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3rd Down and Forever: Joe Don Looney and the Rise and Fall of an American Hero Paperback – September, 1994


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 247 pages
  • Publisher: St Martins Pr (September 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312112343
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312112349
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.5 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,398,432 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This is a curious sports biography in which Clark, an Oklahoma lawyer, approaches a seemingly unworthy subject with a reverence bordering on hero-worship. Born in 1942 to a demanding, distant football-star father and a none-too-bright Southern belle mother, Joe Don Looney was indulged throughout his life--as a boy by his mother and as an adult by his increasingly well-to-do father. Joe Don was a singularly talented halfback, playing for the New York Giants, Baltimore Colts, Detroit Lions and Washington Redskins, but his hatred of authority figures extended to coaches, so his gridiron career was largely a tale of unrealized potential. Personally, he was handsome, outspoken and irresponsible, with a short temper and a brief attention span; he experimented with Eastern religions, drugs, body-building, marriage (twice, maybe thrice) and finally motorcycling, which killed him in 1988. He emerges here as a child who grew only in body and talent. Photos.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Had Looney been an actor or a singer, he might have attained the fame of James Dean or Elvis. During the early 1960s, he was considered one of the most promising football players in America. This account of his life is more than a sports biography. It tells of an individual who was a free spirit, renaissance man, and rebel. Looney's personal problems, from pressures on the football field to Vietnam to drug use, as well as his dedication to Eastern spiritual meditation, are skillfully presented by Clark, who interviewed hundreds of Looney's friends and relatives. At times, the constantly changing cast of characters makes for difficult reading. Yet Looney's guiding philosophy of always trying his best comes shining through in this story of a potential superstar who "chose to operate outside of convention." Recommended for public libraries.
- Albert Spencer, Univ. of Nevada-Las Vegas
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Marty Howell on November 13, 2005
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In contrast to the reviewer who wrote "Still Searching for the Real Joe Don", I found Clark's treatment sympathetic to the values which guided Looney's travels & travails. Yet, to the author's credit, this end was accomplished without the wholesale denigration of the larger society's beliefs as embodied by Looney's parents, Bud Wilkinson and the U.S. Government. In walking this fine line Clark allows the reader to draw his own conclusion as to the worth or viability of bucking the system. I suspect the previous reviewer knew Looney personally. It is likely that no biograper could give a satisfactory account of the many traits and nuances which coalesce in an individual psyche, when that individual was our own colleague. I believe criticism is due Publisher's Weekly for smugly labeling Looney's life a "seemingly unworthy topic". In fact, Looney is a fascinating, legendary character whose life can be appreciated on multiple levels: 1) As pure, unscripted entertainment--no Hollywood production could match Looney's emotional turbulence, humorous pranks & quips, gridiron exploits, drug involvement and esoteric philosophy--which leads me to ask in amazement why his life hasn't already been made into a movie 2) As a sociological study in the conflict of individual expression with the ethos of consumption in post-war Texas suburbia during the "era of plenty" 3) Looney can be identified as the prototype of the modern football athlete with his emphasis on nutrition and seminal status as a weightlifter 4) Last but not least, Looney's experience is a tale of soul-searching which led him to discard the excess of inherited baggage in the pursuit of a happiness that was custom tailored to his own needs.Read more ›
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By James D. Doyle on September 24, 2009
Here is a great biography of one the most fascinating sports characters in American History. Joe Don embodied the odyssey of many athletes during the turbulent '60's.
His rebelion from the atuhoritarian and draconian mindset of the "Football Coach" was an inspiration to many guys from my generation who endured the lash of the omnipotent Coachs who ruled through fear and intimdation. It was the same mindset that sent many of the baby boomer generation to their early graves in Vietnam. Joe Don gave the ruling [...] the finger. He knew personal integrity mattered more than social mores that choked the life out you. Oliver Stone should do a movie of Joe Don's life if he really wanted to capture the essence of the 60's
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24 of 36 people found the following review helpful By caleggette@aol.com on April 29, 1999
Format: Paperback
Oh, yeah, J. Brent, you are some smooth talker; it's a pity, however, with all your smooth talk you missed out on what Joe Don was all about; even a cursory look at the video Larry Merchant aired after Joe's death would have showed you more of the man than your predone perspective on him -- he had truly declared peace with the world; he left the gridiron to find what mattered -- and your and everyone else's criteria of what constitutes a "successful life" just doesn't cut it; Joe was after a first-hand recognition of God inside himself; and I think he found it; the pity is that you didn't; you wrote a sports book and a book of a man who, in Kipling's phrase, "went too native." Joe did nothing of the kind; he threw off the expectations of parents and coaches; he left behind the failure of traditional Western notions of the heroic; he quit the tired Sunday go to meeting gestures; and he found, in Eliot's words, a "tremor of bliss." The shame of what you've done lies in your unwillingness or inability to see that; hell, I think you should try writing the damn book all over again. Talk to more people -- sit down with yourself and get a taste of the transcendent peace Joe grew into.
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By Pugwash on May 27, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The fact that this a very well writtn biography does nothing to mitigate the fact that this is a brutally painful book to read.

Much like "Joe, you coulda made us Proud", the autobiography of a massively flawed and hugely talented Joe Pepitone, this book magnifies the pock marks of an athlete and a man who fell short of almost eeveryone's expectations.

I kept finding myself waiting for a point when redemption would have me begin to identify with Joe Don Looney, and feel some humanity toward him, but I never was able to.

He was a hugely talented football player with laser sharp focus, and a will and mindset to drive himself to stardom, and yet his behavior throughout his life was horrible. From constantly picking fights, to bedding girls and women down, and then revealing his booger collection to them, to urinating on the windshield of an admirerer, he was a disgusting man.

Yet, aside from his Junior College football coach, he let down every single person important to him ( and actually disappointed him as well, when he stood up his team during a reunion), until he met his yogi, who believed in him, and emotionally supported him.

Yes, he became a punchline in the 1970's for the prima donna athlete. And yes, there was a huge whole in his psyche from some lacking in his development. He was a trailblazer both in using weight training and steroids to enhance his performance, but he was also a trendsetter in having coaches eschew massive talent for the sake of team unity.

Joe Don Looney has left a legacy. Not one I would want to be remembered for. He broke hearts along the way, of his wife, his daughter, his parents, and several coaches who believed in him.
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