Millhauser
- Four-Story Mistake by Elizabeth Enright
- Best Game Ever by Mark Bowden
- The Trial by Franz Kafka
- Which Side Are You On? by Elaine Harger (ER)
- Which Side Are You On? by George Ella Lyon (for fun)
AB = Audio book
ER = Early review
August was a little of this and a little of that. Some people will notice I have made some changes to the book challenge – some changes more noticeable than others. For starters, how I review. I now add a section of why I’m reading the book. For some reason I think it’s important to include that in the review. Next, how I read. I am now adding audio books into the mix. I am allowing myself to add an audio book in “trapped” situations when holding a book and keeping my eyes on the page might be an inconvenience (like flying) or endanger someone (like driving). I’m also making a effort to avoid wasting time on books I don’t care for (like Honore de Balzac). One last change: I am not as stringent about reading something within the month. If I want to start something a little early because it’s right in front of my face then so be it.
What else was August about? August was also the month I lost my dear Cassidy for a week. I spent many a night either in an insomniac state or sitting on the back porch, reading out loud in hopes the sound of my voice would draw my calico to me. The only thing it yielded was more books finished in the month of August. She finally came home one week later.
Anyway, enough of all that. I’ll cry if I continue. Onto the books:
I started the month by reading and rereading Tattoo Adventures of Robbie Big Balls by Robert Westphal. This was the first time I read and reviewed a book after meeting the author. I wanted to get it right. I also wanted to make sure I was an honest as possible about the situation. Everything about this review was unusual. For the challenge:
- After You’ve Gone by Alice Adams ~ I read this in three days and learned a valuable lesson about Adams’s work: read it slowly and parse it out. Otherwise it becomes redundant.
- Go Tell It On the Mountain by James Baldwin ~ I read this in ten days, tucking myself in a study carrell and reading for an hour everyday.
- Fahrenheit 541 by Ray Bradbury ~ an audio book that only took me nine days to listen to.
- Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum ~ read with Wicked by Gregory Maguire. I took both of these to Maine and had oodles of car-time to finish both.
- We Took to the Woods by Louise Dickinson Rich ~ this was probably my favorite nonfiction of the challenge. Rich’s Maine humor practically jumped off the page. I read this to Cassidy.
- The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder ~ I read this in three days, again hiding myself away in a study carrell.
- Ten Hours Until Dawn by Tougis ~ another audio book. I’m glad I listened to this one as opposed to reading it. Many reviewers called it “tedious” and I think by listening to it I avoided that perspective.
- The Sea Around Us by Rachel Carson ~ I read this in two days (something I think I thought I was going to get to in June).
- All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque ~ I read this in honor of World War I ending. I also read it in one night while waiting for Cassidy to come home.
- The Lives of the Saints by Nancy Lemann ~ also read in one night. In honor of New Orleans and the month Hurricane Katrina rolled into town.
- Kristin Lavransdatter: the Cross by Sigrid Undset ~ finally put down the Norwegian trilogy!
For the Early Review Program with LibraryThing:
- The Most Memorable Games in New England Patriots History by Bernard Corbett and Jim Baker. This was supposed to be on my list a year ago. Better late than never.
- Sex So Great She Can’t Get Enough by Barbara Keesling. This took me an inordinate amount of time to read. Guess I didn’t want to be seen in public with it.
Baker, Jim and Bernard M. Corbett. The Most Memorable Games in Patriots History: the Oral History of a Legendary Team. Bloomsbury, USA, 2012.
I think I was rubbed the wrong way by this book immediately. In the introduction there is an assumption about the reader (and ultimately of the New England Patriot fan); that their involvement with football is “from the comfort of your couch” (p vii). How do you know your reader hasn’t shelled out thousands of dollars to be season ticket holders? How do you know your reader isn’t some lowly ball boy or towel warmer who, for the love of the game, is on the sidelines come snow, sleet or hail every Sunday, a random Monday and sometimes Thursday? Maybe the owner of the New England Patriots is reading your words?
The Most Memorable Games in Patriots History starts at the very beginning, September 9th, 1960 with the Boston Patriots. There is an astonishing overabundance of far reaching detail not necessarily related to the New England Patriots; so much information it would take a lifetime to confirm it all if you had to. I found that the appendices in the middle of each chapter were, more often than not, irrelevant to the title of the book. In fact, a bulk of The Most Memorable Games in Patriots History had nothing to do with the most memorable games in Patriots history. A chapter could be called “Pittsburgh Steelers at New England Patriots Divisional Playoffs January 5, 1997” but contain a section called “the 1996 Giants.” Approximately two thirds of the narrative is dedicated to setting the stage with approximately 150 pages dedicated to each game. Throughout the book you will find information on the most years without a home playoff victory (any team), the history of the tiebreaker game (any team), a history of other Boston-area sports inaugurals (Red Sox, Celtics, Bruins, even the Boston Marathon), a bio on Jim Nance, single score games since 1943 (any team)…I could go on. All of this information is interesting. I just wish it had been organized in the book better.
My favorite parts of the book were the detailed play by plays of what happened on the field during each of the most memorable games…when they finally got around to talking about them. It was especially exciting if it happened to be a game I attended. I could relive the game through the players own words. However, Baker and Corbett take a long time to set the stage. This is not for the casual football fan.
September 2011 will be a mess. I guarantee it. A complete and utter debacle. For starters, the data migration I blathered about back in June didn’t happen on schedule. In fact, it hasn’t happened at all. Fingers crossed, though. It is set for October. But! But. but, that just means I continue to be without borrowing capabilities because I still to refuse to get a public library card. At least I can admit that it’s because I’m lazy. I don’t feel like driving to the public branch when many ( I need to stress many, many) of the books on my challenge list are either in my own workplace library OR sitting on my shelves at home. I don’t need to reach outside of my resources to find a read. But what this does mean (in terms of planning a list of books to read each month) is that it hasn’t been easy. I let my state of mind dictate what comes next or not. It’s chaotic and more than a little crappy. If I don’t feel like reading The Trial I won’t. It’s as simple as that.
So to spend a long time explaining a very simple thing, I don’t have an expected read list for September 2011. There. I said it. I know this much is true: I want to read something nonfiction since I neglected the didactic last month. I do know that I want to reread The World According to Garp by John Irving. I plan to Let Go of some titles I have been meaning to read; to just admit I don’t want to read them at all (The Compleat Angler being one of them). I have been selected to receive another Early Review book from LibraryThing. If it arrives in September I’ll add it to the list. I’m kind of excited because it’s about football. It would be great to read it in honor of the NFL’s 2011 season opening, but we’ll have to wait and see…
What else can I tell you about September? Hurricane season. Start of the Fall Semester for academics. Nights getting cooler. September is my suspicious month. I’m leery of perfect blue skies. I don’t trust the beauty of the day to not turn into something ugly. Fall means dying – this close to death. It means taking dares with yes and losing. The silver lining (as I must find one) is that September is also a chance to remember falling in love among the falling leaves. A chance to celebrate that love, if for only one day.