So the bottom line, here, is that my friend, Kostya Kennedy must be a good writer to get me to read – and actually enjoy! – a book about football. While I love some sports, football is not one of them and being a pediatrician experienced in treating concussions, I am really not a fan. But in this non-fiction account of Kostya’s shadowing the New Rochelle High School football team for their 2014 season, Kostya manages to impress upon even me (a true cynic) why many tolerate the risk for the game.
In the course of the season, Lou DiRienzo, the NRHS football coach takes on the role of coach, teacher, mentor, father-figure, even therapist to many of the boys and he leads them with a kindness and honesty and integrity that earns their trust and respect. Right from their intensive camp experience at the start of the season, the boys bond and their lives are knitted together as a family. The team becomes an anchor for those with family issues and a sort of home base for all. Even at the advent of the Ray Rice scandal, Coach D reiterates that no matter what kind of trouble the boys ever get themselves into, the NRHS football family will always have their back. And even though the players are injured one after another, there is still an undying devotion to the game. So even though I am one of those mean mothers who won’t let my son play football, I do see, through the reading of this evenly researched account, its allure.
On the other hand, the negative side is presented quite clearly, too. The statistics about sudden death from the game, about the potential long- lasting cognitive and emotional deficits, not to mention the broken bones and orthopedic surgeries, are exposed. This feels to me like a high price to pay for something that another team experience might lend itself to.Still, what is conveyed here is that football, maybe because of its physicality, achieves gains for its players that transcend the immediate physical injuries.
So for all of you football fans, this one’s for you; however, even if you’re just human, you will feel the warmth and compassion of the writer toward the sport and the young people playing it.