Archive for the ‘books’ Category

Writing A Book Part 1: Idea to Execution

The 21-month period ended this Saturday with the publication of my latest book, Terry Bradshaw: From Super Bowl Champion to Television Personality. The long process appeared to be common with certain kinds of non-fiction publications.

Things started last January when an editor for a new series of books on sports idols who became popular culture icons asked me if I wanted to submit a book proposal. Having had my book, The Bullets, The Wizards and Washington, D.C. Basketball published with Rowman and Littlefield, I knew something about the steps they sought in their book proposals. The difficult part was figuring out whom I would write about.

At first, the names that popped into my head were female tennis stars, specifically Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova. Each had played a role in furthering women’s roles on the tennis circuit, but they also were well known for their sexual orientation and became major figures in announcing. After thinking twice about them, I focused on Jim Brown. The former NFL star running back had a long career as a movie actor in Hollywood. He stood as a player in the Civil Rights Movement and had also voiced his opinion on matters in politics and culture over the years.

Then, the set of struggles over the Confederate flag in South Carolina and on the car used in the television show The Dukes of Hazzard happened. I read a wide-range of articles and felt there was a lot about the American South that I did not know. I realized that Terry Bradshaw had as rich a career in popular culture as in sports so I looked into him as a possibility for a book. I wrote a chapter on Bradshaw acting in 1970s Burt Reynolds movies, polished it up after my friend Brian gave it a great read, and shipped it off to the publisher along with the book proposal.

With university and some academic presses, after the editor completes a review, he/she submits these documents to people with expertise in the field for comments. Rowman and Littlefield have “reading boards” with librarians who offer their assessment, including whether they would have an interest in buying the book upon completion. The group gave the possible Bradshaw book the nod in January 2016. I received a contract giving me an October 2016 completion date. I doubted that I could complete the ten chapters in this time frame and sought a co-writer. This time I could not find one. Fortunately, Brian volunteered to read chapters, then raise questions and identify gaps.

As always I started with researching the subject. Bradshaw has written four books about his life and they proved very helpful. These books featured stories that I could use later and people and places that I knew had to be corroborated in other books, magazines and newspapers. Bradshaw’s books showed why he was a popular culture icon. His football career covered the 1970s and 80s. He served as a color commentator for games during the 1980s, and has been a studio analyst for professional football on two networks for 27 years. He has sang country western and gospel music, made movies and appeared on television shows in the 1970s and the 1990s and 2000s. Has has made commercials for nearly every type of product.

The other books ranged from fan and journalist books on football and the Pittsburgh Steelers to academic works on  of the 1970s.  Sports reporter Gary Pomerantz’s Their Life’s Work: The Brotherhood of the 1970s Pittsburgh Steelers, Then and Now provided details about the team and the individual men. Several figures from the team wrote autobiographies, including the team’s President Dan Rooney through linebacker Andy Russell and announcer Myron Cope. All these works provided context and stories about the team and Bradshaw’s personality. A few scholars wrote about on road movies and Southern movies during the 1970s as well the depictions of Southerners in popular literature and television which offered perspectives on imagery of Southern white males, specifically the Good Old Boy.

This information got me off to a great start but I noticed great gaps about his childhood and days working in television. I used resources like the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame to identify people who wrote about or played with Bradshaw while he played high school and college football. Thankfully I discovered that people from the area proved very nice and willing to help. Doug Ireland, the head of the Hall of Fame, gave me several names, and they remarkably included Bradshaw’s old high school football coach. The coach provided details about Shreveport, the school system, the football program, and Terry’s personality. I also spoke with the journalists they had told me about and they had grown up with Terry so they could provide some childhood insight as well as high school and college football stories. Again, my great fortune to meet open and straight-shooting people.

I figured finding out about television broadcasting would be more difficult. There are small cadres of people working in the field and reputations are guarded closely. I tried to reach out to a few groups including the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame.  I left messages and heard nothing back. Some articles in sports weeklies such as Sports Illustrated, featured a few articles about individuals who worked with Terry Bradshaw while he was with CBS Sports. Through various searches I found information for sports producer Terry O’Neil. I re-read the articles, read his autobiography and prepared a list of questions. He proved very helpful and insightful about the work of a color commentator and studio host and analyst for the NFL.

