In the corner of the blue carpeted, concrete-walled room, a giant floor fan whines, pushing around sweat-odored air. The locker room stinks, but at least it’s air-conditioned. Sort of. It’s better than being outside in the late-day, late-August New Orleans sun. So, the Patriots of John Curtis Christian School, more than a hundred of them, hang out in this dank room with missing ceiling tiles and funky smells. It barely contains them all.
The floor is littered with broken shoulder pads, socks, spools of athletic tape, Adidas sneakers, and the bright red or blue rubber Croc moccasins the players wear in the showers. A quote hand-painted on a scrap of plywood that’s duct-taped to the wall reads, WINNERS CONCENTRATE ON WINNING, LOSERS CONCENTRATE ON GETTING BY.
They’re trading gossip, razzing each other about girls, or arguing about what to expect from tonight’s opponent, all fired up for a new season and the start of a new school year on Monday. A multiracial, multicultural gumbo of kids from all over the city and the suburbs, they’re sons of the wealthy and the just scraping by, they’re scrawny ninth-grade third stringers and oversized, muscle-bound starting seniors, and they’re all united in determination to bring the mighty John Curtis Patriots to yet another state championship this year. A few boys sit alone on stools, headphones blocking out the roar. Others are curled up in a corner trying to nap, while a few enact pregame rituals, getting their heads ready to play.
Offensive guard Andrew Nierman, a bruising six-foot-one, 300-pounder, ties the shoes of his good friend, 325-pound defensive tackle Jonathan “Tank” English. Tank earned his nickname in fourth grade, when he and Andrew dressed as army guys for Halloween. A snarky janitor told Jonathan, nearing two hundred pounds even then, that he looked like an army tank. In grammar school, he developed a bad habit of never tying his laces tight enough, so Andrew always tightens them for him before games.
Tank and Andrew are both the ambitous, determined sons of hard-working single moms. Tank’s father died of a heart attack two years ago, after a decade of battling heart disease, high blood pressure, and kidney problems. He was only forty-nine. Tank and his mom, Althea, who runs a day-care center, live in mostly African-American section of Kenner, a suburb just west of River Ridge, and Tank has attended Curtis since the third grade. Andrew, who has contended with growing up biracial in a still strongly segregated New Orleans, commutes from thirty miles away, where he and his mother live alone. He has no relationship with this father, who left years ago.
Andrew and Tank, both juniors, anchor the Patriots’ front line—Andrew on offense, Tank on defense. They’re both savvy, physical players who run faster than 300-pounders should, and the coaches are relying on each of them to play leadership roles this year. Off the field, their demeanor is more preacher—Tank—and teacher—Andrew—than bone-breaking tacklers. Tank is a warm, happy-go-lucky man-boy with a deep laugh and a melodious voice as smooth and sweet as jelly. He leads his teammates in prayer before games and is a great motivator on the field. Andrew is thoughtful, studious, and serious, with dark, intense eyes; a beefy bookworm in shoulder pads. He’s one of the smartest kids in the school and dreams of attending a top academic college, maybe even Harvard.
Linebacker Mike Walker and quarterback Kyle Collura practice their pregame handshake, a hand dance of high-fives, low-fives, and a fist-to-fist punch. They plan to do it after every touchdown this year. Mike and Kyle are also juniors, getting their first shot at full-time varsity this year. Mike has a linebacker’s stout body but a face that’s pure teenager, with braces, faint freckles, wisps of facial hair, and spots of acne that look like they’ve been digitally transposed there from a seventh-grade school photo. He’s chatty and a bit of a clown who loves to crack jokes in class. Mike joined Curtis only three years ago, commuting from Metairie, east of River Ridge, so that he could join the Patriots. He’s worked hard to impress the coaches and has just learned that he’s been made a starter this season.
Kyle is lean and loose-limbed, with droopy, Nicolas Cage–like eyes. He always seems half asleep, with slouched shoulders and a laconic, jazzy way of dropping words out of the side of his mouth, as if he couldn’t care less where they land.
Kyle was third-string quarterback last year, but was thrust into the starter’s job five months ago when the Patriots’ rocket-armed quarterback Johnnie Thiel unexpectedly left the school in a huff. Kyle knows he’s no Johnnie Thiel, who was all handsome and slick and funny and stylish, confidently strutting his stuff on the field and off.
Johnnie had attended John Curtis since the third grade, and was the Patriots’ great hope for this season. In 2003, he had started a few games as a freshman, even playing in the state championship game, a 12–7 heartbreaking loss that left him crying on the sidelines of the Superdome, where the state’s high-school championship games are played. Last year, Johnnie split time with a senior quarterback and helped bring the Patriots again to the championship. Johnnie scored twice in that game, leading the Patriots to a 29–14 victory—and their tenth undefeated season—and was named the game’s most outstanding player.
