This book is excellent. The author not only cheers the team on but also shows that the Fighting Irish can be a team that many want to lose. He is very partisan in the fact that he wishes for the reader to get the whole story of the creation of a team that would be a major factor in the history of football. It is all about Americas ability to love the team but also to hate it.
Sperber went to the University of Notre Dame to conduct all of his research. He was warned that he would not be welcomed at the school, but when he arrived he saw the truth to be the exact opposite. They allowed him to dig deep into the history of the game and how he Fighting Irish fit into that game. He bases most of his writing on papers that have been held in the library written on the ups and downs of the many years of football and Notre Dame.
The game of football became a major outlet for Catholic pride, but with this was brought much American scorn. In this book the author tells of how the game became the sport it is, the conflict between administrators and athletes, the school, alumni, and dealing with the outside world. The press, sports public, and other schools were very hard on Notre Dame; the school had to learn a suitable way to deal with the temperament of the public and the image that they held for the Catholic school. Notre Dame not only had the problem of finding and educating good players, but to keep the image of the high esteemed school in check.
Kunte Rockne was the head coach of the Fighting Irish, and he became a star in his own right. He was a great coach and leader, but suffered an untimely death in a plane crash in 1931. He built winning teams on step at a time, and often used ruthless tactics to get a winning season. He was not afraid of breaking the rules, but for some reason this man at the time of his death was turned into an almost saint like character. The priests and the administrators tried to keep Rockne in line, and often fought with him, but they usually decided to turn their heads so that the team could continue its winning streak. When Rockne died it returned the control of the football team back over to the administrators and the priests.
The goals that Rockne set for his team were unlike any set in that time. He set the standards of coaching for decades to come. He has been known as the man that would change the face of college football forever. The success of Notre Dame football would also set off a fever and new love of the game. It brought in a significant amount of revenue to the school, and turned it into one of Americas favorite pass times. Schools in the 1920’s would watch the coach and the team and try to imitate them by practicing the same programs, but no school could duplicate them.
I really liked this book. I love football and the history of a great team like the Fighting Irish was a great insight into the misdealing and legend of a team. In the 1920’s they encountered problems that we do not deal with in everyday life. They had to build a team from scratch with little money, and strict rules on how to build and play a game.
The game is no longer played the same way, but it was new. They had to decide what the rules were and how to get people interested in watching a sport that no one had every heard of. To have a legend like Rockne emerge from such a new sport is just amazing to me. He changed the face of football with blood sweat and tears, and is often spoke of like a saint, but as I have learned everything he did was not always ethical. He broke the rules, but at the same time made a team that we all watch to this day.