Other searches for producers and on-air talent did give me a few email addresses and telephone numbers. Most significantly I got to talk with Bradshaw’s broadcasting partner for a few years Verne Lundquist. He proved generous with his time, providing responses to my questions but also offering stories.

Unfortunately, other well-known people I called failed to return my messages. Getting in touch with players I figured would be a challenge. When I wrote the basketball book I received a list with contact information for some former players. This helped a lot and I conducted quite a few interviews, particularly with players who were active decades ago. A few active general managers, assistant coaches, scouts and former players spoke with me. But one former player gave me particular insight into why many would not discuss their past or other players. He said, “This is a fraternity. If you want to get a chance at a job in the league, you have to keep things tight.”

While that stunk, I revealed in the discovery of how much simpler researching history has become because of the digitization of many magazines and newspapers. Before starting specific searches, I consulted the yearly Reader’s Guide to Periodical Literature to find any article published about Terry Bradshaw, the Steelers during the 1960s and 1970s, and items related to NFL quarterbacks. I then found many of these articles through the specific search engines for the magazines, including Sports Illustrated and Time, People and Variety. Most fortunately, people with specific interests such as in radio, or in movies, have digitized some special interest magazines, such as Broadcasting and Cash Box, which contained significant insight into Bradshaw’s television, movie and music careers.

The number of newspapers that have been digitized is amazing. Thankfully I live in Washington, DC and have the Library of Congress as a resource. They have access to the digitized versions of the largest newspapers, including Washington Post, New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe and the Atlanta Constitution. They also have services providing access to African-American newspapers and to small-town and rural newspapers as well. The city’s library has a service that provides access to historical newspapers across the United States. Most of these newspapers start from the 1990s. These are incredibly valuable resources, especially when you are interested in knowing what reactions reviewers, critics and the general public had to a person’s artistic and other activities.

I spent weeks printing or copying the details from thousands of articles covering Bradshaw’s playing career through his years on Fox’s NFL Pregame shows, which have changed names and contributors over the years. Among those with regular appearances on the show are comedians Jimmy Kimmel and Frank Caliendo. I organized these materials chronologically in individual chapters based upon Bradshaw’s activity: childhood, football player, singing, acting and commercials, studio analyst. I drafted a chapter every three weeks and received pretty quick reads from my friend.

While Brian read the chapter 9 and the conclusion I searched for photographs. I asked several of the people whom I interviewed if they had a photograph and thought that two would send a copy. I consulted with Louisiana State University in Shreveport and discovered that they had digital images of the Woodlawn High School newspaper. This included a few photographs of Terry Bradshaw. I called the Louisiana Technical University’s Archives and they had a large collection that did not yield what I hoped to put in the book. The Pittsburgh area newspapers and magazines had a couple of excellent photographs. However, I ended up only using a bird’s-eye view of the new stadium (Three Rivers Stadium in 1970). The problem with the others was that they had NFL depicted on them and the photo archivist stated that I might have to pay the league for the rights to use them in the book.

I am not sure about the legal issues but I heard something similar when I called the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Library and the Warner Brothers’ Library. Each had photographs of Bradshaw in the movies, specifically Hooper and The Cannonball Run. Unfortunately, each photograph cost more than I planned on spending and they mentioned that I was responsible for getting the rights clearances. The expectation was that I would contact the person in the image and get their consent to publish the photograph in the book. Way too much to do and quite unlikely to be granted if the person isn’t able to exert control over how the image is used.

After creating a list of the photographs and indicating their location in the book, I shipped these documents, copies of the photographs and the nine chapters to the publisher in late September 2016. The book editor read the manuscript and shipped me back copies within a month with questions to clarify points or offer suggestions about words or sentence structure. The largest comments focused on the size of the book. The contract called for 100,000 words and this I delivered. However, the book ran 400 pages which was too costly for production. The editor asked me to reduce the context surrounding everything from the economy of the South in the 1960s through the attempts of athletes to make music and star in movies. I could also make some small changes in word choices, spelling or other items. Another big decision involved splitting up the chapter on the Steelers’ four championships in two because of its size.

