Archive for the ‘books’ Tag

Steelers’ Fans and Terry Bradshaw

Podcast about my Terry Bradshaw: From Super Bowl Champion to Television Personality Book: Part of the Steel City Underground Fan Group:

The discussion ranged from his playing days with the Pittsburgh Steelers to acting in Burt Reynolds movies, to his efforts today as a studio analyst with Fox and also in the television shows, Better Late Than Never and his latest movie, Father Figures.

http://www.steelcityunderground.com/podcast/2017/12/different-perspective-terry-bradshaw-author-historian-brett-abrams/

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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.

Book Festival

George  Mason University holds a Fall For the Book Festival on the weekend of September 22nd-27th. This year, they are having a panel discussion on writing books about sports on Thursday, September 26 at 7:30 pm.

The event will take place at the George Mason Regional Library and my co-author Raphael Mazzone will read  from our book, The Bullets, The Wizards and Washington, DC Basketball. My reading will come from my other sports book, Capital Sporting Grounds: A History of Stadium and Ballpark Construction in Washington, DC. The other panelist is sports author, Tom Dunkel, who’s book is Color Blind: The Forgotten Team that Broke Baseball’s Color Line.

Mark the readings on your calendar!

America Needs the Arts

Monday night, Kevin Spacey told a thousand people at the Kennedy Center that the United States needs the arts.

The arts, dance, painting, poetry, writing are the life blood of the nation. They are the culture, the culture that plays everywhere throughout the world. The movies that everybody loves. The books that they read. The television shows that keep them at home.

The actor quoted politicians ranging from Kennedy to Nixon, all of whom realized the importance of the arts. Winston Churchill when told that cuts needs to be made in the arts in order to pay for World War II, said, “Then what are we fighting for?”

Members of the audience went to Capitol Hill to talk with representatives and senators to argue for the importance of arts spending for the National Endownment for the Arts.

As the organization Americans for the Arts summarizes the events.

Congressional Arts Kick Off:

Who: Speakers at the Congressional Arts Kick Off include:

  • Hill Harper, film and television actor and author
  • Robert L. Lynch, president and CEO of Americans for the Arts
  • Charles Segars, Ovation CEO
  • Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID), Chairman of the Interior Appropriations Committee
  • Kevin Spacey, Academy Award®-winning actor and Artistic Director of the Old Vic Theatre
  • Senator Tom Udall (D-NM), Senate Cultural Caucus
  • Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) will receive the 2011 Congressional Arts Leadership Award. In addition, there will be a special performance by James Schlender, 2011 VSA International Soloist Awar Recipient
What: The Congressional Arts Kick Off marks the official start of the Arts Advocacy Day events on Capitol Hill.  The Congressional Arts Leadership Award will also be presented at the Kick Off.   The award, which recognizes distinguished service on behalf of the arts, is part of a series of Public Leadership in the Arts Awards given annually by Americans for the Arts and The United States Conference of Mayors.
When: Tuesday, April 5, 2011
8:00 a.m. – 9:30 a.m.
RSVP is essential for press coverage.
Please contact Catherine Brandt at cbrandt@artsusa.org.
Where: Cannon Caucus Room
345 Cannon House Office Building
Why: This high-energy event is always full of great, unexpected comments and sound bites.  This year will be no exception.


Special Hearing of the House Appropriations Subcommittee:

Who: Witnesses providing testimony at the hearing include:

  • Alec Baldwin, Emmy Award®-winning TV, film and stage actor
  • Elizabeth Kautz, Mayor, Burnsville, MN and President, U.S. Conference of Mayors
  • Robert L. Lynch, President and CEO, Americans for the Arts
  • Edgar Smith, CEO of World PAC Paper, Business Committee for the Arts Executive Board Member
  • Kevin Spacey, Academy Award®-winning actor and Artistic Director of the Old Vic Theatre
What: Special Hearing of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on funding for the National Endowment for the Arts
When: Tuesday, April 5, 2011
10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Press – Please RSVP to Catherine Brandt at cbrandt@artsusa.org.
Where: Rayburn Building
Room 2359, 3rd Floor
Why: Witnesses’ testimony before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on the Interior will focus on the importance of the arts to the nation and the need to retain current levels of funding to the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA).  Their testimony will also underscore the importance of developing strong public policies for the arts and arts education.

Book Festival Fever

Lines of people carrying red book bags filled the National Mall. A co-worker stood the back of a long line holding the hard cover his grandson wanted signed. Grandma and grandchild luckily sat in the tent listening to the author’s talk.

This Library of Congress National Book Fair draws big name authors in history and biography, poetry and prose, fiction and mystery.

All these police motorcycles stood around the history and biography tent. Men in suits with dark sunglasses and hearing devices stationed around the perimeter, a few giving me odd glances. I reached the entrance and saw a swarm of people. Applause broke out and Lara Bush took the stage.

The tent stretching from 4th to 5th streets had tables filled with hundreds of books for sale. Since I have a book on sports in DC, I was interested in the biography of boxer Ray Robinson and saw a few other baseball and other books that caught my eye.

C-Span TV covers the event and holds the interviews with authors on its Booktv. The schedule includes:

Laura Bush, Spoken from the Heart

David Remnick, The Bridge: The Life and Rise of Barack Obama

Nell Irvin Painter, The History of White People

Wil Haygood, Sweet Thunder: The Life and Times of Sugar Ray Robinson

Evan Thomas, The War Lovers: Roosevelt, Lodge, Hearst, and the Rush to Empire, 1898

Adele Logan Alexander, Parallel Worlds: The Remarkable Gibbs-Hunts and the Enduring (In)Significance of Melanin

James McGrath Morris, Pulitzer: A Life in Politics, Print, and Power

Richard Holmes, The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science

Stacy Schiff, Cleopatra: A Life

Interesting to me was the fifteen tables where authors signed books at hour intervels. The large number of people who waited up to two hours to get a single signature shows me how strong celebrity culture is in the US.

End of Summer

Who wondered about summer’s end as the weather turned cooler the last few days?

Another summer series ran its course last night. The DC Renaissance Hotel’s Independent Film Series showed Fish Out of Water and Black Over White last night as the last two movies for the year. The series included a wide variety of movies and different and unusual documentaries and fiction works.

The comfortable surroundings offer food and the proximity of people provided plenty of chaces to hold interesting and intriguing conversations about movies, travel, books, food and Washington, DC.

MOCA

The Book Fair at MOCA DC opened Saturday. I talked with a few of the people about writing, all of us agreeing that each type of writing (screenwriting, novels, non-fiction) required different sets of skills.

There were some great photo books. I was particularly impressed with this series of travel books. The one on Costa Rica meant the most to me because we’ve been there. But some of the China and other places were spectacular.

I liked my own display for Hollywood Bohemians and Capital Sporting Grounds.  I’ve got the photo below.Book_fair

Attitudes about Lesbian & Gay Hollywood

A trio of teen journalists wrote a piece for Y-Press about their thoughts on Hollywood’s current images of gays and lesbians. Here’s the article on teen attitudes.

They asked me about the history of gays and lesbians in movies. The piece they wrote is here.