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Unbeatable: Notre Dame's 1988 Championship and the Last Great College Football Season Hardcover – August 13, 2013
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From Publishers Weekly
Barca begins his vibrant look into Notre Dame's 1988 season with Lou Holtz, who took over after the Fighting Irish after suffering four inglorious years under Gerry Faust. Everyone was hungering for a return to glory, including Holtz, a winner who preached repetition and toughness: I'm here to win football games for the University of Notre Dame, Holtz told his players at one point. Not some of our games and not most of our games; I'm here to win all of our games. In season three, everything came together—a process that veteran sports journalist Barca (a 1999 Notre Dame graduate) covers with gusto. In talking to the key figures of that championship team—including Holtz, defensive coordinator Barry Alvarez, and many players—Barca reveals the players' emotional mind-set and the lure of Notre Dame (the latter sometimes gets lost in the football program's powerhouse trappings). In short, Barca celebrates the fun of college, while stripping Notre Dame football of its rah-rah mysticism. 16-page color photograph insert. Agent: Scott Gould, RLR Literary. (Aug.)
The Notre Dame football program has an unparalleled history, except lately. But the school’s gridiron success in 2012 resuscitated Fighting Irish Nation. Given the renewed national interest, what better time to relive the exploits of the last Notre Dame team to win a national title, the 1988 Irish under Lou Holtz? Journalist Barca conducted dozens of first-person interviews with players, coaches, and administrators involved with the 1988 season, including 11 with star quarterback Tony Rice. Naturally, there are profiles of key players and coaches, and miniportraits of lesser characters in the drama. The game accounts are dramatic and detailed, and delivered with a sense of urgency. College sports, though, are dominated by the coaches, and the 1988 Irish were no exception. Holtz had taken over a program in disarray in 1986. By the time he resigned in 1996, he had the 1988 championship, as well as narrow misses in ’89 and ’93. He was a motivator and disciplinarian, but in person he was slight and spoke with a slight lisp—the antithesis of the blustery egomaniacs who rule college football. The resurgent interest in Notre Dame football should spur demand. --Wes Lukowsky
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Top Customer Reviews
While most historiographies(?) are merely a run-through of the bullet points of a story; highlighting the obvious characters with facts and figures taken from cursory searches of box scores and Wikipedia pages, UNBEATABLE is an original telling of Notre Dame football and this 1988 team like no other ND book or article I have ever read.
It's clear that Barca started telling this story from scratch by interviewing all the relevant parties recently to get their opinions "now" about what happened "then". I loved the stories that Tony Rice, Tim Ryan, and Pat Terrell tell about their recruitment, the detail in which other members such as Frank Stams and Reggie Ho talk about their mindsets as student athletes. And he stays away from hyperbole by just telling the story as it happens. It was a fresh perspective that is rare in modern-day sports reporting.
The book reminded me a lot of Bill Simmons's "The Book of Basketball" in that Barca clearly went back and re-watched the games and his love of the subject matter was ever-present thus creating an awesome read. Highly recommended. If you have a Notre Dame fan in your family, will make for an awesome gift.
For anyone who studies leadership the account of how Lou Holtz took this team and achieved the unpredictable is fascinating. What he asked of his players and expected of himself and others was inspiring and a true demonstration of leadership. This book provides insight to his thought process and approach that will be valuable to anyone in the position to influence others.
The book has broad appeal. For younger or casual ND fans who have only heard about the '88 season, Barca's re-telling provides a great feel for that season, showcasing the larger than life characters that made up the team and exploring the storylines outside of the games themselves. For the most diehard ND fans, Unbeatable contains not only a chance to revisit that season, but also the stories beyond the headlines, stories as told by the players themselves - what it's like to play for and practice under legendary coaches like Lou Holtz, Barry Alvarez, and Joe Moore, specific game strategies outlined by the coaches that crafted them, and the view of Miami players of the '88 ND-Miami game and the Catholic vs. Convicts rivalry - all woven together masterfully with the narrative of the season.
It's a must-read for any Notre Dame fan!