The first round of editing ended in December. The copy editors and printing staff at Rowman & Littlefield took over. We looked at a couple of possible cover images and I offered my opinion.They also asked me if I knew of people in the field of sports history and popular culture who would be interested in reading the first draft and providing an endorsement. I belong to a few groups of academics but am not very well connected so I wasn’t sure whom to ask. I contacted the people who initially got me involved, the series editors, and asked them if they had any recommendations. With me sending out a few requests and the editors looking, we arrived at finding three people who offered to read the draft. To my amazement, all submitted raves for the book. I felt great.

I received this first version of the book that the three readers got in early April 2017. This gave me the chance to see what the book will look like and determine if anything generated heartburn and needed changing. Every paragraph received a numerical label in brackets representing the chapter and when the paragraph appears, for example [2.3]. I understood the purpose of the numbers in brackets. Instead of using page numbers, the published wanted me to place these numbers in the book’s index. I had 2-3 weeks to place these numbers in the index next to the persons, places, and things that I thought worth tracking. After starting the indexing of chapter one, I realized that several people and organizations would need many subheadings to indicate the different activities and events they participated in. As I finished the second chapter I felt exhausted and another 250 pages remained. I decided in order to meet this deadline I needed to hire someone. A neighbor had some time so she took over the indexing of the two non-football focused chapters because she is not a big fan of the sport. She did a fantastic job and helped me with another chapter as well. I emailed the completed index to the publisher.

A month later, the book editor at Rowman & Littlefield emailed me with the final copy of the book’s cover. A week later I received a second  copy of the final draft of the book, including the index. They also sent an author’s questionnaire and a document I filled in with places that I thought would be potential locations for a book review. The press’s small publicity department generally sent out copies of the book to four of the outlets the review books for libraries. The publications are Library Journal, Publishers Weekly, Choice and Booklist. I knew a few places from previous books that I’ve published, such as Journal of Sports History and Journal of Popular Culture. I researched for other outlets, particularly websites, and forwarded a list to the publisher.

In July, almost two months before the book came out, the first review emerged. The Publishers Weekly reviewer thought highly of the book and gave it a great review. My editor sent me notice of it. Now I became curious what else might come out. I noticed this blurb from Library Journal:

FIRST AND TEN: TOP FOOTBALL TITLES FOR SUMMER AND FALL

Abrams, Brett L. Terry Bradshaw: From Super Bowl Champion to Television Personality. Rowman & Littlefield. (Sports Icons & Issues in Pop Culture). Sept. 2017. 304p. notes. bibliog. ISBN 9781442277632. $40. SPORTS

Arians, Bruce with Lars Anderson. The Quarterback Whisperer: How To Build an Elite NFL Quarterback. Hachette. Jul. 2017. 256p. ISBN 9780316432269. $28; ebk. ISBN 9780316432252. SPORTS

**Bell, Upton & Ron Borges. Present at the Creation: My Life in the NFL and the Rise of America’s Game. Univ. of Nebraska. Nov. 2017. 400p. illus. ISBN 9781496200396. $24.95. SPORTS

Carlson, Chuck. Ice Bowl ’67: The Packers, the Cowboys, and the Game That Changed the NFL. Sports Pub. Oct. 2017. 224p. illus. ISBN 9781683580973. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9781683581017. SPORTS

George, Thomas. Blitzed: Why NFL Teams Gamble on Starting Rookie Quarterbacks. Sports Pub. Sept. 2017. 208p. notes. ISBN 9781683581079. $24.99. SPORTS

Myers, Gary. My First Coach: Inspiring Stories of NFL Quarterbacks and Their Dads. Grand Central. Aug. 2017. 288p. index. ISBN 9781455598465. $28; ebk. ISBN 9781455598472. SPORTS

**Oriard, Michael. The Art of Football: The Early Game in the Golden Age of Illustration. Univ. of Nebraska. Aug. 2017. 280p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780803290693. $39.95. SPORTS

