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Against Football: One Fan's Reluctant Manifesto Hardcover – August 26, 2014

4.5 out of 5 stars 90 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

A longtime devoted football fan, Almond spends much of the first quarter of this book solidifying his football bona fides before beginning his onslaught of reasons that he feels he can no longer watch his favorite game. These arguments are familiar—concussions and sub-concussive hits; the game's twisted monetary incentives; its cult of violence; racism; and its vexed relationship with the American capitalism and patriotism. But the sheer weight of the evidence is impressive and hard to ignore. Even when Almond's arguments seem strained, he is able to put the burden of proof squarely on readers to disprove him with more than a simple dismissal. Particularly strong is his complete demolition of the argument that the mere popularity and fixity of the game somehow puts it above criticism. Many football fans will react with derision, and many non-fans will consider his points self-evident: both are wrong. These are arguments that deserve to be considered deeply and grappled with, and teens—who have not yet devoted their lives or opinions to or against the sport—are in a perfect position to take Almond's manifesto seriously.—Mark Flowers, John F. Kennedy Library, Vallejo, CA

Review

“Almond is dead serious: Supporting a spectacle that causes brain damage is immoral."
New York Times Book Review

“[Almond] is a very good writer, and his analysis of problems confronting the game today is well done."
Washington Post

“Almond is a shifty cornerback of a writer: rangy, sarcastic, offbeat. And every once in a while, he’ll blindside you with a big hit."
New York Times 

“An unapologetic, frontal assault on the game's role in American culture."
Los Angeles Times 

“Steve Almond's blistering book Against Football: One Fan's Reluctant Manifesto is exactly what it advertises itself to be: an exasperated, frustrated, wide-ranging argument that the time has come to abandon football — particularly but not exclusively the NFL — as a sport built on violence, racism, economic exploitation of poor kids, corrupt dealmaking with local governments over stadiums, and a willingness to find it entertaining to watch people suffer brain damage."
Linda Holmes, NPR

“A devastating multi-pronged attack."
Newsweek 

“Powerful... Almond is a sympathetic narrator, his evidence incontrovertible, the moral authority firmly on his side."
Harper's Magazine

“A passionate and elegantly written book that finally overpowered any rationalization I could come up with to justify watching more football."
New York Times, Dealbook

“A helpful and thoughtful read that traces the criticisms of the game and the men who run it."
Bitch Magazine

“In Steve Almond’s Against Football, a book filled with 'obnoxious opinions' by the writer’s own admittance—and they’re not that bad—Almond makes a case for the fact that football, and the NFL specifically, is at the root of a toxic, pernicious, deadly and deadening culture in America. The book came out on August 26th, and it’s taken a mere two weeks for Almond to be proven right on a national scale, in the ugliest of fashions."
Flavorwire

Against Football is a book that kicks and prods and fights with itself and ourselves. Almond is asking himself and us to drop the ironic distance, open our eyes, and truly look at the dangerous, vile, beautiful, fun, highly corrupted, and horrifically corrupting corporate behemoth we spend so much of our money and leisure time enraptured by, and know what it is that we are doing, and what we are supporting."
The Millions

“Steve Almond’s slim but muscular broadside slams into the wall of sanctimonious hokum served up by the NCAA, NFL, and their sycophantic sportswriter enablers."
PopMatters, Best Nonfiction Books of 2014

“[Almond's] persuasive book dares fans to consider how long they can continue to ignore football’s obvious flaws in order to preserve their weekend ritual."
Barron's

“Almond doesn’t pretend to have all the answers, but sometimes it’s enough to raise the right questions at the right time. Against Football does that with disarming humor and humanity."
National Memo

“What a perfect chance to take a breath, look around, and push the endeavor in a better direction."
Open Letters Monthly

“This book is an important first step towards a more compassionate and educated discourse on what is, unfortunately, a game many of us are entertained by and deeply invested in."
AskMen.com, Recommended Reading for September

Against Football...makes a strong case that football, as presently practiced by the NFL and NCAA, should be reformed or abolished."
Oregonian

“[Against Football] brilliantly states the case for radical change to save the sport."
Albany Times-Union

“A book that’s part journalism, part memoir, part cultural harpooning."
Kansas City Star, FYI Book Club selection

