cover image Across the River: Life, Death, and Football in an American City

Across the River: Life, Death, and Football in an American City

Kent Babb. HarperOne, $27.99 (304p) ISBN 978-0-06-295059-8

The coach of a champion football team worries more about keeping his players alive than winning on the field in this dramatic account of the 2019 season at Edna Karr High School in the Algiers neighborhood of New Orleans. Washington Post sports reporter Babb (Not a Game) presents a rich and admiring portrait of Cougars coach Brice Brown, who was born and raised in Algiers—where life expectancy is 10 years less than the national average—and returned there after playing football at Grambling State. Babb also compassionately recounts the travails of players including senior linebacker Joe Thomas, who struggles to keep the apartment he shares with his mother while she’s in prison for selling drugs. In addition to running grueling practices and dissecting opposing defenses during the team’s quest for its fourth state championship in a row, Brown and his staff instruct players on how to react to social situations that may put them in danger, and offer rides home and cash for meals and other necessities. Babb skillfully interweaves on-field action with the history of Algiers and the story of the 2016 murder of a former star quarterback for the Cougars. The result is a moving and evocative portrait of football and life in the tradition of Friday Night Lights. (Aug.)