“Playing Through the Whistle: Steel, Football and an American Town” by S.L. Price
Football (American), high school, race, industry, society
October 4, 2016
5 of 5 stars (outstanding)
The western Pennsylvania town of Aliquippa is noted for two things: the rise and fall of the Jones and Loughlin (J & L) steel company and the success of the high school football team that has produced several NFL players, two of the most notable being Mike Ditka and Derrelle Revis. The story of the town and how the people in the town became a melting pot of culture, race and social status is captured in this outstanding book by S.L. Price.
The award winning Sports Illustrated author writes about more than the football team. In fact, the book illustrates the struggles of the town’s residents as some wanted to escape the hard gritty life of the steel mill. While J & L provided a living for most of the families in Aliquippa, the town also was a reflection of the conflicts occurring in the country. For example, racial tensions ran high in Aliquippa during the height of the civil rights protests and it affected the high school as well as the adults.
There isn’t a lot of football talk in the book – at least not the X’s and O’s of the game. The stories of many players and coaches, both black and white, are told through interviews and how the experience of Alliquippa football shaped the man. The football team was not a winner every year that is written, a reflection of the ups and downs of the mood of the town.
This book is better classified as a history book, as it describes the successes and failures of the town through the steel industry and the high school football team. It is a gripping story, one that is not always easy to read, and will not end on a happy note. Instead, it is one of the most realistic books a reader will find on the lives of the residents of one of the most resilient towns in the nation.
I wish to thank Grove Atlantic for providing a copy of the book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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