Elwood Riley, a high-school hulk with a fondness for philosophy, uses a football scholarship to get out of Cleveland but comes to hate the brutality of big-time college football in this lightly fictionalized expose. Punishing his body on the field and off, Elwood commits increasingly self-destructive acts as he searches for a kindred soul in the locker room, someone who shares his disapproval of the bullying and woman-hating atmosphere of jock life at the University of Michigan. Unfortunately, the most interesting character--an upperclassman who beats the system, shows Elwood how to balance team respect with personal humanity and in the process calls Elwood's bleakness into question--only shows up in a couple of scenes. Elwood's ambivalence toward the game continues until the last page; in the meantime, Reid gives his readers a harrowing (if sometimes exhaustingly detailed) description of the politics and logistics of daylong football practices and parties at which fights and rapes are commonplace. The problem here is Elwood himself, whose pious horror at these events seems tacked on and meretricious. Reid lets his fictional alter ego drift passively along, mouthing repentance and outrage at his teammates' behavior and his own acts of thuggery, without quite owning up to the game's powerful attraction to the bullies who play it; the result is either a flawed character or inconsistent writing (or possibly both) at the center of an otherwise smart, gritty tale. Agent, Gordon Kato; editor, Bill Thomas; author tour; film rights to MCA for New Line Cinema. (Sept.) FYI: Reid played offensive line for the University of Michigan.