cover image THE SWEET SEASON: A Sportswriter Rediscovers Football, Family, and a Bit of Faith at Minnesota's St. John's College

THE SWEET SEASON: A Sportswriter Rediscovers Football, Family, and a Bit of Faith at Minnesota's St. John's College

Austin Murphy, Author . HarperCollins $25 (336p) ISBN 978-0-06-019547-2

Murphy, a Sports Illustrated writer whose beat exposes him to the ballyhoo of college football on fall Saturdays and the high maintenance millionaires of the NFL on Sundays, takes a season-long respite from egos and attitudes at idyllic St. John's College in Collegeville, Minn., to cover the school's Division III squad, the Johnnies. Murphy seeks rejuvenation, for himself and his relationship with his wife and two small children. He also seeks enlightenment from John Gagliardi, the Johnnies' eccentric coach whose unorthodox style includes never allowing his players to hit each other in practice. He's also the winningest active coach in NCAA football and second on the all-time list. Murphy's dry, delightful humor keeps him out of trouble when sappiness looms. Upon his final visit to the Johnnies' stadium, he writes, "Here... I will let go of the season. Here, I will bid bittersweet adieu to the Natural Bowl, my favorite sports venue of all time. Here, I will search for the Starbucks commuter mug I left under the bench this afternoon. The goddam things go for about seventeen dollars." He also shows his sportswriting talents with several vital, original descriptions reminiscent of Hunter S. Thompson's gridiron coverage. "Moore hip-faked the poor boy halfway back to Wisconsin," Murphy writes of the Johnnies' offensive star, "sold him a parcel of swampland, a used '74 AMC Pacer with a cracked engine block." Readers will also appreciate Murphy's funny, self-deprecating reflections on his family life, though the passages sometimes drag on. But invariably Murphy comes to the rescue with a well-timed one-liner, a signature of this lighthearted, enjoyable book. (Sept.)