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Our Boys : A Perfect Season on the Plains with the Smith Center Redmen

Walmart # 569381423
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Drape, a Kansas City native and an award-winning sportswriter for "The New York Times," pens an inspiring portrait of the extraordinary high-school football team and coach whose quest for perfection sustains its hometown in America's heartland.

Customer Review Snapshot

4.2 out of 5 stars
19 total reviews
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Most helpful positive review
I really enjoyed this book. It gives you the flavor of life in a small Midwestern town. Joe Drape got to know the people of Smith Center so well because he moved his family there. The book covers the high school football team during the 2008 season. The author takes us through the pre-season and season in chronological order. We learn what happens in all the games, but what the author does best is help us get to know the members of the team, the coaching staff, and the members of the community. We get to know so many people in the book that at times it is hard to keep track of who is who. The author helps is by placing a team roster at the front of the book. The book really revolves around the Smith Center coaching staff, mainly head coach Roger Barta. He is depicted a somewhat larger-than-life. He has the ability to take a seemingly ordinary group of boys in a dying town and turn them into an unbeatable team. He does this by concentrating on fundamentals and hard work, but also trying to make the game fun for his players. He knows that most of his players will never play college football, so he wants to make sure that he does his best to prepare them for life. I have read other books about high school sports, such as "Friday Night Lights", "Fall River Dreams", and "Counting Coup". I feel that this book is in the same class as those books. This was a thoroughly enjoyable read.

About This Item

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Drape, a Kansas City native and an award-winning sportswriter for "The New York Times," pens an inspiring portrait of the extraordinary high-school football team and coach whose quest for perfection sustains its hometown in America's heartland.

The football team in Smith Center, Kansas, holders of the nation's longest high-school winning streak, embrace a philosophy of life taught by their legendary coach, Roger Barta: "Respect each other, then learn to love each other and together we are champions."
But as the Redmen embarked on a quest for a fifth consecutive state title, they faced a potentially destabilizing transition: the greatest senior class in school history had graduated, and Coach Barta was contemplating retirement. In Smith Center—population: 1,931—this changing of the guard was seismic. Hours removed from the nearest city, the town revolves around "our boys" in a way that goes to the heart of what America's heartland is today.
New York Times sportswriter Joe Drape moved his family to Smith Center to discover what makes the team and the town an inspiration for miles around. And in a new afterword, Drape returns to Smith Center to chronicle even greater challenges as the streak enters its sixth year.

Specifications

Publisher
St. Martin's Press
Book Format
Paperback
Original Languages
English
Number of Pages
320
Author
Joe Drape
ISBN-13
9780312662639
Publication Date
August, 2010
Assembled Product Dimensions (L x W x H)
8.28 x 5.64 x 0.87 Inches
ISBN-10
0312662637

Customer Reviews

5 stars
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1-5 of 19 reviews

Simply put, this is a ...

Simply put, this is a wonderful book about values, small town life, and helping young people become solid citizens. It follows a high school football team in Kansas as it pursues another championship season and approaches an all-time winning streak. However, this is a not a typical narrative about a season in the life of a football team. Although it proceeds chronologically, there is very little suspense in a traditional manner of a sports book - we know from the title that the team again goes undefeated. Mr. Drape avoids describing whole games in too much detail, instead highlighting the key moments where a lesson is learned or a relationship is altered or some event occurs where you witness the growth of a player or coach. The book is full of memorable characters, beginning with the head coach. You can see he takes his charge seriously in not only teaching the game itself, but instilling values and sportsmanship in his players. The assistant coaches, the players, and the good people of Smith Center are all portrayed crisply - usually in a positive light, but as real people with their occasional flaws and weaknesses. Mr. Drape has a fluid style of writing that is easy to absorb. He described people, places, and situations well, without ever falling too much in love with his metaphors or wordplay. Even though he moved to Smith Center for a year to live the experience, he lets the characters drive the story, and he and his family never become disproportionately important to the narrative. I highly recommend this book. It is enjoyable to read and inspirational on a number of levels. Based on my experience with "Our Boys," I would be happy to read Mr. Drape's other works because of his writing style, even if the subject matter didn't immediately interest me.

If perfection is borin...

