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Rockne of Notre Dame: The Making of a Football Legend Hardcover – September 23, 1999

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

How good a coach was Knute Rockne? It hardly matters. Killed in a plane crash at the height of his fame, his 1931 death was dubbed "a national disaster" by President Hoover, and his fable was forever set as a leader of men and the father of the Fighting Irish. Still, this son of Norwegian immigrants was good enough to have deserved most of the legend he so carefully and systematically constructed around himself. In 12 years at Notre Dame, he transformed a regional Catholic college into a football powerhouse of national interest. His teams marched through a stunning five seasons without a loss. When the famed "Four Horsemen" in his backfield flagged, he had the memory of George "Win one for the Gipper!" Gipp, a true reprobate who in no way resembles the sappy deathbed myth Rockne perpetuated, to wave for inspiration. The Rock's knowledge of the game and talent as a coach wasn't nearly as important or lasting as his unabashed ability to promote and market his school, his players, his program, and, ultimately, himself.

A solid sports biographer, Ray Robinson has previously parsed the lives of Lou Gehrig and Christy Mathewson. Here, he takes the stone statue that has come down to us of St. Knute and dusts it off until the cracks are visible. Despite that, Robinson's respect for Rockne and his accomplishments come through clearly both on the field and off. In one telling incident early in his coaching career, Rockne, still several years from embracing Catholicism, stands up staunchly to the anti-Catholic sentiments of an Indiana senator and the KKK. "The more Rockne was exposed to prejudice around him," writes Robinson, "the more he was attracted to the religiosity of his surroundings." Which, in the end, made Notre Dame football not just his job, but his mission. --Jeff Silverman

From Publishers Weekly

Veteran sportswriter Robinson (Iron Horse, etc.) debunks several myths about the Notre Dame football coaching legend. Knute Rockne (1888-1931), he explains, didn't invent the forward pass (although he did increase its use, both as a player and a coach), and it's unlikely that George Gipp, a Notre Dame player who died in 1920, ever told Rockne to utter the famous words, "Win One for the Gipper." Rockne was one of the products of the 1920s, a golden age for sports in the U.S. that produced such stars as Babe Ruth and Jack Dempsey. He became a spokesman for Studebaker cars and a confidant of New York Mayor Jimmy Walker. Robinson takes a light hand to this controversial figure, who helped build a nationwide following for his school and college football as a whole, noting that his attitudes and behaviors, such as telling jokes that would today be considered racist and his use of professional players in the college ranks, were common at the time. After a childhood sketch, Robinson briefly touches on Rockne's playing career before devoting most of the book to a game-by-game description of Rockne's 12 years as coach, during which his Notre Dame teams, with the help of Rockne's motivational techniques and coaching tactics, won an astounding 105 games while losing only 12. To Robinson's credit, the book is cleanly written and mainly free of sports jargon. But while he does a good job of describing the football culture of the time and, to a lesser degree, American culture in general, Robinson never quite digs deep enough to reveal the man behind the coach. (Sept.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (September 23, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195105494
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195105490
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #334,216 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 2, 1999
Format: Hardcover
The most enjoyable sports book I've read since, well, "Stirring Football Stories", this book gives the reader not only such favorite moments in the history of the game as the winning forward pass (Dorais to Rockne, against Army), the Gipper, the Four Horsemen, and back-to-back undefeated seasons, but insights into the life and times of Notre Dame's legendary coach. Rockne championed & embodied the immigrant struggle for a place in the sun - the "fighting Irish" being a moniker bestowed on a polyglot group of newcomers to the American dream. On the gridiron it was possible to prove yourself - and show your talents - on an equal footing with older, more established schools and traditions. This conscious inclusion of the larger story gives this book an important place on the shelf, alongside Rockne's own unfinished autobiography, "We Remember Rockne", "Knute Rockne, All American", and other memoirs and studies.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Alexander C. Meske on December 7, 1999
Format: Hardcover
While acknowleging the legends surrounding one of the greatest coaches in any sport anywhere, but not attempting to pass them off as fact, Ray Robinson does not stoke the inspirational fires of the mythological demigod Knute Rockne. Still and all, we see Rockne as he developed from a boy growing up in Chicago to the young man at Notre Dame eventually becoming the coach who, in turn, became larger than life.
Mostly, the reader is invited to visit a time when Knute Rockne was arguably the brightest star among the numerous sports heroes of the '20's. While Irish, Catholics and especially Irish-Catholics were almost universally reviled and the power of the Klan was at its height, the immigrant from Voss, Norway lead Notre Dame to the forefront of college football's national stage.
There are occasional glimpses of Rockne off the football field and I, personally, would have liked to have gotten to know more about Rockne the man. However, this is, first and foremost, a story about Knute's lifelong relationship with football.
This book is designed for college football fans, especially fans of Notre Dame. Notre Dame detractors may also get something out of the book, if for no other reason than it makes it a little easier to understand why Notre Dame football is what it is today.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By R. Setliff on April 28, 2002
Format: Hardcover
My ole man went to Notre Dame... so I've been steeped in the rich legacy of Fightin' Irish Football. This book is by far one of the better books on Notre Dame football in its heyday under Knute Rockne who forged that legacy. The team that brought us the forward pass left a rich history worth examing. This book captures the essence of Rockne, his leadership style, his character and his ambition to excel.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I am currently researching source material for a book on the construction of Notre Dame Stadium. This book has a lot of really great material and while I have read most everything written on the Rockne Era there were several anecdotes that were described here that I had never heard or found before. It would have been much better if I could know what were the sources was for the stories. The description of Rockne's Funeral and death were well written and made me feel like I was there. The author really gave you the feeling of the man underneath the legend. It also showed you that in the roaring twenties how big this man actually was. The real man was bigger than the legend.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Love it!
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