Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Review of "Johnson and Johnson"


“Johnson and Johnson: A Short Story about Athletics and Academics in College Sports” by Larry LaForge



College Football (American)



Fiction, sports, American football, college, ethics, academics            



August 19, 2012



36 pages



3 1/2 of 5 stars – good



Southeast State University’s football team has risen to one of the powerhouses of college football under the tenure of Coach Brack Johnson.  This season looks to be one of the finest as the school is highly ranked in the polls.   All the money that the university has invested in the program with top-notch facilities seems to be paying off. 

Professor Carson Johnson is a rising star in his own right.  On the fast track to tenure, he notices a peculiar trend in the grades and scholastic work of the team’s All-American quarterback.  He does what he believes is the right thing and notifies the dean of academics.  Could this really be happening?

Larry LaForge has addressed this ethical dilemma that is faced by many schools in this era of college football.   This is a short story that alternates the viewpoints of the coach and the professor. The center of the controversy is the team’s star quarterback, Stan Rogers.   Rogers does suffer an injury during the season, but at the time, it is discovered that his academic record shows good grades for work done outside class, but poor grades for in-class work. This creates an ethical dilemma for both the coach and the professor as neither wants the school to appear to be “soft” on academics, but at the same time, needs the quarterback to play.  

The story does take an interesting turn on this issue as Rogers is held out due to his injury, even when it has healed, so this can be addressed.  Each time the story is told in one viewpoint, the section ends with a hint of what is about to happen.   However, this is never spelled out in that next section.   The reader doesn’t really get to experience what the ultimate decision will be.  Instead, the reader will have to draw his or her own conclusion based on the progression of SSU’s season and the action of the academic board.  

 It is a good story that is very relevant for the topic.   It could use a little more substance and character development for the quarterback and the athletic director.  It does have a nice touch with the alternating viewpoints as the reader does understand the issues each man does face.  All in all, a decent short read that college football fans will enjoy.

Did I skim?


Did I feel connected to the characters? 

Yes.  I especially felt the pain of Coach Brack Johnson, as coaching is a very tenuous occupation at best, and this new revelation made the coach engage with a very hard conversation with his family on what the proper choice should be.  

Pace of the story:

Good – switching between the coach and the professor was important with this theme and both sides kept the story moving forward.


Both sides of the issue were addressed in the same amount of detail, and the arguments were presented fairly.  This book did not preach one way or the other about the issue – it simply painted a picture of the troubles facing both coach and professor.



The final outcome could be presented in a more clear and concise fashion.  I did re-read the last two sections before the epiloge to ensure I understood the entire picture.  For a short story, I found that a bit unsettling, as most short stories will be sharper.   This is not to say that the reader will be left without a conclusion – he or she just has to draw that conclusion on his or her own.


Do I recommend?  

Yes, for college football fans or readers who like ethical issues in the book.  


Book Format Read: ebook (Kindle)


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