Friday, May 02, 2008

Book Review: The Real All-Americans

Another college football book, alas. Even better, the next two football books I have are about the Saturday game. The latest entry in "what football books Tom's read" is The Real All-Americans by Sally Jenkins, about the Carlisle Institute and its football team. This is perfectly competent narrative history, encompassing the origins of the Carlisle Indian school and the rise of the football team (and the school) to national prominence. There's a great deal of interesting material here, and I could easily write several posts analyzing in depth several of the issues, from historiography, writing about early sports history (especially football), and the nature of "amateur" athletics and Carlisle's uneasy place in what was already an uneasy enough "scholastic" sporting environment. If you're expecting a pure football book, this isn't it-half or more governs what Carlisle meant. There's probably just not enough about football (and/or football is hard enough to write about) that that's inevitable. But, the most telling thing I can say is that, after starting The Real All-Americans, I started and finished two other books, and that's something I don't normally do. As I said in my review of When Pride Still Mattered, by Jenkins' Washington Post colleague David Maraniss, not a bad book, but I didn't enjoy it. Call it a lukewarm recommendation.

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