Prolific Boston area writer Steve Almond has a book out subtitled “One Fan’s Reluctant Manifesto.” What, pray tell, might he by reluctant about? Being a lifelong football fan. The book was written in the wake of revelations about concussive damage, but way before the current wave of player violence. Almond – who reads at Brookline Booksmith tonight, Thursday Sept. 18 at 7 – advocated boycotting last year’s Super Bowl because of his newly formulated convictions. Almond, who’s written humorously and smartly about both candy and rock ‘n’ roll, has entered a new, and potentially volatile zone, with “Against Football: One Fan’s Reluctant Manifesto.” Recently, in New York at a signing Almond said giving up football was, for him, like an alcoholic kicking booze.
He also wrote this for WBUR’s Cognoscenti section the other day, about reaction to the book: “When I decided to write a book about my anguished 40-year relationship with football, I knew I was going to upset fellow fans. But I had a plan to cushion the blow. I hoped to call the book ‘This Eager Violence of the Heart,’ a phrase borrowed from the Don DeLillo novel ‘End Zone’ which I felt would capture my tortured feelings. What’s more, I would dedicate the opening chapters of the book to my love of the game.
Within a day of the book’s publication, the vitriol started pouring in. ‘You are the biggest [derogatory expletive that rhymes with maggot].’ Another suggested that ISIS should behead me.
f course, my publishing house, in the grand tradition of publishing houses, had a more commercial title in mind: “Against Football.” And while I do spend many pages praising the game’s virtues, most of the book is devoted to football’s corruptions, the way it endangers players, fosters attitudes of intolerance and has converted our allegiance to athletic heroism into an engine of greed.
I ultimately conclude that we fans have no one to blame but ourselves, that we’re the ones who built this country’s massive Football Industrial Complex. So let us just say that I was bracing for some unhappy reactions.
I didn’t have to wait long. Within a day of the book’s publication, the vitriol started pouring in. “You are the biggest [derogatory expletive that rhymes with maggot].” Another suggested that ISIS should behead me.
There were several other notes in which my correspondents appeared actually to have read the book — and still thought I was an idiot. The terms on display were a bit more colorful: ‘wussie,’ ‘pansy,’ ‘liberal fascist.’
But after that initial flurry, a surprising thing happened: I started to receive notes of support from some unusual suspects. Former NFL players, for instance. “What you explain in ‘Against Football’ is dead on,” wrote Markus Koch, a former defensive lineman for the Washington Redskins. “I participated in the football myth from the inside out.”
Almond will no doubt expound upon this topic at Brookline Booksmith. Me, I’m still a fan of the Patriots, and what we consider – in a high falutin’ way – this combination of war and chess, of massive collisions and intricate strategy. Beauty, grace and THUMP. But I want to hear Almond and read the book; I love well-written essays and Almond is a terrific writer.
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