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The Real All Americans: The Team That Changed a Game, a People, a Nation Hardcover – May 8, 2007

4.6 out of 5 stars 72 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this sprawling, heavily researched sports tale, author and Washington Post reporter Jenkins (It's Not About the Bike, with Lance Armstrong) covers more than a half-century-from mid-19th century battles between the U.S. Army and Native Americans to the 1918 closing of Pennsylvania's seminal Carlisle Indian Industrial School-telling the long-buried story of Carlisle's football team (the Indians, natch), which defied tradition and arguably did more to shape the modern collegiate game than any of its Ivy League competitors. Founded in 1879 by Army Lt. Col. Richard Pratt, an abolitionist who believed Native Americans deserved a visible place in U.S. society, Carlisle introduced fans and opponents to shoulder pads, the forward pass and the reverse option. Led by renowned coach Glenn "Pop" Warner and player Jim Thorpe, regarded as one of the greatest athletes America has produced, the Indians' struggles, especially with racial and political bigotry, prove surprisingly prescient (think Don Imus). That said, Jenkins shoehorns so much peripheral history that football often takes a back seat; in addition, her detached narration gives the book a term-paper feel, made all the more obvious by the enthusiasm and pride she details in her subjects.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School–Jim Thorpe and Pop Warner may be familiar names, but it's unlikely that teens have heard of U.S. Army Captain Richard Henry Pratt or the Sioux leader American Horse. Jenkins introduces readers to these figures and others in her vivid social history of the decline of American Indian culture and the development of college football. Her lively writing features unbiased descriptions of major historical figures, thumbnail sketches of minor personalities, and cameos by Mark Twain and President Eisenhower. The book opens with familiar events–the battles between Native Americans and U.S. Army soldiers over Western territories and the abysmal treatment Native American tribes received at the hands of the government. Less widely known is Captain Pratt's dream of providing educational opportunities for Indians and his founding of the Carlisle Indian Training School in Pennsylvania. Jenkins's strength is in her sports writing; the most compelling sections of the book are descriptions of the Indians at Carlisle inventing new plays and prevailing against all odds in pivotal games against Harvard and West Point. The volume is enhanced by an eight-page spread of black-and-white photos with detailed captions. All Americans is a history book of heartbreaking stories that will appeal to teens interested in football or Native American history; it also has value as a narrative nonfiction supplement to the U.S. history curriculum.–Sondra VanderPloeg, Tracy Memorial Library, New London, NH
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday; 1 edition (May 8, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385519877
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385519878
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.1 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (72 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #101,681 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Sally Jenkins is an award-winning journalist for The Washington Post and is the author and co-author of 12 books, including four bestsellers. In 2012 she published the No.1 bestseller Sum it Up with legendary basketball coach Pat Summitt, shortly after Summitt was diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease. In 2008 she combined a knowledge of sports with a moonlighting passion for historical research to write The Real All Americans, the true story of how the Carlisle Indian School took on the Ivy League in football at the turn of the century and won, pioneering the forward pass and other innovations.

Born in Texas and raised in New York City, she is the daughter of legendary sportswriter and novelist Dan Jenkins, who carted her to various championships on summer vacations. She graduated with a degree in English Literature from Stanford University in 1982 and launched a career in newspapers that began with a stint as an assistant to a Hollywood gossip columnist, and later branched out to include coverage of the 9-11 terrorist strike on New York, Hurricane Katrina, and profiles of various political figures for the Washington Post, including Hillary Clinton, Sarah Palin, and Howard Dean.

In 2005 Jenkins became the first woman ever inducted into the National Sportswriters and Sportscasters Hall of Fame. She is a six-time winner of Columnist of the Year awards from the Associated Press (2001, 2003, 2010, 2011) and the Society of Professional Journalists (2001, 2011). In 2013 she won first place from the Associated Press sports editors for a special investigative project she conceived on the inverted world of medical care in the National Football League, entitled "Do No Harm." Her magazine work has appeared in Smithsonian, GQ, Sports Illustrated, and Parade. She lives in Sag Harbor, New York, for the waters.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
For a few years, I lived adjacent to Haskell, an "Indian school" in Lawrence, Kansas. I had some, but little direct contact with the federal effort to provide higher educational opportunities for American Indians. It was a cursory exposure. It was also the place where Jim Thorpe started his formal education. For any longstanding football fan, the Jim Thorpe Carlisle story is familiar, popular and tragic territory. It may be a coincidence that Lars Anderson, who earlier covered the Jim Thorpe Army-Carlisle story has another book, "The All-Americans". Now we have the REAL All Americans and the story is a whole lot more fascinating than a simple rags to riches back to rags story like Thorpe's.