He was in line to take sole possession of quarterback in 2005, but his desire to make dazzling runs and hurl touchdown bombs that made the highlight tapes conflicted with the school’s old-fashioned, grind-it-out offense. What he really wanted was to be a star, and to catch the eyes of college recruiters. But Curtis is no place for that kind of star, favoring only hard-working, obedient, team players. So, he transferred to East St. John High School in the town of Reserve, twenty miles west but closer to his home.
That’s how Kyle, a virtual nobody on the 2004 championship squad, was tapped as the new starter. To make matters worse, shortly after taking over the job, Kyle fell on a tackler in a spring scrimmage and snapped his own collarbone. It has since healed, though still a bit lumpy, and Kyle returned to practice only a few weeks ago. He still seems protective of his collarbone in practice, and the coaches worry that he may not be ready for tonight’s game, mentally or physically.
Kyle’s well aware that all the fans in the stands tonight will be wondering, This is our new quarterback? This quiet third-stringer? This is who’s going to lead us to the championship? He’s anxious to prove he can carry his team, nervous, but eager to play.
Equally anxious is the team’s speedy, all-purpose playmaker, Joe McKnight, who’s in the trainer’s room getting his ankles taped. Joe has commuted to Curtis from Kenner since he was eight years old. A moody, sometimes stormy young man, he is mad at the world for sticking him with an absentee father and a mom who struggles to put food on the table. Joe and his mother have a complicated relationship and he’s been living in and out of their home, staying with friends and extended family members. Coach J. T. Curtis has offered him a room in his home repeatedly, but Joe always says no; he feels awkward about living with his coach, and about how it would look for an African-American kid to be living with a white family.
Joe is six feet tall, just shy of two hundred pounds, and combines the lightning speed of a Jerry Rice with the explosive power of a Barry Sanders, one of his heroes. Each of his biceps is covered in tattoos, one of which reads JOE above a picture of a tiger.
Joe and Johnnie Thiel were a daunting duo on the field last year, each making weekly headlines on the sports pages of the Times-Picayune. The coaches mainly used Joe as a defensive safety and on special teams, occasionally putting him in at running back, which is where Joe really wants to play. Last year, he made a strong case for that job by returning forty-three punts for 872 yards and nine touchdowns, averaging twenty-plus yards per return. On kickoff returns, he averaged thirty-one yards and scored three touchdowns. In the state championship game, when the Patriots were stalled in a 14–14 second-half tie, Joe broke free for a long punt return, which set up a go-ahead quarterback sneak by Johnnie.
Joe and Johnnie were also close friends, and when Joe decided—not for the first time—to move out of his mom’s house for a few months last year, he moved in with Johnnie’s family. The two boys shared a bedroom, the walls covered with football posters, and always drove to and from school and practice together. They considered themselves as much brothers as friends, and Joe was looking forward to two more years of Thiel-and-McKnight headlines. Johnnie asked Joe to come with him to East St. John, but Joe wasn’t up for that, and was deeply hurt by Johnnie’s transfer. A few weeks later, he moved out of the Thiels’ home and temporarily back with his mom. He’s since been in and out of her house, spending most of his nights on the couches of friends or relatives.
He hasn’t let any of that affect his playing, though. In fact, Joe worked harder than anyone in practices through the spring and summer. He is the team’s best all-around player, ranked among the nation’s top high-school prospects. Already he’s being wooed by USC, Miami, Notre Dame, and others, whose coaches have gasped at highlight tapes...
--Ce texte fait référence à l'édition
Biographie de l'auteur
Neal Thompson is a veteran journalist who has worked for the Baltimore Sun, Philadelphia Inquirer, and St. Petersburg Times, and whose magazine stories have appeared in Outside, Esquire, Backpacker, Mens Health, and The Washington Post Magazine. He is the author of two critically acclaimed books, Light This Candle: The Life and Times of Alan Shepard, America's First Spaceman and Driving with the Devil: Southern Moonshine, Detroit Wheels and the Birth of NASCAR. Thompson and his family live in the mountains outside Asheville, North Carolina. Visit his website at www.nealthompson.com
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Commentaires client les plus utiles sur Amazon.com (beta)
7 internautes sur 7 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile
A Season to Remember!30 août 2007
Alvin C. Romer
- Publié sur Amazon.com
Lest we forgot the terrible tragedy that hurricane Katrina wrought, the two years of its aftermath magnifies still, the will to prevail. This is evident as thousands attempt to put their lives back together. Against all odds despite the hand of fate dealing a devastating blow to status quo, a group of courageous kids purposed not to allow angst to color the proverbial agony of defeat. Their story is typically told in author Neal Thompson's poignant book, HURRICANE SEASON. What a remarkable tale told amid the idea of overcoming the sheer force of a natural disaster. The author captures a truly extraordinary picture of boys and men doing what needs to be done with a sense of purpose that give new meaning to hope. This is the story of coach J.T. Curtis and a team that wouldn't quit when most would have simply thrown in the towel. John Curtis Christian School -- the Patriots, were a team of destiny that won you over once you read how they managed to allow rays of hope to illuminate sunshine on cloudy days eradicating the pervasive feeling of sadness...Let me tell you how they did it!
