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
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.
A story of good men trying to teach young boys about football and values that will keep them out of the drug life. I heard that flag football is now the fastest growing youth sport.
With the changing cities I wonder where the poor will live.
Really bad title that has almost nothing to do with the book. It's actually a pretty good story about young kids from about 8 - 12 playing tackle football.
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!
Albert Samaha's "Never Ran, Never Will" is a page-turning wonder. Started reading and I couldn't put it down. It's a New York story, but it's an American story. If you've read Samaha's work before you'll instantly recognize his attention to detail and his natural way of captivating his audience. It's a must read for people, not just sports fans.
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.