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Eagle Blue: A Team, a Tribe, and a High School Basketball Season in Arctic Alaska Paperback – Bargain Price, March 6, 2007

4.7 out of 5 stars 29 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Eight miles above the Arctic Circle, there's a village with no roads leading to it, but a high school basketball tradition that lights up winter's darkness and a team of native Alaskan boys who know "no quit." D'Orso (coauthor of Like No Other Time with Tom Daschle) follows the Fort Yukon Eagles through their 2005 season to the state championship, shifting between a mesmerizing narrative and the thoughts of the players, their coach and their fans. What emerges is more than a sports story; it's a striking portrait of a community consisting of a traditional culture bombarded with modernity, where alcoholism, domestic violence and school dropout rates run wild. One player compares Fort Yukon to a bucket of crabs: "If one crab gets a claw-hold on the edge... and starts to pull itself out, the others will reach up and grab it and pull it back down." Among D'Orso's unusual characters are the woman who built a public library in her home, the families who adopt abandoned children, and, of course, the boys for whom "hard" has an entirely different meaning (e.g., regularly trudging through "icy darkness" to board flights to Fairbanks for games). With a ghostlike presence, D'Orso lends a voice to a place that deserves to be known. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Everything in Alaska's bush is tough, from earning a living to surviving the elements. One thing that helps citizens in the isolated, mostly Native American bush communities cope with the long winters is high-school basketball. Fort Yukon High School had 32 students enrolled in 2004, and of those, 14 boys and 7 girls were on the respective basketball teams. The boys program is one of the most successful in the state: the preceding eight seasons, they won regional titles and most recently advanced to the finals before losing. With the OK of school officials and the players, D'Orso imbedded himself with the team for the 2004-05 season. He lived in a small Fort Yukon cabin, attended all the practices and games, and tried to learn as much as possible about the culture of the town in which the players live. The result is a thoroughly fascinating mix of sports and cultural anthropology. The basketball narrative is fascinating as D'Orso examines the team dynamic, a la John Feinstein, but the real beauty of the book emerges in the contextual portrait of life in a small bush town where the traditions of hunting, trapping, and fishing are slowly eroded by the culture of snowmobiles, video games, and television. An inspiring, sometimes disturbing portrait of a culture in crisis. Wes Lukowsky
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA (March 6, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1596911158
  • ASIN: B001G8WL3E
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.5 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,173,991 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Every man or woman who has been privileged to bounce a basketball in earnest, and every person who has been privileged to cheer their efforts, should appreciate this vivid and edgy tale of what a love of sport can mean -- especially to players whose moments away from the court are so steeped in peril.

D'Orso has defined the razor's edge where humanity's playing fields and emotional fields intersect. And he's offering a front-row seat. Grab a ticket, you won't regret it.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
There are a lot of books out there on high school sports and its impact on their community (the mid-90s "Friday Night Lights" remaining a prime example of HS football and its impact on a far-flung Texas community).

"Eagle Blue" (323 pages) chronicles the 2004-05 season of the Fort Yukon HS basketball team. The previous year, the team made it to the 1A state final (the small schools, with 50 or lesser HS students). The team looks to be loaded and ready to make another run at the state title. The best part of the book is the first half, in which author Michael D'Orso paints the main characters and the environment in which they live. There is coach Dave, and what brought him to live in this far away community, and the challenges he goes through in managing the team. Can you imagine a HS team have to fly to its away games? There is Matt, the senior star of the team, and the temptations he goes through. There is Doc, the principal of the school understanding so well how much the basketball program matters to the kids AND the community.

The second half of the book is less riveting, as it mostly recounts the games in which the team makes it to the State games for a record 7th year in a row. The end may surprise you, as it did me. Separate from the basketball aspects of the book, the author goes into detail how many challenges these far remote Alaska communities go through, dealing with alcoholism, drug-addiction, and the like.

This book was a page-turner for me from the beginning. I happen to love HS sports myself (although here in Cincinnati HS football remains king), but the way which D'Osro was able to paint the Fort Yukon community and its love-affair with (and dependence on) its HS basketball team is outstanding. Highly recommended!
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Format: Hardcover
What a season. I started this book on first day of vacation and read it before going to sleep at night and got up early to read before my family awoke.

My family is from the Blackfeet Reservation and I couldn't help but think I was reading about some of my own relations ~{;0

Before I read this book, I didn't know much about this tribe, area or concerns (such as ANWAR). Now that I have, I have taken an interest in what matters to them. For instance, there was a show on public television about the Gwi'ichan and how (ANWAR would affect them) that was on during the same time as the NBA playoffs this last weekend. I surfed to that show during commercial break and never went back to the game. I hope to invest more time and energy in the ANWAR issue because of this book.

The author did a great job of making the story about the boys and the people and not about him.

Roger
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Format: Hardcover
Two books led up to my getting this book. Nick Jans "The Last Light Breaking" which introduced me to the phenomenon of Alaska's Native or bush basketball, and Velma Wallis' Raising ourselves which introduced me to Fort Yukon in an intimate way. When I found that there was a book that brought both of these together, I knew I needed to get a copy.

I couldn't have been happier with the result. This book is a great piece of writing. Anyone who loves prep sports, Alaska, or humanity in general should read this book. D'Orso has captured and shared a fascinating and hidden story. It is a gripping piece of sports writing as well as a coming of age book for the boys on the team. You will have problems putting this book down.
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A Kid's Review on December 12, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Eagle Blue by Michael D'Orso is story about a high school's basketball team's journey through their season. When a teacher decides to help out a high school basketball team the boys skills, reputation and endurance are put to the test. As the team moves on through the season they discover there strengths and weaknesses on and off the court. I personally am not a big fan of heroic sports stories were the main team wins every single game. This however has got to be one the greatest books I've ever read. Read eagle blue and get captured in a wonderful story about a team, a tribe, and a basketball team in artic Alaska.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I made a donation to a school in memory of my uncle. This is one of the books purchased by the school. I was able to get it on my Kindle. Great read! The effect that sports (basketball) have on the schools of Alaska is very profound. Many students live hardships unknown to the lower 48. The coaches, school officials and parents must pull together to make it possible for athletics to have the funds for equipment, facilities, and travel expenses. The schools are so distant that teams must fly or drive to attend games and tournaments.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I picked up this book for our school book club. The book came highly recommended by our school principal, our leading reading advocate. The "story" is fantastic; an interwoven tale of a culture I knew little about. D'Orso does an amazing job of pulling you into the lives of the these young men and the adversities they face in their village. Centered around a high school basketball team in the wilderness of Alaska, the story follows one season. The book isn't only about basketball, though; the story tells of the people, the culture. It is a fascinating read and has found a place in my classroom library.
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