If perfection is boring, then Joe Drape has turned in a really fine job in his book, Our Boys: A Perfect Season On The Plains With The Smith Center Redmen. To write about a team that steamrolled opponent after opponent and make it compelling must have been a daunting task. Yet, he has produced a fine work in Our Boys. Drape, a reporter for the New York Times, moved his family out to Smith Center, Kansas ( pop. 1,931) from Manhattan to write a book on the most successful team in Kansas high school football history, a team which was in the midst of a 54-game winning streak. His goal was to write a book on the 2008 season as they attempted to set a state record for consecutive victories. In 2007, the team had rolled through opponents. The team had even scored 72 points in one quarter to set a national record. Writing about Kansas farm boys beating up on other teams could have been a boring book but Drape's writing is so engaging, he manages to overcome those obstacles. Drape was helped by the fact that the incoming seniors who had inherited the win streak were considered a weak class. There were doubts they could step up to fill the shoes of the previous senior classes; doubts that the team was committed to winning. Indeed, the Redmen's best senior player had not shown up all summer long to team workouts. We watch as this senior class grows from self-doubters to champions. It is compelling stuff. Drape takes you through the season, week by week. But he manages to sprinkle in what life in a Midwest town during tough economic times is like. These moments are what make the book so very enjoyable. Particularly fun are the fish-out-of-water moments that he and his young son have as they grow accustomed to life in Smith Center after spending years in Manhattan. It's clear that Drape has fallen in love with Smith Center and this is his love letter to Smith Center. This is no Friday Night Lights expose on high school football. In fact, at times the book makes it seem like Smith Center has cornered the market on kindly, wise and generous people. Some may say this is the book's weakness. But the book's main theme is the love that Smith Center head coach Roger Barta uses as his tool to bring the team and community together. It's an unusual approach in high school football. Drape tries to show how the team has affected the community and vice versa. And it all revolves around coach Barta and his mantra of hard work and love. Obviously this is a book first and foremost about high school football. But it also has enough elements about a Main Street USA community and its relationship to its youngsters that it will be enjoyable to the non-sports fan.

I live in Texas where ...

I live in Texas where it is often said that the two most important sports at high schools and colleges across the state are Football and Spring Football. In such an environment, we are routinely inundated with stories and articles having a "football as a metaphor for life" theme, particularly as each new season is about to begin. Indeed, Buzz Bissinger's Friday Night Lights has set the bar quite high for anyone trying to contribute something new and interesting in this area. Despite those long odds, Our Boys manages to succeed in doing just that. Joe Drape tells the story of the 2008 football season for the Smith Center high school team and its quest for a fifth straight state championship as well as the state record for consecutive victories. For the project, Drape moved his family from New York City to this western Kansas town of about 2,000 people in order to live the entire experience first-hand. This decision proved to be critical as the author was quickly able to integrate himself into the rhythm of life in the town as well as into the homes and hearts of the residents. One curious thing about the book is that the football sequences themselves are surprisingly bland and unengaging. In fact, there is very little drama at all in the story; the book's subtitle tells you everything you need to know about how the season turns out. What actually redeemed Our Boys for me is the remarkable sense of community that the author is able to convey. This is really more a chronicle of the collective values and commitment of an extraordinary group of people-and the hard work and personal relationships that define their connections-than it is a narrative about the game itself. Living in Smith Center clearly affected the author deeply and he is able to recreate for the reader much of what made that experience so special. As Drape tells it, the values espoused by Coach Roger Barta, the larger-than-life figure around whom the entire town coalesces, are simple and compelling: It's not about winning and losing, it's about being a team and trying to get a little better every day. These sentiments could easily slip into the realm of clichéd "coach speak", except for the fact that everyone in Smith Center--from the players to the parents and the other fans--truly believes in them and lives their lives accordingly. The coach tells his team before the season begins that they should start by respecting each other and from that love for one another and collective success will follow. I'm sure that the players thought the coach was referring to football, but it is clear that the people of the town had long since realized that he was talking about so much more. Our Boys is far from a perfect book-it contains more than a few factual errors or omissions-but it is one that I am happy to recommend. Smith Center is a town that I would love to visit and that has nothing to do with how the high school team performs on the field.

I live in Texas where ...

