Friday, August 23, 2013

Where Dreams Die Hard: A Small American Town and Its Six-Man Football Team by Carlton Stowers

In some states, small high schools that can't field a regular football team with 11 on a side compete in six-man football instead. In 1953 there were 30,000 high schools playing six-man football, but closings and consolidation have reduced that number to less than 250. This story takes place in Texas, of course, because where else is high school football as important as it is in Texas?

This book is as much about small-town life as it is about football. Penelope, TX has a population around 200, and people are much more interconnected than in cities and suburbs. Heck, I thought I went to school in a small town, but that town was 15 times bigger than Penelope (now it's 150 times bigger than Penelope thanks to sprawl).

I wish Stowers had written more about the game itself and how it differs from regular football. He tells its history, but he doesn't say much about plays and strategy. Instead he includes a lot of small town/school drama. I guess he was targeting a more general audience rather than just football fans. Also he should have left out the subplot about his father dying. Dedicating the book to him was enough. Stowers didn't write a lot about it, but authors inserting their irrelevant personal lives into their books is a pet peeve of mine. Just because you experienced something while you were writing a book doesn't mean it should go in the book (unless it's a memoir, of course).

Despite my minor complaints, Where Dreams Die Hard is an entertaining book that gives insight into a little-known sport and a disappearing way of life. At the end, I felt like I had been right there on the sidelines watching the Penelope High Wolverines for the whole season.

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