Savage, Phil with Ray Glier. 4th and Goal Every Day: Alabama’s Relentless Pursuit of Perfection. St. Martin’s. Aug. 2017. 336p. index. ISBN 9781250130808. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250130815. SPORTS

Stewart, Wayne. Remembering the Stars of the NFL Glory Years: An Inside Look at the Golden Age of Football. Rowman & Littlefield. Jul. 2017. 238p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781442274235. $38; ebk. ISBN 9781442274242. SPORTS

**Zimmerman, Paul. Dr. Z: The Lost Memoirs of an Irreverent Football Writer. Triumph. Sept. 2017. 304p. ed. by Peter King. ISBN 9781629374642. $25.95; ebk. ISBN 9781633198487. SPORTS

The R&L publicist said that indicated a full review of the book would be coming in the near future. It did and the person called it a unique take on Bradshaw’s life and career. The R&L editor thought the reviews were outstanding.

Anybody who knows me immediately realizes that I start combing through the Internet to see what else would appear. The book did not get reviewed in the other two locations. The hard work of marketing and publicity remained ahead to be discussed in the second part of this chronicle.

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Will Bradshaw Read The Book?

I sent a personal letter, contacted an agent and a publicist and got a “I decline” to help from Mr. Bradshaw. I understand because he has written five books and has an author that he works with.

Hopefully, he’ll be inclined to read it.

Olympics and Municipal Investment: US Style

Over the past two months, the momentum of the opposition to Boston hosting the Olympic Games spurred me while the narratives coming out about Rio sparked Matt Holder to write pieces about the Olympics for this blog. Matt summarized his article on media narratives with the statement: “…we see that media narratives care less about public good and more about creating an environment that efficiently routes public money into private pockets.” He cited Jules Boykoff’s book, Celebration Capitalism and the Olympic gamesas a notable explanation of how the Olympics are publically sold while the real beneficiaries are the hosting region’s elite.

Indeed, in their book Olympic Dreams: The Impact of Mega-Events on Local Politics, authors authors Matthew J. Burbank, Gregory D. Andranovich and Charles H. Heying discussed the Olympics as a growth strategy for U.S. cities. They analyzed how three US cities fared in their attempt to use the Olympics as an approach to economic growth in the post globalization United States. The authors argued that with less federal dollars available for urban renewal and a reduced tax base due to the global economy, regions have looked to the Olympics and mega events as ways to bring in revenue. Most importantly, the Games have enabled local elites to push forward changes to the city’s landscape that they would not have been able to do without the cover of hosting the Games.

The book discussed how the Clinton Administration funneled nearly a billion dollars of funds to Atlanta to help the city in its efforts to build infrastructure for the Games. With their bid for the Games, Atlanta’s officials proposed the conversion of 5700 units of public housing in some of the city’s poorest neighborhoods to nicer living conditions for those residents.The city received $250 million from the Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for this conversion and a similar amount in private funds. Less than 10% went toward the project which led to the displacement of 16000 low-income residents, which one has to wonder of that wasn’t the goal.

Others have noted similar agendas when other cities have bid. I noted in my book, Capital Sporting Grounds that in the 2012 Baltimore-Washington-Northern Virginia Olympics bid. The plans for Great Meadows to be the equestrian site would circumvent the opposition to the development of that area. Others opposed to hosting the games noted that there were several other stadium locations that pushed a development program that local citizens did not want and had stopped from happening earlier.

During a session at the 2015 Popular Culture Conference I attended a panel in the Sports section where a discussion over the plans for Chicago’s bid arose. Everyone in the room seemed to know that the bid’s plans would eliminate some significant public spaces, including parks. Clearly there is an awareness about the agendas of elites to bind unpopular development changes to the Games and of the limited value of the Games to a municipality’s revenue stream in the long run. Perhaps this is what has energized the No Boston Olympics movement. In their Olympics Truth section they argue that the Games do not help local economies. In their Olympic Myths section, they make this point again, and include arguments that two of the proposed promises (improved subway system and the Olympic Village representing a great housing gain for the city) will not materialize.

I call on fellow sports historians, particularly those who study the Olympics, to join the public debate on the Boston Games!

