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Must Win: A Season of Survival for a Town and Its Team Hardcover – September 4, 2012

4.6 out of 5 stars 66 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“The ‘winningest' sports bio of 2012.” ―accessAtlanta.com

“Filled with insights . . . Skillfully reported and written with style.” ―The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

“Drew Jubera's Must Win is an elegiac and riveting look inside the myth-making factory of small-town high school football, and a meditation on the strange power of sports to give meaning to our lives.” ―Warren St. John, New York Times bestselling author of Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer and Outcasts United

“Jubera unspools a sophisticated saga of a comeback season for storied Valdosta High School . . . He captures the slang and race relations and home-town hopes better than any writer since H.G. Bissinger got it so right with Friday Night Lights. Jubera’s eye for detail, ear for dialogue, and heart for young hopes delivers a helmet-to-helmet blow.
” ―Paste magazine, Our Favorite Books of 2012

“The depth of detail and craftsmanship of a gifted writer at his peak . . . You don't have to know a tight end from a Hail Mary to appreciate this book. On virtually every page, there is a reason to stop, to reread, and to marvel. This is a book worth cheering about.” ―Atlanta magazine

Must Win--must read!” ―Jeff D'Alessio, SportingNews

“I can think of very few books about high school football that I would lay in the hands of anyone, from a fruit vendor in Delhi to a grandma in Des Moines. In fact, maybe only one: this one.” ―Gary Smith, Sports Illustrated

“The best nonfiction book I have read since the year 2000 . . . Jubera superbly captures it all―the town, the characters, the motivations, the dreams, the follies. [He] offers a book about all of us, football fan or not. It’s a book about what we try to achieve in the small town filled with big dreams inside every human heart.” ―Charles McNair, Paste Magazine

“Must Win is the inspiring tale of how a coach with a grand vision and even bigger heart plucked his players out of jail and off the farm and made them believe they were champions as they returned Valdosta to its rightful place as one of the most storied programs in high school football. Jubera knows South Georgia and makes you feel the gnats buzzing around your head, the barbecue on your lips, and buy into a community where Friday night football is much more than a religion―it’s a passport to heaven.” ―Joe Drape, author of The New York Times bestseller Our Boys: A Perfect Season on the Plains with the Smith Center Redmen


“Football is riddled with hype, hypocrisy, and greed on both the college and pro levels. But in Valdosta, Georgia, the game is about life, and that is what Drew Jubera so expertly and eloquently writes about. I love a story that digs into your soul. This is not necessarily a sports book. It is a character-driven tale of survival and the desire to be a champion again.” ―Jim Dent, author of Courage Beyond The Game and Twelve Mighty Orphans

“Drew Jubera's Must Win is an elegiac and riveting look inside the myth-making factory of small-town high school football, and a meditation on the strange power of sports to give meaning to our lives.” ―Warren St. John, New York Times bestselling author of Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer and Outcasts United

About the Author

DREW JUBERA is an award-winning journalist who has written for The New York Times, ESPN The Magazine, Esquire, Texas Monthly, and many others. He covered the South as a national desk reporter for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He lives with his family in Atlanta.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press; First Ed 1st Printing edition (September 4, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312642202
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312642204
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.1 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (66 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #257,579 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By wogan TOP 500 REVIEWER on July 26, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
`Must Win' tells the story of the Valdosta High School -"the winningest high school football team in America". Except when Drew Jubera begins his story they are on a downslide, losing against their cross town arch rivals, losing their spirit, their games and coaches fired.

As one reads this your mind is drawn to all those great gridiron books and novels, and it seems at many points as if you have read this tale before. It is not written in the smoothest style or in the glory style of the game; but it tells the background of a bunch of boys, their families and the town. Many of them struggling with all the problems of young gangsta type violence, broken homes, and the lure of drugs, violence and girlfriends' pregnancies. We also read of seemingly every practice, every feeling, every play during their games.

There are a plethora of accounts and background here, the school, the discipline, the new coach and the town who could love or hate that coach and a team that just had to win. It's a town that had 2 police cars escort the team to games even after a decade of seasons that were failures.
There is always the lurking shadow of racism "Up until the late 80's, the notion of a black quarterback here was still as crazy as the notion of a black...president. Never happen".

There are no real movie tear jerker moments here, it doesn't have the all flashy glitzy throw helmets and hats in the air; instead it is the down and dirty, smelly world of football tradition that means something you just have to understand.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I remember reading the Sports Illustrated article ("Winnersville USA") my senior year in college (1988) that introduced the adulated history and lofty expectations of the Valdosta High School football program. The article detailed the pressure of the current coach (Nick Hyder) having to work under the ever-looming shadow of a deceased predecessor, Wright Bazemore, a legend that all subsequent Valdosta coaches would forever be compared. At the time of the article, Hyder was in the midst of eclipsing Bazemore by taking the program to even higher standards ... "national championships". Twenty-four years later, Drew Jubera revisits the Valdosta football program to find it a decaying shell of its former self and desperate to bring back the glory of yesteryear. While MUST WIN captures the uniqueness of Valdosta with its celebrated history, the book ironically struggles to free itself from the literary shadow cast by a like-minded book ... Buzz Bissinger's "Friday Night Lights".

Dating back to 1913, Valdosta football has maintained an astounding 79% win rate with (as of now) 869 wins. Losing is not a bitter pill that Valdosta's rabid fans and alumni must swallow, it's simply intolerable. Jubera drives this home in the first several chapters as the new coach in town, Rance Gillispie, is introduced to the Valdosta community that unceremoniously dumped several previous coaches for not living up to the standards of Bazemore and Hyder. Gillispie is even taken the cemetery where Bazemore and Hyder rest with the promise of his own personal plot if he can bring Valdosta back to its winning ways. While readers are following the new coach being "welcomed" into the fold, we are also being introduced to the various players the new coach must depend on to keep his job.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
OK, full disclosure: I bought this book because I had to. I am not a football fan. What I know about football could fit on the head of a pin. But I bought Must Win because the author is a friend and because I used to live in Georgia. And even a non-football fan like me couldn't live in Georgia without vaguely hearing about this high school team in a town called Valdosta that won everything every year. So out of loyalty to my friend and to my home state, I bought this book. I never planned to actually read it.

Then I stumbled onto the first paragraph:

The black kid with the badass tats stood smiling on the practice field sideline. Beat jail. Helmet off, earring on fire in the afternoon sun, he surprised teammates with his out-of-nowhere appearance, as if he'd spontaneously erupted from the heat and the sweat, returned now to this gnat-bitten patch of deepest South Georgia from a biblical-sounding exile of forty-four days and forty-four nights -- wandering the wilderness, right across town, inside the Lowndes County lockup.

And I smiled and kept reading and couldn't stop. And on the way to the last page, I may have even teared up a couple of times. Must Win is not a book about football. Must Win is a book about life disguised as a book about football. And it's fantastic. Those 100 yards of grass between the goal posts in a tiny sweltering Southern town transformed broken lives, turned coaches into gods (as long as they were winning), tore down racial barriers and instilled a fierce pride in this community that was lost for awhile but now is clawing its way back. In the end, for some of the kids -- and even some of the adults -- there is no fairytale ending and football cannot save them. Every word of this book is gritty and true to life. I loved it.

Take it from this football dummy, Must Win is a great sports book that every non-sports fan should buy and read.
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