The best thing you, the reader, can do with it is disagree with it, debate it, change it, have fun with it, decide for yourself
Talk about kicking a jockbrarian when he's down. Not two days after I had to endure yet another Packer playoff failure I picked up Howard Bryant's book Legends: Football looking to sooth my aching soul and have a little Packer pride affirmation session. Bryant's 2015 young adult sports book takes a peek at some of the great NFL football dynasties, players, and epic Super Bowls. As he describes in his forward, "This book is a book not only of football legends--but the legend of pro football."
Surely my Packers would be featured.......prominently.
Imagine my shock discovering that among Bryant's top Super Bowls, the 2 Packer World Championships (SB 31 and 45) in my lifetime were not even featured!! WHAT. That night I took Legends home to the authority, my 13 year old son. After hiding the sharp objects, we thrashed Bryant's omissions and the ridiculous bias toward the (his!) New England Patriots. Navigating our way through chapters of the past nearly 50 years of NFL history, we debated, reminisced about some stellar players, rehashed key plays that defined history, memorialized good coaches, and argued dynasties. Packers or Patriots? Or Dolphins.....or Steelers....or Cowboys..... It was us against Bryant!
Nearly 2 hours blew off the clock before I realized this is exactly the purpose Bryant has for his Legends books. In addition to football, Bryant has titles for Legends in Baseball, and well as a new book for Legends in Basketball. There's little doubting that sports unite people--they unite teenage friends, neighborhood kids, fathers and sons, grandfathers and grandsons. What Bryant has done with his very successful Legends books is set out a series of questions and debate topics for the sports buff! What better way to get the juices flowing in a competitive teenager! Let the kids read the history for themselves. Let them research, think, and draw their own conclusions. A little inquiry learning in an age where inquiry learning is the rage.
As for the books themselves, they are magnificent. Weighing in at around 300+ pages each, these books look, feel, and smell like an adult book. The text is young reader friendly, with bite sized chapters having just enough to chew on for a good argument. As I've said before, no middle or high school boy wants to feel like a little kid. Elementary sports books are very one dimensional and as easily telegraphed as a Jay Cutler pass. Bryant's Legends series is among the growing trend of young adult books that are trying to bridge the gap between child readers and adult readers by having authors talk to teens like young adults. In no other genre is that more important than in sports, as these young kids are well versed in this subject and dare not be fooled. The Legends books are an absolute must for upper elementary, middle, and high school libraries.
And Mr. Bryant, my son and I have a bucket full of reasons why the Packer/Steeler Super Bowl 45 should be included. We'll give you the benefit of the doubt that out of ridiculous soreness you could not include the beat down our Packers gave your Pats in SB 31 . As for the dynasty discussion, we VERY grudgingly defer to you. As the last line in your Legends: Football preface unarguably says, "In the NFL, it's all about the Super Bowl." And as the great Packer Architect Ron Wolf also said, if you don't win that game, you're nothing but a fart in the wind.
Back a few of summers ago I read Chris Herren's bookBasketball Junkie, constantly feeling like I was rubber-necking a bad auto wreck on the highway. The memoir traces Herren's tumultuous life as a high school basketball prodigy, Fresno State star under Jerry Tarkanian, and NBA player--much of this time operating under the haze of addiction.
Bill Reynolds has written about Herren more than anyone, and has done an amazing job in two books that involve Herren. Fall River Dreams (1995) is a classic tale of small town prep basketball that follows the championship run of Durfee High School in Fall River, Massachusetts. A central character in this Friday Night Lights read-alike happens to be Chris Herron, one of the best players to come through the Fall River pipeline. Years later, Reynolds helped Herren pen his memoir Basketball Junkie, which provides a more intimate look at Herren's life.
Herren is a fascinating study. You really want to like him as you are reading Basketball Junkie. You grow to like him, and every time he turns the corner and swears off the drugs, you are teased with hope. But then he lets you down again, screws up, and you want to knock some sense into him. For Herren, it's a self-defeating pattern that repeats itself with one crazy episode after the other. But isn't that the reality of addiction? A scourge so powerful that it can cause a man who seemingly has everything going for him--ridiculous basketball talent, a loving family, a wonderful soulmate, supportive coaches-to throw it all away for a fleeting high? Herren isn't the first athlete, and he won't be the last, to live out this nightmare. Athletes facing the weight of fame, enormous performance pressures, and friends who want benefits are an easy target for the ever-accepting safe havens of drugs and alchohol.
Herren's story has a positive ending, however. For every athlete who has lost it all, there's one who held on to a single thread during the dark days and came out on the other side. Herren not only made it, but he has dedicated himself to being sure others don't make the same mistakes he has made. He created The Herren Project, which helps people struggling with addiction, and regularly speaks to high school and college audiences on the dangers of substance abuse.
If you don't have these books in your library or house, please get them. Teens need to read Basketball Junkie. Yes, it is graphic and not pretty--but neither is addiction. Increasingly we are seeing young athletes succumbing to substance abuse. Is the next generation of athletes who emmulate the every move of their stars smart enough not to follow them off the cliff? Herren's book needs to be part of the package of conversations for educating our young athletes of the dangers that lurk in the shadows of the competitive heart.
( As an aside, I was so moved by the story that in 2014 I inquired about Chris coming to Wisconsin to speak at my school. Well, I didn't have that kind of money. But Chris, as an aging runner, I will lace up my shoes, wear my "Jockbrarian" blazer, carry a copy of Basketball Junkie, and run any of your sponsored races to raise awareness of your cause in exchange for a visit to Milwaukee!!)