Literary Festival

Washington, DC is having another festival bringing area writers together with their audiences. I’m one of the non-fiction crew and there are some well known fiction authors in the group including George Pelecanos. I’ve been to the Capitol Hill Literary Festival inside the Eastern Market shopping area and had a wonderful time. It’s fun to meet with other authors and talk with people who have interests in all kinds of topics and books.

I’m talking about what history can show us about the modern city we live in.DC Author Festival Day of Show Schedule

The DC Author Festival is an all day celebration of the thriving literary community of the District.  Enjoy readings, writing workshops, and local author and publisher vendor booths.

Featuring

A conversation between author George Pelecanos and journalist Neely Tucker

ASL Author Talk with Gina Oliva and Linda Lytle authors of Turning the Tide.

With special readings by

Warren Brown
CakeLove owner, former Food Network’s Sugar Rush host and author of four cookbooks

Kelly Rand
Former Arts Editor for DCist, crafter and author of Handmade to Sell

Carolivia Herron
Author of the award-winning Nappy Hair and Always an Olivia

Tom Doyle
Fantasy and Science Fiction writer and author of American Craftsmen

With Additional Readings From

Brett L. Abrams * Jonetta Rose Barras * Dorothy Bendel * Jeffrey Blount * Simeon & Carol Booker * Mike Canning * Christopher Datta * Courtney Davis * Dorris Dutch * Beverly East * Christopher Edelson * Craig Gidney * Beverly and Anthony John Green * Cheryl Head * Norwood Holland * Aiyaz Husain * Ida E. Jones * Carolyn Morrow-Long * P.S. Perkins * Elisavietta Richie * Canden Schwantes * Janet Sims-Woods *  Karin Tanabe * Reach Inc. Teen Authors * Linda Chrichlow White * Liliane Willens * and more!

DC Author Festival Day of Show Schedule

Death of an Owner

When I wrote my latest book, The Bullets, The Wizards and Washington, DC Basketball,  I was able to speak to one of the owners of the Baltimore Bullets. Unfortunately, another had died and I was unable to reach the third, Arnold Heft. Two days ago I read that he died.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/obituaries/arnold-a-heft-owner-of-horses-nba-team-dies-at-94/2014/03/26/fc810a4a-b501-11e3-8020-b2d790b3c9e1_story.html

Wish I had spoken to him about the Washington Bullets and owning the Capital Centre.

Sports Fans

I wrote The Bullets, The Wizards and Washington, DC Basketball partly because I was amazed at the issue of fans and their support of the DC teams over the years.

.Image

Even when the Bullets were good, the numbers of fans were not as great as you’d expect. And when the Wizards were bad, man, fans had it tough.

Image

I’m working on two papers that I’ll be giving at the Popular Culture Association in Chicago and the North American Society for Sports History in Glenwood Springs, Colorado early this year.

Crunched some figures about numbers of fans who are linked to certain sports teams on Facebook. I looked at cities in the US that have teams in the four major US professional sports (baseball, football, basketball and hockey). These cities are Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Washington, DC, Miami, Detroit, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Phoenix and San Francisco. I divided the number of fans on Facebook into the population of the metropolitan areas from the 2010 Census to determine the percentage of the population showing fan interest for each team.

The results show that Washington has the lowest percentage of its population involved with its teams and Phoenix has the second lowest. Boston has the highest. The data appears below organized by sport.

By Sport: (ranked by percentage of population)

Baseball

Red Sox  4,185,683 (92%)
688,605

Yankees  6,651,882 (68%) #1 in the New York area
1,034,752

SF Giants  1,866,243 (43%)
544,563

Cubs 1,874,234 (39%) #1 in the Chicago area
296,564

Detroit Tigers  1,404,184  (33%)
364,344

Texas Rangers  1,648,160 (26%)
345,642

White Sox  1,117,960 (23%)
166,165

Phillies  1,368,839 (23%)
792,530

Rockies  579,638 (23%)
110,404

Diamondbacks  371,803 (9%)
109,457

Mets  711,431 (7%)
222,596

Marlins  349,337 (6%)
102,530

Nationals  270,473 (5%)
154,611

Football (ranked by percentage of population)

