Against Football: One Fan's Reluctant Manifesto

Those who don't care for the U.S.'s favorite fall sport might be inclined to pick up Steve Almond's Against Football, looking for validation of their position. Those who love the sport may be drawn in by its subtitle, One Fan's Reluctant Manifesto, for similar reasons. Almond's power lies in his ability to speak to both readers.

Almond (Not That You Asked; Candyfreak) states that he's loved football all his life--playing the game, following it, bonding with father and brothers and friends over it--but he can no longer watch it in good conscience. This collection of essays, reflections and arguments is his attempt to reconcile the sport's appeal and allure ("in its exalted moments, [it] is not just a sport, but a lovely and intricate work of art") with its undeniably problematic aspects. The brutality and violence of the play is the most obvious issue, but Almond also addresses the culture surrounding football, commenting on its tolerance, if not outright cultivation, of homophobia, racism, greed and other undesirable attitudes.

Is it right that an activity proven to cause irreversible physical and mental damage is promoted to boys and young men as a viable career path? How do athletic scholarships support the educational mission of universities? Why does reverence for football players' skills seem to give them a pass for sometimes-criminal behavior off the field? None of these questions are easily answered, but healthy debate is what Almond is after here. Opinionated and provocative, Against Football may be a "reluctant manifesto," but it proves the author is passionately interested in starting a conversation. --Florinda Pendley Vasquez, blogger at The 3 R's Blog: Reading, 'Riting, and Randomness

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