In December 2015, Zac Easter, a twenty-four-year-old from small-town Iowa, decided to take his own life rather than continue his losing battle against the traumatic brain injuries he had sustained as a no-holds-barred high school football player. In this heart-wrenching story, Forgrave shows us how football mirrors America, from the fighting spirit the game has helped inscribe in our national character to the side effects of the traditional notions of manhood that it affirms.
At intervals throughout his well-written narrative, Forgrave removes his intense focus on Zac to provide character sketches that offer divergent perspectives about football ... In the future, families will be confronting whether their children should participate in football — and, if yes, at what age the participation should commence. When Zac began playing in third grade, knowledge about the short-term and long-term impacts of concussions could fairly be termed as 'limited.' That is no longer the case.
Forgrave adds a poignant intimacy to Zac’s tragedy by interweaving it with portions of Zac’s journal and personal correspondences. He also offers a detailed look at the evolution of football into 'America’s most…lucrative sport' and a game that has defined American conceptions of masculinity over more than a century. Awareness about CTE continues to grow, but, as the author suggests, the American 'obsession' with football is still far too complex to do away with the sport or negate the violence that is part of its enduring allure. An intelligent, provocative tale that will give pause to many parents of football players at any level.
Sportswriter Forgrave stuns in this moving debut about the life of Zac Easter, a former high school football player from small-town Iowa who committed suicide following a lengthy struggle with chronic traumatic encephalopathy ... Forgrave charts how Zac, a friendly and fun-loving young man who was emblematic of 'the very archetype of the American male that football creates and represents,' deteriorated following the repeated concussions suffered during high school football games, which led to the development of CTE. Forgrave draws from Zac’s own words in text messages, emails, and journals, to paint an intimate portrait of his inability to understand what was happening to his brain ... Along the way, Forgrave weaves a cultural history of football in America ... Forgrave shares his insights in a manner that educates, but never patronizes, his audience. This unflinching exposé is one anyone who loves the sport should pick up.