Against Football is clearly the pick of the litter: funny, pained, profane and sharp as a November Saturday in Ann Arbor."
Tampa Bay Times

“Almond covers all of the arguments against football...He has sworn off the game. Will anyone join him? As he notes, boxing was once this country’s top sport."
St. Louis Post-Dispatch

“Pitch-perfect… Against Football is, at bottom, a love letter from a heartbroken fan, notable for his eloquence and clarity. It’s easy to imagine that this pungent critique, with quotable passages on nearly every page, could be a much-needed game-changer. If that’s overly optimistic, then we’ll have to settle for a first-rate piece of journalism and a great read."
Portland Press Herald

“Almond's book is slim but potent... Almond makes his case in a style that is conversational, self-deprecating, sharp and often laugh-out-loud funny."
Plain Dealer

“There are no easy answers found in Almond’s book—and it’s an intentionally provocative argument being made, obviously—but what it surely does is get you to think about what you’re doing on Sundays, what you’re paying to watch and how we could possibly let children play the game."
Las Vegas Weekly

“It's an indictment, a self-excoriation, and a provocative analysis of why so many Americans are hooked on this organized violence."
Tampa Bay Times

“Almond makes it impossible for us to ignore our willing participation in this corrupt and destructive pastime... Against Football is one fan’s inflammatory, yet indispensable, voice in the current conversation about the state of football in America."
Brooklyn Rail

“Those who don't care for the U.S.'s favorite fall sport might be inclined to pick up Steve Almond's Against Football, looking for validation of their position. Those who love the sport may be drawn in by its subtitle, One Fan's Reluctant Manifesto, for similar reasons. Almond's power lies in his ability to speak to both readers."
Shelf Awareness, Great Reads Now in Paper

“If you want to continue to enjoy watching football as you have in the past...you should particularly never read Steve Almond’s Against Football: One Fan’s Reluctant Manifesto.”
Utah Daily Herald

“As a gesture of respect to a genuine 'critical eye', I am donating my copy of Almond’s remarkable book to the Cascade Public Library, so anyone can witness a moral person making a painful, moral decision."
Cascade Pioneer (Iowa)

“As coiled and sharp as a scorpion’s tail... A top-notch interrogation."
Electric Literature

“Almond (a New York Times bestselling author and lifelong Raiders fan) writes beautifully and thought-provokingly about his decision to give up watching a game he loves because of all the bad stuff that goes along with it."
Made Man

“Almond’s book is a tremendous read, as all of his work is, but more than that, it’s an important one, and one that leaves you slightly queasy the next time you set your fantasy football roster."
Pop Culture Beast

Nonfiction November Picks, Entomology of a Bookworm

A Publishers Weekly Book of the Week

“A welcome addition to the conversation."
Shelf Awareness

“Many fans of football will react to this book with derision, and many non-fans will consider his points self-evident: both are wrong. These are arguments that deserve to be considered deeply and grappled with, and teens—who have not yet devoted their lives or opinions to or against the sport—are in a perfect position to take Almond’s  manifesto seriously."
School Library Journal

“Those who don't care for the U.S.'s favorite fall sport might be inclined to pick up Steve Almond's Against Football, looking for validation of their position. Those who love the sport may be drawn in by its subtitle, One Fan's Reluctant Manifesto, for similar reasons. Almond's power lies in his ability to speak to both readers."
Shelf Awareness

“A brilliantly quotable, carefully constructed, emotionally vulnerable tract sure to anger as many as it convinces, he argues against the sport’s many sins even as he thoughtfully examines its hold on the souls of the faithful."
Booklist, starred review

“A provocative, thoughtful examination of an ’astonishingly brutal’ sport… Comic, compassionate and thought-provoking.”
Kirkus Reviews

“Powerful… Almond is drawing on his own experiences as a fan to illustrate how difficult the problem, which provides the book with an engaging personal angle that will lure readers who are mature enough to hear him out whether they agree with his conclusions… An important read, even if as Almond concedes, it offers more questions than answers.”
Publishers Weekly

Praise for Steve Almond’s Candy Freak:

“This book will, yes, make you hungry, but it will also make you grateful-for wit, for self-effacing humor, for joyful obsessiveness, for the precise and loving use of language to crack open and celebrate our oddness-in short, for a writer as funny and big-hearted as Steve Almond.”
George Saunders

“I got a real sugar rush and cluster headache reading this bittersweet book by Steve Almond-joy, the sugar daddy himself.”
Amy Sedaris
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Melville House; 1st Edition, 1st Printing edition (August 26, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 161219415X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1612194158
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (90 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #501,230 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Reading this book can serve as something of a litmus test. I've seen no critic — I use the term loosely — actually engage his arguments. Mostly they are flinging ad hominem non sequiturs.

