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Sunday, September 16, 2012


The Sweet Season is by Austin Murphy who
has for years has covered major college football and the NFL. After fifteen years of traveling about half of
the year, while contending with the antics
of the spoiled major-level athletes of today (both
professionals and so-called amateurs), in 1999
Murphy took a leave of absence in order to temporarily move
with his family to Minnesota while
he wrote a book. The project he had in mind was to spend a
full season covering the 1999 campaign of the St. John's University team which plays Division III football under the guidance of legendary Coach John Gagliardi. Gagliardi
was probably the initial focus of the book as he closed in on the all-time
record for coaching wins, but almost immediately Murphy and
his family were instead captivated and rejuvenated by the alluring and low-key life of small college America, along with
many of the personalities around the school and its top-flight football team. For each week of the season the author beguiles us with
stories of on-campus events leading up to the game and the gradual growing together of his family under the charms of the rural town
and its school. This is a good book about small college football
that goes well beyond the action on the field. It at once creates a nostalgia and an appreciation for a collegiate world that is about more
than some of the conduct that now has become the norm in the
land of Division I. Think of the recent disaster at Penn State where misplaced college pride and egos allowed a sexual
predator on the coaching staff free to roam among his victims. Add that to the criminal behavior common among the so-called heroes of the NFL. A sad mess indeed. That mess is mostly about money. Because of that educational and personal integrity are no longer a critical consideration of major school and certainly not for the pros. Unbeknownst to many college football fans are players, teams, and coaches who play for the love of the sport. Division III NCAA football represents programs where athletic scholarships are forbidden. Athletes in Division III programs may be a step slower or a little smaller than their counterparts who receive scholarships, but they have an equal love for the game. THE SWEET SEASON is a wonderful story about young and old men sharing a love of sport and a love of life. Perhaps more important, it is a story of personal rejuvenation and rebirth for the author. Gagliardi wins with methods that would leave
football fans and coaches befuddled. His philosophy includes a list of 74
"NOs," including: no whistles, no playbooks, no hitting during the
week, and no cuts from the squad. He disdains calisthenics and serious physical drills. Plays are diagrammed on note cards. They do not tackle or cut block one another in practice. No matter how
talented the coach, he still must have quality athletes to win. Murphy
acknowledges that he came to this project with preconceived notions about the level of athletic skill in Division III. "I didn't think they'd suck, but I didn't know they'd be this quick, talented, or tough," he writes. Don't let the Roman numeral throw you, there's quality football in Division III. But the roster is filled with men who are more than football players. This book is more about the Olympic ideal of amateur sport which may have been lost as well. The love of the sport is the
driving motive. How refreshing…..

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Wolf Hall

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel is the story of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn as told by Thomas Cromwell. It tells of a time of turmoil in England history on the interface of religion and politics. The authors characterizations are crisp and fascinating.
The dialogue is often riveting and unfortunately confusing at times. Line after line end with a comma and the words, “he said.” Who said the reader might ask of a cast of character list that is
pages long? Perhaps in my dotage I’ve a tendency towards confusion but this is a little too much….

Monday, September 3, 2012

The Three R's

The three R's. Rommney, Ryan & Rand.
There's something seriously disturbing about millions of tea partyiers who froth at the mouth at the idea of providing health care to the tens of millions of Americans who don't have it. Or who take
pleasure at the thought of privatizing and slashing bedrock social programs like Social Security or Medicare. As our country quickly drifts into an increasing divided society with the middle class being squeezed out of existence it is the right-wing moneyed elites who more and more openly
share their distaste for the working poor. Where do they find their
philosophical justification for this kind of attitude?
It turns out, you can trace much of this thinking back to
Ayn Rand, a popular cult-philosopher who exerts a huge influence over much of the right-wing and libertarian crowd.