They did it with moxie, determination and an unbelievable test of faith. The book is a story that tugs at your heart and compels you to want to read it hoping for an ending that is akin to a `happily ever after' effect. Neal Thompson wrote with a clear mission to bring clarity to a group of kids that had reason to play with reckless abandon. The book is based on a majority of interviews conducted with Coach J.T., faculty members, students of John Curtis, many of the 2005 school year Patriots and their families, et al. The amazing thing about the book, the storm, and aftermath is the fact that Hurricanes Katrina and Rita gave us a chance to witness their fury on television with countless newspaper stories, and survivor accounts in magazines and online blogs...but the sheer affect it had on the people who suffered, the places they destroyed, and the things that will forever be associated with them, nothing can top this outstanding book for significant meaning in a reflective way.
The backdrop has a legendary football coach, albeit winning and charismatic looking at a rebuilding year in 2005. Despite losing his star quarterback to a rival school with a better chance at winning and the philosophy of team discipline, nothing could stop his drive for perfection - accept a lady on a mission! Katrina struck with impunity forcing players to abandon the city along with the multitude that called New Orleans home. However, John Curtis School survived with limited damage, allowing it to become one of the first schools to reopen. The book does a credible job of telling in graphic detail how Coach Curtis struggled to find games to resume the new season. His players battered and mentally beaten, were amazingly anxious to try to return to a sense of normality, and a ring of hope for their futures. All of this was based on a coaches' determination to spur his team to greater heights restoring self-esteem. I loved this book, especially the fact that it gives a good account of a proud school with an intrinsic view at Hurricane Katrina and how it affected the community-at-large. The author gave you a sense of concern for the families, how the government fumbled, and in the end, how a team scored the winning touchdown!
Sports fan or not, I have no doubt that Neal Thompson told a story worth reading, replete with facts, figures, and detail that takes nothing away from its 308 pages. This is a `feel good' story where it merits a chance for all readers to experience chaos written in a way to dispel notions of despair, yet give credence to overcoming odds for the thrill of victory. Thank you Neal Thompson for this book. I have no problems rating it 5 stars out of 5, and will encourage others to buy it where books are sold.
3 internautes sur 3 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile
Very good book22 août 2007
- Publié sur Amazon.com
If you enjoyed "Friday Night Lights" you will like this book, but it is about much more than just football. You can't imagine what these kids went through during and after Katrina, but this book tells the story very well. These kids came back home with their families to rebuild and in the process showed dedication to their city and school. This is easily one of the best stories to come out of Katrina. I hope this book can reach a wider audience, like FNL, because this is easily the best football/life books to come out since FNL hit the shelves.
If you have any interest at all in high school football, Katrina, or New Orleans then you will not be disappointed.
1 internautes sur 1 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile
THE EMOTIONAL SIDE OF THE STORY1 octobre 2007
- Publié sur Amazon.com
Hurricane season is an excellent complement to Douglas Brinkley's " The Great Deluge." While Brinkley provides an excellent analytical and scholarly account of Hurricane Katrina that should set the standard for many years; Hurricane Season captures the powerful emotional dimensions. Though grounded in the story of a high school football team, it transcends normal sportswriting by speaking to the bigger panorama of life, suffering, loss, and inspiring tales of recovery and fortitude. With so many aspirations and dreams hanging in the balance, the J.T. Curtis School and football team regroup after enduring catastrophe and devastation and become a beacon of hope and solace for many of the victims. Replete with an abundance of anecdotes and personal accounts, Thompson weaves their stories into a gripping narrative that will find appeal among readers of all genres. This is a stirring and fast paced treatment of those perilous days that is both wrenching and redeeming.
Reviewed by Barb Radmore31 juillet 2007
- Publié sur Amazon.com
The effects of Hurricane Katrina have been reported over and over, on TV, in newspapers, magazines and blogs. With modern technology many of us got to watch it live, bearing down in all its terror, from the comfort of our safe, intact homes. It would seem that we knew all there was to know, knew the effects of the storm on people, places and things. But none of the coverage, none of the follow up reports on the storm and its aftermath can top the book Hurricane Season for sheer impact, both on knowledge and emotions.