I live in Texas where it is often said that the two most important sports at high schools and colleges across the state are Football and Spring Football. In such an environment, we are routinely inundated with stories and articles having a "football as a metaphor for life" theme, particularly as each new season is about to begin. Indeed, Buzz Bissinger's Friday Night Lights has set the bar quite high for anyone trying to contribute something new and interesting in this area. Despite those long odds, Our Boys manages to succeed in doing just that. Joe Drape tells the story of the 2008 football season for the Smith Center high school team and its quest for a fifth straight state championship as well as the state record for consecutive victories. For the project, Drape moved his family from New York City to this western Kansas town of about 2,000 people in order to live the entire experience first-hand. This decision proved to be critical as the author was quickly able to integrate himself into the rhythm of life in the town as well as into the homes and hearts of the residents. One curious thing about the book is that the football sequences themselves are surprisingly bland and unengaging. In fact, there is very little drama at all in the story; the book's subtitle tells you everything you need to know about how the season turns out. What actually redeemed Our Boys for me is the remarkable sense of community that the author is able to convey. This is really more a chronicle of the collective values and commitment of an extraordinary group of people-and the hard work and personal relationships that define their connections-than it is a narrative about the game itself. Living in Smith Center clearly affected the author deeply and he is able to recreate for the reader much of what made that experience so special. As Drape tells it, the values espoused by Coach Roger Barta, the larger-than-life figure around whom the entire town coalesces, are simple and compelling: It's not about winning and losing, it's about being a team and trying to get a little better every day. These sentiments could easily slip into the realm of clichéd "coach speak", except for the fact that everyone in Smith Center--from the players to the parents and the other fans--truly believes in them and lives their lives accordingly. The coach tells his team before the season begins that they should start by respecting each other and from that love for one another and collective success will follow. I'm sure that the players thought the coach was referring to football, but it is clear that the people of the town had long since realized that he was talking about so much more. Our Boys is far from a perfect book-it contains more than a few factual errors or omissions-but it is one that I am happy to recommend. Smith Center is a town that I would love to visit and that has nothing to do with how the high school team performs on the field.

This book is the chron...

This book is the chronicle of one season for a high school football team in a small town in western Kansas. While that may not sound too enticing to some readers, there's in fact quite a bit going on in this book that elevates it into the category of pretty darn good sports literature. Even readers who don't have much interest in football, or high schools, or even Kansas may find a lot to like here. Smith Center sounds like a fairly average rural farming community. What makes them stand out, however, is the Redmen, their local high school football team. When New York Times reporter Joe Drape begins telling their story, the Redmen are preparing to begin a new season, one they hope will end with the team's winning its fifth consecutive state championship title and maintaining an undefeated streak lasting just as long. There's some question, though, whether the current crop of seniors are good enough, and unified enough, to maintain the standards set by their predecessors. Is this the year when everything goes bust? Joe Drape tells a good story, one that reminded me more than once of Stefan Fatsis' "Wild and Outside," about the impact of sports loyalties on small mid-western towns. "Our Boys" has that to an even greater extent, though, because the while the fabled Smith Center Redmen have a statewide reputation for fearsome football, they're still -- as Drape makes clear -- a bunch of kids. It'd be too easy to label this "a coming of age story," but there's certainly some of this here. It's also a look at the impact a good coach can have on a community, a school, and, again, a bunch of kids. There are any number of ways a story could have gone adrift, and Drape has skillfully avoided them. There is a lot of football here, to be sure, but "Our Boys" is not a play-by-play almanac of practices and games. We get to know players, coaches, and families, but our look at them is respectful and appropriate, not voyeuristic. Best of all, perhaps, Drape resists the temptation to make "Our Boys" any sort of allegory about the crisis in family farming, the decline of the rural way of life, the tension between athletics and academics, or any of the other Big Issues you might expect a New York Times writer to flirt with. This is a story of a team and the community that surrounds and supports it. It's straightforward, well-written and insightful, and by the end of the season you might even find you have a bit of an emotional connection to the Redmen yourself. Nicely done.

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Electrode, Comp-389271355, DC-prod-cdc03, ENV-prod-a, PROF-PROD, VER-30.0.3, SHA-fe0221a6ef49da0ab2505dfeca6fe7a05293b900, CID-887c84ac-e06-16e7697b4e31a6, Generated: Sat, 16 Nov 2019 23:41:24 GMT