Those who react strongly against it — including the many who have flamed, insulted and aggressively mocked Almond in public forums — come off looking like reflections of the flawed culture he identifies. Critics react with unthinking passion, unleashing mouthsful of pejoratives, often questioning Almond's manhood or sexuality in bemusingly "male" term. For example, suggesting he possesses female genitalia reveals an essential misogyny; suggesting he must have a "big vagina" — seriously, it's a thing among his critics — is just stupid, a transparent and reflexive attempt to overlay deeply ingrained male insecurities and obsession with size.

Make no mistake: Almond is a true fan of football, especially of — as we say in Broncos country — "the hated Raiders." But he's also a thoughtful man who sees the stark contradictions and dubious ethics of supporting our modern civic religion cum blood sport. He focuses a good deal of his manifesto — for it is that, rather than a deeper research project — on the problem of brain injuries, but he identifies other, very real issues: misogyny, hyper-machoism, militarism-jingoism, rich owners fleecing and blackmailing taxpayers, tribalism over what is really little more than (in his words), "brightly colored laundry," the obvious disconnect between a highly professionalized (though its players are unpaid!) professional football farm system being connected to institutions of higher learning, the incredible amount of time invested in passive observation, and more.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Disturbing book. I played football in high school and got caught in the frenzy as a spectator while attending college. But after getting married and taking on family responsibilities I mostly lost interest in football (and other sports, like skiing, which I once pursued avidly), only occasionally watching games on TV and reading the sports section in the newspaper. Now I'm in my 60s and work out three or four times a week at a university gym. In the locker room I listen to highly accomplished, highly educated men talking football, reliving games, and second-guessing coaches. I've often wondered who is the oddball--me or them. I guess I am, since I'm clearly in the minority, but I thought football, along with sports in general, was for most people a youthful interest that waned as the bigger issues of life came into view. Roger Bannister rejected the sports metaphor of life by saying that it was much harder to navigate the demands of one's profession and family commitments than run a mile in less than four minutes. This book opened my eyes as to why so many people can't seem to get past football, even when they know that it really doesn't count for much and is so destructive on many levels.
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Format: Kindle Edition
I am of the demographic at which Steve Almond is aiming his book. I love football, both college and pro. I cannot sit in front of a television for 30 minutes to watch a sitcom, yet can devote 9 hours watching pre game talk, the contests and then postgame stuff each weekend. I love football.

That said, Almond's book has done a remarkable thing: It made me think. And, despite my obsession with the sport, if I had a child, I'd probably not let him play football. The physical damages are too damning.

I think Almond covers the bases (sports metaphor) well. There is the concussion debate, the entitlement college and pro players feel they deserve and the big money of the league - along with being tax exempt (that status came in 1966 when the NFL agreed not to schedule games on Friday and Saturday to clash with high school and college games, but aren't there Saturday NFL games at times?)

The NFL is a snake that devours itself. Players are bigger and faster; collisions are more violent. Fans want to see that kind of action and their support perpetuates the growth and speed. Almond said it perfectly when he wrote that we're not necessarily rooting for our team, in reality, we're rooting for ourselves.

In defense of football, though, players on the pro level know what they are getting into. They are paid well for their skills, although the average NFL career is only 3 or so years. Football is dangerous. They understand that and have a choice to play. Fire fighting is a dangerous career, but there is no attempt to boycott fire departments. That may be a dumb comparison in light of the importance of both jobs, but those working in both fields have choices to seek other employment if they want.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This was published just as i considered ending my seasonal attendance at BC. The strength of Almond's argument is his love of the beauty and excitement of the game, which a true sports fan would share. So not being black-and-white, it is not a diatribe, which would have been uninformative. This has the info and reasoning to make fandom and spectating a true choice, eyes open, no denial of any part. Plus written with good humor. So now i am out, comfortably.
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