FLS Book Reviews

Book reviews from The Free Lance-Star.

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Football in the ‘Muck’

Swampy school produces pro players

By Kurt Rabin

The Free Lance-Star

BRYAN  Mealer’s year-in-the-life story of a Florida high school football team covers similar turf as  Texas-bred “Friday Night Lights” yet manages to be even grittier. Lots of football books are concerned with body counts—you know, the fallout from vicious clothesline tackles and quarterback sacks. Well, “Muck City”—set in the central Florida loam of Belle Glade—features actual body counts, deaths from AIDs, drugs and misadventure.

We’re well aware of how tough Glade Central is, because Mealer devotes the first 100 pages to describing just how sorry a place that school is: Its Raiders have neither team bus nor booster club, and student turnout for games is ridiculously low. In fact, readers won’t reach a recounting  of the regular season until they’re nearly halfway through the book. It would seem to be a clear-cut case of the author—who for years filed dispatches from the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo—“mucking” up his own narrative.  But then he drops back and lets the players’ powerful stories come to the fore.

“Muck City” asks: How can a high school in one of America’s most-pathetic burgs—a swampy outpost ravaged by crime, violence and poverty—produce a team that has sent dozens of players to the NFL? Answering that question involves looking at the history of the Everglades, the influence of Big Sugar, Haitian immigration and the relentless drive of a homegrown coach.

Kurt Rabin  is a copy editor  with The Free Lance–Star.

MUCK CITY: Winning and Losing in Football’s Forgotten Town

By Bryan Mealer

(Crown, $25, 336 pp. )



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