Although the opening scene is a fateful football match in New York, the real roots of the story lie in the Midwest, forty years earlier. Jenkins builds her story slowly, with a thorough history of the debacle we call "Indians and the U.S. Army". The horrendous treatment of the Indians by the federal government finally prompts a visionary officer to propose an educational alternative to warfare, as a method of assimilation into the white man's culture. In some respects, and certainly on the surface, this is an arrogant solution. Dragging children and young adults from their families, culture and land is the ultimate form of cultural smugness. But, given the period, the problem, and the potentail for a solution, the Carlisle solution was worth the effort. And, in many resepcts, it worked. Henry Pratt, an enlightened -- for that period -- Army officer commits most of his life to building an institution to serve Indians deprived of almost all of their land and dignity by Manifest Destiny and broken treaties. He is both a caring, paternal figure and a stern task master, both loved and despised.
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Format: Hardcover
If you are a student of Indian culture and the game of football, you are in for the treat of your life. Sally Jenkins has given the reader an engrossing overlay of a school that attempted a social experiment of indoctrination and assimilation of displaced Western American Indians into a predominately white man's state of refinement. Though only partially successful in forcibly educating children of notable relocated tribes, Carlisle introduced students to life skills and to the newly emerging sport that would captivate the country in ensuing years.

Under tutorlage of the legendary coach Pop Warner, the Carlisle Indians would revolutionize the game. Reverses, hidden ball tricks, the single wing, sweeps, audibles, hurry up offense and most innovatively, the forward pass became the stock in trade of the team that included celebrated olympian, Jim Thorpe. In 1912, with a record of 11-0-1, including a 27-6 victory over the much touted Army team that fielded a young cadet by the name of Dwight D. Eisenhower, The Carlisle Indians became the highest-scoring team in the country.

Scandal, governmental mismanagement, lack of visionary leadership, and later gridiron failures would eventually bring down this once esteemed institution, but its legacy is resurrected through the author's informative, entertaining, thought-provoking handiwork.

This written documentary has given myself, and hopefully all who indulge, a most enjoyable, rich, and rewarding read as we enter the summer season and anticipate the beginning of another collegiate football year.
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Format: Hardcover
I heard this book reviewed on NPR and immediately purchased it. I am not particularly interested in football ( sacrilege, I know!) but the game between Carlisle and West Point peaked my interest. I saw a great exhibit at the Heard Museum several years ago about the Indian schools, Carlisle among them, and I wanted to know more about the school and the famous game.

The book is a fascinating account of the Carlisle school, the development of football, coach "Pop" Warner, Jim Thorpe and the famous football game with West Point. It will interest anyone with an interest in football history, but it is also of interest to those who want to know more about the great Indian chiefs, what the US did to try and control the Indians, what happened to the children of the great chiefs at Carlisle. The book also has other facts and anecdotes I found of interest. There is a fair amount about football at Princeton, Harvard, Yale and U of Pennsylvania (these teams all played Carlisle). There is also mention of Teddy Roosevelt and poet Marianne Moore, who taught at Carlisle for a short period.

The book is well written, a real pleasure. A great father's day gift! I have already purchased another copy for a friend and am passing my copy to my adult son as a "gotta read this!"
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Format: Paperback
As a guy rule of thumb, when your wife says "I think you should read this book about football", it's a good idea to listen to her. My wife started recommending this book after the first chapter, and I was happy when she finally turned it over to me. Sally Jenkins' "The Real All Americans" is by turns fascinating, entertaining, and moving.

Anyone who has ever played football is likely to enjoy the description of the early stages of the game. It is amazing how brutal it could be, and how little regard there was for the "rules", such as they were, of the day. The phrase "if you're not cheating, you're not trying" comes to mind.

Ever wonder why we have "Pop Warner" football? Well, here is Warner in all of his glory. He does not come off as a particularly nice person, but as an innovator and a competitor, he had few peers. He took control of the speedy-but-undersized Carlisle Indian School football team in an era when brute force was what won football games, and he created a winning program by emphasizing speed, passing, and misdirection. My favorite anecdote? In order to create confusion, prior to a Carlisle game against Harvard he had players sew football-shaped patches onto their uniforms. In response, the Harvard coach had the balls painted the same crimson color of his team's jerseys. In a compromise, the patches and colored balls were both removed.

The book does more than just revisit football's roots. It is a fascinating history of the aftermath of the United States' western expansion. The director of Carlisle, LTC Richard Pratt, comes of as stern but fair, with the best interests (as he saw them) of his students at heart. He was a firm believer that the conquered tribes would fare best if assimilated into larger American society.
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