Patriots  4,346,695 (95%)
777,350

Cowboys   5,896,128 (92%) #1 in the Dallas area
762,964

Broncos  2,014,604 (79%) #1 in the Denver area
420,029

49ers  2,332,133 (54%) #1 in the San Francisco area
562,706

Eagles  2,277,997 (38%) #1 in the Philadelphia area
414,192

Bears  3,062,435 (32%)
414,020

Giants  2,883,522 (29%)
538,485

Dolphins  1,496,534 (27%)
282,758

Lions  1,089,921  (25%)
304,469

Redskins  1,270,765 (23%) #1 in the Washington area
271,865

Cardinals: 667,826 (16%)
81,230

Jets  1,568,587  (16%)
618,924

Basketball (ranked by percentage of population)

Heat  9,483,777 (170%) #1 n the Miami area
2,111,279

Celtics 7,351,417 (162%) #1 in the Boston area
1,333,231

Nuggets  1,252,113 (49%)
255,361

Mavericks  2,756,809 (43%)
378,697

Knicks  4,148,183 (42%)

Suns  1,061,293 (25%) #1 in the Phoenix area
237,829

Warriors  929,247 (21%)
325,560

Pistons  714,206  (17%)
223,643

Nets 1,403,669 (15%)
366,964

Sixers  539,415 (9%)
264,650

Wizards  286,115 (5%)
195,223

Hockey:

Red Wings  1,492,132 (34%) #1 in the Detroit area
374,117

Bruins   1,516,883 (33%)
482,948

Avalanche  460,522 (18%)
148,098

Black Hawks  1,568,115 (17%)
480,212

Flyers  914,211 (15%)
300,810

Sharks  608,476 (14%)
185,226

Rangers  1,081,743 (11%)
279,517

Capitals  536,195 (10%)
198,594

Coyotes  148,657 (4%)
98,771

Stars  216,058 (3%)
137,717

Panthers  102,193 (2%)
93,960

Islanders  142,380 (1%)
101,573

 

 

 

 

Book Compares NFL Players to Strippers

Yesterday in the newspaper opinion section, Rick Maese, a sports writer for The Washington Post, provided an analysis of two books on experiences in the National Football League (NFL).  The two books are: “Collision Low Crossers,” Nicholas Dawidoff and former tight end Nate Jackson, who looks back on his six-year career in “Slow Getting Up.”  I’ll let you read the reviews to get the gist of his review.

Most interesting to me is that despite 500 pages, Dawidoff provides little insight into the sport’s locker room and its culture. Yet, we learn something we know already, that room is Y-chromosome world with few social boundaries, where teasing is a principle of communication. This kind of humor and teasing comes across in Jackson’s book. It’s a place where one ponders the on-demand adult movies available in hotels and daydream about Playboy models. The reviewer bemoans the lack of substantive discussion Jackson offers regarding the bullying or the use of stimulants and other illegal drugs to maintain one’s career. Maese does mention that Jackson likens being a football player to being a stripper:

“Both strippers and professional athletes live on the fringes of a society that judges them for their profession, based solely on stereotypes. These stereotypes are nearly impenetrable. Both stripper and athlete stand alone behind them, and often find solace with those who know what it’s like to be there.”

Maese found the comparison intriguing and wished the book had more of this kind of thought and insight. I agree that this is intriguing but don’t necessarily accept the comparison. First, I question whether being in a life of the NFL is on the fringes of society. Really, when most men in the game have homes with nuclear families to return to during the season and afterwards as well. Can the same be said of the majority of strippers? I used to live with two women who danced and they were always hoping to find some man who would take them away from the business. Would any NFL player feel that way?

While a stereotype might be guiding the way people view both professions, is the stereotype of the NFL player, such as the dumb jock, that much different than the stereotype of a basketball player, or  a baseball player. Isn’t there a lot of camaraderie that exists among athletes from different sports. They have their pro-am golf events among other places to play and exult with one another.  Does the stripper have a similar situation? I think she and the hes that perform, stand more alone and isolated.

