Not Just for Football Fans: The Last Season

23995252With the beginning of the football season, I thought it would be fun to read a book that focuses on the sport, or rather the fans of the sport. Stuart Stevens, travel writer and political consultant, grew up in Jackson, Mississippi, in a family of ardent Ole Miss Rebels fans. Stevens and his dad went to many of the team’s games together, both at home and on the road. But then life happened, and the shared trips to the football stadium happened less and less frequently, until Stevens suddenly realized that he might not have that much time left to watch football games with his 95-year-old dad.

So Stevens took some time off to take his dad to each Ole Miss game of the 2013 season, and this book is the result. It is quite a heartwarming read. There are, of course, lots of anecdotes about being a football fan, realizing your parents are indeed old, traveling with old people, and organizing road trips in general. They are interspersed with memories of growing up in a segregated South and the changes that came during the civil rights era. It is all tied together by the obvious love Stevens has for his parents, and from what I can tell, he is indeed very lucky to have them. (When Jackson closed all public pools after the order to desegregate, his parents build a pool in their backyard for all neighborhood kids to use.)

While I recognize football team jerseys and names, I am not a big football fan. I grew up in a country where football means soccer, so some part of me will always wonder what exactly compels people to jump all over each other to get to a ball that’s not even round. But I still really enjoyed reading this book because it often reminded me of the times growing up when my dad would take me to sports events. Granted, cheering for a volleyball team or at a track and field event is much less noisy than cheering for a soccer or football team, but the sentiment behind it is all the same. There is something exhilarating about being with people who are there for the same reason: to cheer on a team and to celebrate or suffer with their favorite athletes.

This touching tale of a father-son relationship and their shared love for a football team reads quickly and is sure to appeal to many people, not just sports fans.

Are you a big sports fan? Do you have any anecdotes about rooting for your favorite athlete/team?

*I received a copy of this book through Penguin’s First to Read program.

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9 comments

  1. I like that you were open-mined and read this book even though you’re not a big sports or football fan. My husband and I love football (maybe even more than *shock* hockey), so this book really appeals to me and seems like a heartfelt story. My kids aren’t sports at the moment, so I agree it will be interesting to see what and if they choose to pursue.

    • Oh, I’m a big sports fan; I just don’t particularly like American football (or soccer, for that matter). But I like baseball and luge/bobsledding in the winter. And I so wish that biathlon were more popular in the States. But aside from that, this book really tells a wonderful story that you can appreciate whether you are a sports fan or not. I think you’d like it!

  2. I was never so relieved as when my son quit football! I dreaded going to his games. But I do find the national obsession with this sport fascinating, and I love father-son stories. I have an ARC of The Last Season that’s been in a pile for months — your review made me want to move it to the top of the stack! By the way, I recommend Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer — all about crazy Alabama football fans. I couldn’t put it down!

    • I would certainly prefer for my kids to pick a sport with less impact when they are older! We’ll see if they listen to me. 🙂 Thanks for the book recommendation. I’m sure it’s a fascinating book, because you are right… there is a national obsession with football.

  3. There’s something heartwarming about the way different generations of the same family can come together over a shared love of a sporting team. Your review reminds me a little of Nick Hornby’s Fever Pitch in which he writes about his father taking him to watch Arsenal play football and all the feelings this generated over the years. It’s a great book, and like The Last Season, it’s not just for fans of football 🙂

    • You’re right, it sounds like the sentiment described in both books is the same. I’ve always wanted to read Nick Hornby, but he’s another writer I haven’t gotten to yet. Would Fever Pitch be a good place to start, do you think?

      • Ooh, yes – I think it’s one of his best books. Alternatively, I can recommend High Fidelity, which features a guy who runs a record store. It’s funny, moving and very well-observed.

  4. Who knew I would someday get so into football? That’s what happens when one of your children (in this case, my son) decides he wants to play it. And, then ends up loving it and is still playing it now for the 4th year in a row. Going to his games is both exhilarating and nerve-wracking. I love it and hate it at the same time. It’s a good thing the season is short, so I can have the rest of the year to recuperate. .
    As for football in the rest of North America, I only know as much as what my son or husband tells me. It’s my son’s games I’m mostly interested in. It’s very strange to cheer on your son to tackle other boys mercilessly, and then feel proud of him for it. Sometimes I think it must be cathartic for him in some way, and sometimes I long to get out there and do some tackling myself. 🙂

    • Good for your son, for having found something he enjoys doing so much. My nephews both play ice hockey, and whenever we drive home from one of their games, I tell my kids how wonderful a tame sport like swimming is… 🙂 We’ll see what strikes their fancy as they get older, but I suspect that no matter what it is, I’ll become an avid fan, like you.

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