Joe Drape. Our Boys: A Perfect Season on the Plains with the Smith Center Redmen. Times, 2009. ISBN 978-0805088908 288 pp. $25
Reporter Joe Draper counts himself a Midwesterner even though he hasn’t lived there in 30 years. He returns from New York to his Kansas roots with his wife and 2 year son to chronicle the 2008 season of a highly acclaimed high school football team, with promised “complete access” from 31 year veteran coach, Roger Barta. The narrative dips into the geography, economy, and history of the team and Smith County with plenty of local color, and details training camp, student struggles to lead, and the challenges of this particularly slacker class of seniors who will be this season’s first stringers.
Gameday play-by-play is vivid and made exciting even to non-football fans, but it takes a long time to get to this action. I’m disappointed, because I think the story could have been told in a much more effective way (like reporter Dave Cullen’s Columbine maybe, where action and character building and research purposefully open each chapter and drive the chronological narrative of what happened on a specific date…).
Several players are highlighted, including team captains and other leaders, but even larger than life personalities are strangely flat, and don’t encourage empathy or connection. While I admire the ethics of team-building being more important than winning, this chronicle is probably a great book to offer to parents or educators because of its themes of growing upstanding citizens,