The King of Sports: Football's Impact on America (Anglais) Relié – 24 septembre 2013
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The author, Gregg Easterbrook, who has written for years for publications like The Atlantic and ESPN.com is certainly a fan of the game, and loves how athletics, properly used, are tools for character development, self discipline, exposing especially the young to a wider world, and for being one of the few outlets commonly accepted today that brings a real sense of civic cohesion. He has been a youth coach and active participate in the college recruiting process as well. So he does have not only the observational skills of a journalist, but the ability to understand how the game works on the inside.
I am largely sympathetic with Easterbrook's main points: football has become an unhealthy obsession in the nation, and we are taking massive risks with health and safety of youth, twisting educational opportunities into corrupt incentives for school pride and aggrandizement and abusing civic pride in professional sports into an excuse to pump an increasingly corrupt organization like the NFL. His most convicting comments, again largely in agreement with his main points, are from Super Bowl winning coach, Tong Dungy and a Virginia Tech player.
While I am largely in agreement with Easterbrook's thesis, this book can overwhelm the reader with the massive amount of data, and be quite rambling at times. I remain unsure if this book will convince anyone not already convinced of the sport's problems. The organization of this book does leave some to be desired. He did have tremendous amount of access to the Virginia Tech football program, a team that Easterbrook believes does things the right way, and he spends most of the text overwhelming showing how the sport, at different levels, is abusing the public trust.
The Virginia Tech sections of the books, especially the lengthy section on the 2012 Sugar Bowl, are hard to fit into a book that hits the game with negativity over and over. I understand Easterbrook wants to show a 'good' program, but it is hard to make sense if he wants to have a retelling of Virginia Tech's 2011 season, or critique the negative aspects of the game.
His real thesis chapter, the third from the end, really should have been at the beginning of the work. His reforms that he suggests, which he hopes return the balance of emphasis back to education and civic responsibility do make sense, though probably won't be enacted by today's public. Still, as a book that collates all the abuses and cultural negative influence of today's football, this book should be read.
All the while we exploit our college athletes. Only about half graduate with a college degree. Only one in a hundred from college go to NFL. Five years after playing NFL, most players are broke. They don't get guaranteed contracts. Repetitive head injuries lead to brain damage, suicidal depression, ALS disease and a host of other disorders.
Additionally, college and NFL players, huge with inflated weight increases from a generation ago, influence the American youth to "bulk up," which leads to obesity. And then there are the pain killers and PEDs, which are sought out by our youth, many of whom are trying to be recruited as young as twelve years old.
This sick symbiotic relationship between a multi-billion-dollar industry and the viewing addicts is held under a microscope in writing that is accessible, fair-minded, well researched and moves along at a brisk pace in spite of all the valuable statistics Easterbrook relies on to support his points. Highly recommended.
Dedicated football fans and sports historians will find little new in this book beyond some of the amazing statistics Easterbrook has amassed to support his positions. Indeed, it reads as an amalgamation of ills and evils reflected in modern day football at all levels. But casual fans and outside observers may be shocked by these revelations that fall one after the other in "The King Of Sports". The avaricious team owners who use a clueless and willing Congress to further not only the direction of the game but also to secure tax-payer subsidies and outright "gifts" to build enormously expensive stadia wherein these same taxpayers can be charged onerous prices to attend while also subsidizing maintenance. The exploitation of college football players, particularly African Americans, while ignoring the true meaning of a college education. The devastating injuries and career ending concussions coupled with the fact that colleges provide no long term insurance support for injured players.
To provide a unifying thread across all levels of football, Easterbrook selected Frank Beamer and his Virginia Tech football program to shadow for a year and to use as a cautionary model of how things should be done at major college football institutions. His selection may be arguable to some but it does make a dry depressing read just a little more interesting as he follows Beamer and his staff from recruiting, to practices, to training tables, to a BCS bowl game with Michigan, to a follow up study on the coach's lasting influence on his players. These threads, interwoven in appropriate chapters, detail the hopes, dreams, and heartbreaks of the collegiate and future professional athlete.
All in all, a book of revelations that may startle many readers and certainly will make many readers aware of the dangers, misuse of public monies, and abuse of our young athletes. Not that these things are altogether new, but they are now codified, with supporting statistics and examples, of all that is wrong with football in America today. "The King Of Sports" is not a fun pass-the-time read; rather it can be ponderously slow yet quick to anger in many aspects. Perhaps its value will inevitably manifest in bringing attention to the problems, dangers and inequities of a game that America adores in hopes that appropriate changes can be made to ensure its continued existence amid new safety and new financing opportunities.
I love football. I played D1 Power 5 college football in the 80's and until I read this book I was not ashamed of my sport; I am now and hope that there is something that I can personnally do before it collapses on itself.
If you are a fan, you need to read this book. If you are not a fan, you need to read this book.