“The Reilly Thanksgiving Invitational Story” by Brent Parrott and Bryan Renfro

I am doing something I rarely do: I am reviewing a work I did not read all the way through. However, I think the book deserves comment, so here goes.

If anyone should be attracted to this book it’s an ageing middleclass white male weekend warrior finding it difficult to keep up any more in his chosen sports, looking back fondly on former glory. In other words, me. When I decided to review it, I hoped that this tale would rise out of the ranks of the many “save our story for posterity” tomes made possible by the advent of self-publishing, and present a more universal snapshot of the culture of an important era.

In that respect, the book starts out well. The lives of those in the story are tied in neatly with movements in the greater American society, and the birth pangs of the event are chronicled.

However, soon a flaw becomes apparent. The exclusivity that tends to limit Americans in general predicted the end of the tradition these men were creating, and doomed the writing project in its tracks. Our first clue should have been the subtitle, which typified the participants as “The greatest generation.”

The next evidence was that, as children, these players basically pushed everyone else off the field of their choice so they could have their game.

As adults, the problem continued. One conflict that runs through the book is the possibility of intruders into this by-invitation-only event. At one point the self-styled Commissioner states clearly (in what he admits later to be rather over-the-top rhetoric) to the tune that, “This is my game, and I decide who will play.”

Then came the crucial day, two generations later, when the group considered allowing the grandchildren standing on the sidelines to play. The decision was an unequivocal “No.”

And thus the fate of the Reilly Thanksgiving Game was sealed.

This book is a credit to the ability of the human race to create a cultural occasion out of anything. Also our ability to keep a narrative running for years, despite the unimportance of the original event.

The participants’ lack of interest in the game itself is demonstrated by the great amount of ink spent on the organizing and reporting of the invitation. While this starts out as a matter of interest, when the task is turned over to individual participants it takes on the nature of those Christmas Brag letters we all put out, of interest only to those who know and love us and care about what we are doing. At this stage I realized I was only half way through the book. I considered, and decided that plowing through the rest would neither entertain me nor make a difference to my life. At this point I jumped to the ending to see if the editors could wrap it all up with words of social import.

They could not. The Reilly Thanksgiving Football Game book ends, as it must, with the mourning of the death of the Reilly Thanksgiving Football Game and those of the participants who have died as well.

And then it goes on to another bunch of updates of participants.

A great deal of credit is to be given to the editors who produced a good-quality version of the genre, but the exclusivity of the game limits interest in this book to those specifically involved in the events it chronicles, and possibly a small readership of ageing middleclass white male weekend warriors.

3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

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