Never Ran, Never Will: Boyhood and Football in a Changing American Inner Cityby Albert Samaha Published 04 Sep 2018
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This uplifting story of a youth football team shines light on a group of preteen boys fighting for upward mobility while on the frontlines of monumental shifts in America, living in a community eroding from gentrification and playing a sport threatened by a growing understanding of its risks.
Never Ran, Never Will tells the story of the working-class, mostly black neighborhood of Brownsville, Brooklyn; its proud youth football team, the Mo Better Jaguars; and the young boys who are often at the center of both. Oomz, Gio, Hart, and their charismatic, vulnerable friends, come together on a dusty football field. All around them their community is threatened by violence, poverty, and the specter of losing their homes to gentrification. Their passionate, unpaid coaches teach hard lessons about surviving American life with little help from the outside world, cultivating in their players the perseverance and courage to make it.
Football isn’t everybody’s ideal way to find the American dream, but for some kids it’s the surest road there is. The Mo Better Jaguars team offers a refuge from the gang feuding that consumes much of the streets and a ticket to a better future in a country where football talent remains an exceptionally valuable commodity. If the team can make the regional championships, prestigious high schools and colleges might open their doors to the players.
Five years in the reporting, Never Ran, Never Will is a complex, humane story that reveals the changing world of an American inner city and a group of unforgettable boys in the middle of it all.
"Never Ran, Never Will: Boyhood and Football in a Changing American Inner City" Reviews
Never Ran, Never Will belongs on the shelf next to Kotlowitz’s There Are No Children Here, Wojnarowski’s The Miracle of St. Anthony, and Coyle’s Hardball. This is an important book that poses real questions about what will fill the void if football and other sports disappear from inner cities. The author cares enough to look at all the factors that affect this neighborhood, and confesses in the introduction that he is one of the people who has moved into and gentrified these neighborhoods. His honesty provides a clear view, a transparency that only comes in the most honest and dedicated of writing. Thank you to Mr. Samaha for writing about these boys and their devoted mentors.
Full review can be found here: https://paulspicks.blog/2018/03/23/ne...
Please check out all my reviews: https://paulspicks.blog
Great journalism and storytelling. It tells a story about a part of Brooklyn that's not trendy -- Brownsvile -- through the eyes of a group of at-risk football players who you really fall for.
I received an ARC of this book via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.
An insightful exploration of the issues facing the youth in several communities across the country. The Mo Better Jaguars are more than just a football team, but rather it is an effective vehicle for the youths facing the crushing realities of the inner city to rise above their circumstances and succeed. This does not always happen, but one can still see how beneficial having a mentor can be for these individuals. The message in this book is strengthened further by outlining the criminal justice initiatives in the community as well as the failure/success of these initiatives.
NEVER RAN, NEVER WILL, by Albert Samaha, tells the story of the Brownsville Pop Warner football program called Mo Better Jaguars. Samaha dives deep into the kids lives, their parents, and the coaches and community supporters that all meld together to tell the story of the Mo Better Jaguars.
Rich in history and community pride, Samaha writes of the Mo Better Jaguars with a certain reverence and respect to all the people currently and previously associated with the team. He paints a clear picture of Brownsville and its history, how it has been a neighborhood that has never escaped a high crime rate and that New York City has kind of ignored this downtrodden and mostly forgotten neighborhood and whatever help that was given to Brownsville, like building projects within the community has only aided the lack of prosperity. By looking at the community and how it relates to the team, the reader sees how intertwined the collective yearning of a neighborhood for a better life is and these teams of boys who are learning discipline, respect, and pride really are. Samaha approaches much of the book presenting the facts and then considering the pros and cons of each situation. For example, Samaha juxtaposes the idea that parents try to achieve enough financial stability to escape from Brownsville, and yet many of those same parents feel like living in Brownsville or other like communities can provide a yearning and drive to escape that can help young men, especially those with a Mo Better pedigree, achieve success in life.
Not only are their many societal questions that are considered, but Samaha also tells of the Mo Better teams and their games with such an emotional feel and clear description that the reader gets wrapped up in the kid's seasons. By the end of the book, the reader is riding the highs and lows of each game right along with the kids and the coaches.
Presented with challenging topics that warrant extensive consideration, NEVER RAN, NEVER WILL is a novel that is impactful in ways few books are. Entertained by the players, coaches, and their seasons, the reader enjoys the book as it's being read. Once finished, the book will linger in my mind for good while because of the questions it poses and the answers it searches to find. Samaha has crafted a book that should be considered one of the best in 2018.
Thank you to Perseus Books/PublicAffairs, Albert Samaha, and Netgalley for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!
In Never Ran, Never Will, Albert Samaha zooms into the pressing, complicated conversations around privilege, gentrification, and anti-blackness in America by examining them within the context of a boys football team in the high-crime and close-knit Brooklyn neighborhood Brownsville. The book follows the Mo Better Jaguars — the coaches, led by Chris Legree, and the preteen players — over the course of five years. And while the games drive the narrative, it's the way the team shapes the boys' trajectories that is most compelling. Samaha gets at this by weaving in the history of the town and its residents, the persistence of gang violence and the circumstances that enabled it, and the nationwide threats on the lives of black boys and men. That Samaha is able to give such an intimate view of this large cast of characters is a testament to his dogged reporting and his deep investment in their right to tell their stories. The result is a captivating book that will make you feel like you're right at the sidelines, breath held, rooting for the team.
I know that profanity is very much a part of regular speech, especially in areas like Brownsville, and to not use any would not have worked, but author just seemed to use it as justification to throw it in whenever and wherever. Think it was unnecessary in many places.
Author also mentioned concussions and the concern of long term effects, but then basically down played them. Add someone who works sports medicine (athletic trainer) on sidelines at many youth athletic contests, they are a serious risk and should be treated as such. That being said, football isn't only sport that gets them and with role changes they are happening less. Soccer is an even greater concern in my experience, but also get them in basketball, lacrosse, hockey, squash, wrestling. I've even had an athlete get one while lying in bed. So football is a risk, but so are many other things, and concussions should always be taken seriously.
That being said, author did a great job in portraying life in areas like Brownsville, and what minority and poor kids and families face. I've lived in areas like it and worked with kids in those areas. This is their life. Their fears. Their dangers. The choices and pressures they have to face. You get a true taste of their lives reading this book.
** add on: Recently read "All the Dreams We’ve Dreamed: A Story of Hoops and Handguns on Chicago’s West Side" and had to modify my rating. Took a star away. All the dreams we've dreamed tells a similar story of growing up in our black neighborhoods facing drugs, gangs, and guns, but yet portrays things just as well, if not better, and does it without all the profanity. Just feel the amount in never ran is a bit over the top and amateurish. Message is still good though