From Publishers Weekly
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John Ed Bradley was the rarest of college students, one who knew precisely what he wanted from adulthood. In the spring of 1980 he was slogging through the final semester of his senior year at LSU, looking to fill the emotional void he felt as an ex--football player while straining to distance himself from the game. When a Tigers coach offered him a position as a graduate assistant with the team, Bradley, despite having no job or prospects, turned him down. It was, he said, his "destiny" to be a writer. "I never doubted that playing football here was a privilege," Bradley, who had been an all-SEC center and a Tigers captain, told the coach. "But I also know that if I don't break from it now, I'll never break from it."
Bradley recounts the scene in It Never Rains in Tiger Stadium, a bracingly candid memoir about the joys and drawbacks of defining oneself as an ex-athlete. Bradley fulfilled his writerly destiny, going on to become a Washington Post sportswriter, a novelist and frequent contributor to SI. (It Never Rains is based on The Best Years of His Life, an essay he wrote for the magazine in 2002.) But despite his best efforts avoiding former teammates, leaving the room when the Tigers were on TV, refusing to let strangers in on the secret of his athletic past--the former LSU star never fully made the break from football. Having resolved not to become an ex-jock who can't let go of the glory days, Bradley discovered, as he moved toward middle age, that his fondest memories were also his most haunting. "There are things we never get over," he writes. "And for me football is one of them."
Bradley, the son of a high school coach, isn't the first athlete to be unnerved by the thought that life off the field isn't as simple as it is on it. But his honesty and unadorned, bittersweet style make It Never Rains a compelling rumination on the allure of football, for those who watch and those who play, and on the bonds of family, whether they're forged by birth or in the heat of August two-a-days. "All I ever wanted was to leave a pretty piece of writing behind," is how Bradley sums up his youthful dreams. He has. (Sports Illustrated, September 3, 2007)
Ten days after helping the New England Patriots win the 2005 Super Bowl, 31-year-old middle linebacker Bruschi suffered a debilitating stroke that left his future uncertain. Initially he planned to retire, but as he began to recover, a process that included surgery to repair the hole in his heart that precipitated the stroke, the lure of football beckoned. Bruschi learned much about stroke from doctors who treated him and cleared him to play again. After serious disagreement with his wife, he won her support for his return to the game only eight and a half months after suffering the stroke. His comeback initially met with much skepticism from the media and fans alike, but Bruschi writes that he was determined to overcome the obstacles thrown up by those ignorant of strokes. He also found a new audience of fans: stroke survivors across the country, many who wrote him letters in support. Bruschi, who went on to play the 2005 and 2006 seasons, is planning to be in the lineup this season as well and is now a spokesman for the American Stroke Association. His story is a compelling and convincing one that will appeal to both football fans and those affected by strokes. (Sept.) (Publishers Weekly, July 30, 2007)