I do agree that the “real person” behind the player or stripper many not be seen. I also see a comparison that Jackson does not mention, that each has a short-term career, that their careers are based upon physical fitness and performance of physical tasks that become harder as one ages. Both are pieces of meat, and are in such specialized professions that it cam be hard to adjust to a different work experience.

Indeed, as one ages, it is quite likely that the owners of the team or the clubs and bars, may find it easy to replace the player or the stripper. It’s then that I see the most potent similarity to their situations. Both will lose the bonding in their single-sex world; in the locker rooms, or back stage. They feel cast off and lose the strong sense of inclusion in a team/group and the identity that goes with their profession: football player and stripper. That loss is what Jackson identifies and observes is a powerful feeling to lose that disturbs many retired players.

NFL Concussions

Since I’ve been writing here for months about what the NFL knew about the potential for head injuries and CTE and when it knew it, I was pleased to see a review of the book, League of Denial: The NFL, Concussions, and the Battle for Truth, in today’s Washington Post. The review is by former NFL Tight end Nate Jackson, who in the first paragraph, explains to readers that he kept the last helmet that he wore in the final game of the season for every year that he played. He looked inside and saw a small, clear sticker behind and underneath the right earhole. In tiny print it reads, “Warning: No Helmet can prevent serious head or neck injuries a player might receive while participating in football….Contact in football may result in concussion-brain injury which no helmet can prevent. Thank God for lawyers trying to help companies avoid liability and law suits!\

Most intriguing is that Jackson’s review supports a good portion of what the book discusses. However, he makes a point that only a former player or a medical therapist might, that the physical pounding, CTE and disabilities that football players suffer is only one part of what a former gridiron star has to accept once his career is over. Jackson wants a significant amount of attention devoted to the loss of identity and sense of purpose that goes when a career comes to an end. He argues that suicide and depression are human problems. That the situation former players find themselves in is very human and about more than the physical effects of the brutal beatings that their bodies and minds take on the field. It’s a fascinating view and a significant argument that warrants attention. With all the money the NFL and the players make selling and playing football, some funding needs to go to education and post-football career development. Still, the reality of the problems that come from playing the game ought not to be diminished and Jackson’s review ends with a statement that encourages his brothers (former players) not to open Mark Fainaru-Wada and Steve Fainaru’s book.

Book Festivals

The Library of Congress Book Festival ends today. George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia continues its 10-day fest Fall for the Book until next Sunday. Covers popular fiction, historical fiction, history, biography, sports and culture.

Sportswriting: Baseball, Basketball, and Historical Perspectives@ George Mason Regional Library

Sep 26 @ 7:30 pm – 8:45 pm

Cultural historian Brett L. Abrams and Mason communications doctoral student Raphael Mazzone, co-authors of The Bullets, The Wizards and Washington DC Basketball, join long-time journalist Tom Dunkel, author of Color Blind: The Forgotten Team That Broke Baseball’s Color Line, to talk about their books and the art and craft of sportswriting in general. Sponsored by the Friends of the George Mason Regional Library.

Sex, Politics and Sports

Busboys and Poets in the District featured a discussion with Dave Zirin, sports editor of The Nation, magazine and the first open trans NCAA athlete last night.  Kye Allums played basketball at George Washington University.

alums

In November 2010, he announced his trans status. A very animated speaker, Allums said he took the step because other players on the team would not come out about their relationships. He had enough of that so he decided to make it easier on the other players by starting the coming out process.

Zirin and Allums discussed LGBTQ issues in sports and Zirin’s newest book, Game Over: How Politics Has Turned the Sports World Upside Down. Zirin has written about politics and sport team owners, noting the tax breaks and subsidies that they receive for new stadiums from the public treasuries. He has also documented the political stances many of team owners have taken, ranging from George Steinbrenner and his contribution excesses to the Christian conservative values of the owners of the Colorado Rockies of Major League Baseball and the Orlando Magic of the NBA.

Last night, Zirin offered a good summary of the connections between masculinity, heterosexuality and being proficient in sports. Starting with Muscular Christianity and eugenics in the late 19th century, through the arguments against lesbians coming out in college basketball, American culture has promoted the social good of the supposed connections between gender norms, sexual norms, and playing, or in women’s case, not playing sports.