cover image Love, Zac: Small-Town Football and the Life and Death of an American Boy

Love, Zac: Small-Town Football and the Life and Death of an American Boy

Reid Forgrave. Algonquin, $27.95 trade paper (288p) ISBN 978-1-61620-908-7

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, or CTE, a “disease that seemed to be eating his brain from the inside.” 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 and why he no longer felt like himself (“I kept up the super muscle image to look tough on the outside when I was really crying everyday on the inside”). Along the way, Forgrave weaves a cultural history of football in America, from its early hold on college campuses in the late 19th century to current fears over concussions and brain damage, and professional football’s willful ignorance of what the author calls “sport’s biggest existential crisis in a century.” 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. (Sept.)