Hurricane Season is the story of one football team in the Parish of New Orleans. The team, The Patriots, is from a private Christian school that prides itself on its diverse student population, its core Christian values and its football team. Coach JT Curtis has one of the best win records in the country. His players have gone on to play for top college teams, a few are even playing for the NFL. In 2005 he was looking at a rebuilding year. The quarterback they expected to lead the team has left to join a rival school, one that will allow him more chances to gain the valuable stats that colleges seek. Coach Curtis believes in team effort, not individual star making. His team, due to his no cut policy, numbers over 100 each year. In a school of only 650 students, that is a very large percentage of the student population. His players train all summer, work to stay in shape, to be physically and mentally prepared for the fall football season. Coach believes in practice too- not the common 2 practices a day of most schools but three a day, a relentless, high powered training plan. But after all the preparations the season is brought to a sudden halt by Katrina. For football coaches' wives everywhere, the scene where the town is evacuating and the coaches' spouses are calling, actually interrupting their usual after practice meeting to try to convince the men to come home and pack, will ring very true. For the coaches and players nothing, short of Hurricane Katrina, would interfere with football.
But Katrina does interfere, sending players fleeing to other parts of the country, taking away their homes, their parents' jobs and all stability. John Curtis School survives with limited damage, allowing it to become one of the first schools to reopen. The Curtis family, the extended family of the original school founder John Curtis, works to locate and convince as many students as possible to return to the area. Coach Curtis struggles to locate other teams willing and able to resume the football season. His players begin to return, exhausted, scared and confused but anxious to try to return to a sense of normality, a sense of hope for their futures, based on the foundation of the football team they love.
The book begins and ends with football. It will appeal to any football fan, player, coach or sports fanatic. But this book goes far beyond the field. It interweaves the story of the John Curtis School, its history and its football, with an insider's look at Katrina and its aftermath. Using the individual players of the team and the storm's effects on them and their families Thompson is able to broaden the scope of the book to include an in depth look at the handling of the storm by individuals, agencies and the government. The middle section of the book is a clearly written account of the plight of those that suffered the loss of everything, the impact on families, jobs and futures. It is a devastating chronicle of not only nature's worst but of mankind at its best and worst.
Hurricane Season is a journalistic view of one team, its players and the effects of the worst storm in American history. It is a tale of football, its impact on the youth who play America's favorite sport. It is a tale of one school and its efforts to create the best possible school that produces well rounded men and women. It is the tale of a government that is not able to handle the storm or its aftermath. But most of all, it is a tale of people- from the players who never give up, their families that survive the unthinkable and a school of parents, teachers and coaches that care.
Neal Thompson has written a book that will resonate will all readers. His ability to tell the facts, clearly and vividly, on all levels of his account is exceptional. He tells all his true tales with clarity of knowledge, facts and figures, data and details. But it is the emotion that comes through the portrayal of the various aspects that makes this book outstanding. It is nonfiction at its most effective; it pushes the reader into involvement, caring and action. It is impossible to read this book and not respond on some level- perhaps some extra understanding or support for local sports programs, a volunteer relief effort (it is still needed) or at the very least an awareness of the America around us.. It celebrates our resiliency as it mourns our failures. Thompson managed this extraordinary writing feat of non fiction with heart, soul and flesh, examining the entire body of one individual event in our modern history.
Reviewer's Personal Note: I must say that I HATE football. I live in small rural town in New England that lives, breathes and idolizes our State Champion high school football team. I never quite understood it. This book certainly does explain it on many levels. If I loved this book as much as I did, any sports fan will really be impressed. But it should go way beyond sports fans for readers. I am rarely not able to put a book down (I would never do anything but read othewise) but this book had me glued to the end. I highly recommend it for all readers.
Amazing Comback!25 avril 2008
- Publié sur Amazon.com
"Hurricane Season" is a true story about triumph through hardship for a private Christian school's football team in New Orleans overcoming the devastation of Hurricane Katrina and Rita. This book takes a personal look at the devastation that Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita caused within six weeks. It's about a High School football coach's and his players' commitment to their school and team in midst of chaos and turmoil. It's about how football can pull a community together. I particularly liked reading how the coach motivated his players and how he taught them to be men. It was heartwarming to see how much the coach loved his players and cared about their personal lives and not just how they played football.
Another aspect that really touched me was J.T.'s close relationship and admiration for his father. His father built the school and was a big part of the football team. After the father died, J.T. still thinks of him often and wishes he could still run things past him. He feels a real sense of responsibility to make his dad proud and run the school well.
The ending of the book is very moving and emotional when the team finally gets to play football after it looked like they wouldn't even have a season. As I read about the games, it felt like I was right there in the stands watching and cheering for them. This book started out slow and was pretty sad, but is definitely worth reading to get an inside look at what the people of New Orleans went through during Katrina and how a football team really jelled. It certainly made my few problems look totally insignificant in comparison.