Never Ran, Never Will: Boyhood and Football in a Changing American Inner City

Never Ran, Never Will: Boyhood and Football in a Changing American Inner City

This uplifting story of a youth football team shines light on a group of preteen boys fighting for upward mobility while on the frontlines of monumental shifts in America, living in a community eroding from gentrification and playing a sport threatened by a growing understanding of its risks.Never Ran, Never Will tells the story of the working-class, mostly black neighborh...

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Title:Never Ran, Never Will: Boyhood and Football in a Changing American Inner City
Author:Albert Samaha
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Never Ran, Never Will: Boyhood and Football in a Changing American Inner City Reviews

  • Paul

    Never Ran, Never Will belongs on the shelf next to Kotlowitz’s There Are No Children Here, Wojnarowski’s The Miracle of St. Anthony, and Coyle’s Hardball. This is an important book that poses real questions about what will fill the void if football and other sports disappear from inner cities. The author cares enough to look at all the factors that affect this neighborhood, and confesses in the introduction that he is one of the people who has moved into and gentrified these neighborhoods. His h

    Never Ran, Never Will belongs on the shelf next to Kotlowitz’s There Are No Children Here, Wojnarowski’s The Miracle of St. Anthony, and Coyle’s Hardball. This is an important book that poses real questions about what will fill the void if football and other sports disappear from inner cities. The author cares enough to look at all the factors that affect this neighborhood, and confesses in the introduction that he is one of the people who has moved into and gentrified these neighborhoods. His honesty provides a clear view, a transparency that only comes in the most honest and dedicated of writing. Thank you to Mr. Samaha for writing about these boys and their devoted mentors.

    Full review can be found here:

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  • Kyle

    I received an ARC of this book via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

    An insightful exploration of the issues facing the youth in several communities across the country. The Mo Better Jaguars are more than just a football team, but rather it is an effective vehicle for the youths facing the crushing realities of the inner city to rise above their circumstances and succeed. This does not always happen, but one can still see how beneficial having a mentor can be for these individuals. The

    I received an ARC of this book via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

    An insightful exploration of the issues facing the youth in several communities across the country. The Mo Better Jaguars are more than just a football team, but rather it is an effective vehicle for the youths facing the crushing realities of the inner city to rise above their circumstances and succeed. This does not always happen, but one can still see how beneficial having a mentor can be for these individuals. The message in this book is strengthened further by outlining the criminal justice initiatives in the community as well as the failure/success of these initiatives.

  • Edwin Howard

    NEVER RAN, NEVER WILL, by Albert Samaha, tells the story of the Brownsville Pop Warner football program called Mo Better Jaguars. Samaha dives deep into the kids lives, their parents, and the coaches and community supporters that all meld together to tell the story of the Mo Better Jaguars.

    Rich in history and community pride, Samaha writes of the Mo Better Jaguars with a certain reverence and respect to all the people currently and previously associated with the team. He paints a clear picture

    NEVER RAN, NEVER WILL, by Albert Samaha, tells the story of the Brownsville Pop Warner football program called Mo Better Jaguars. Samaha dives deep into the kids lives, their parents, and the coaches and community supporters that all meld together to tell the story of the Mo Better Jaguars.

    Rich in history and community pride, Samaha writes of the Mo Better Jaguars with a certain reverence and respect to all the people currently and previously associated with the team. He paints a clear picture of Brownsville and its history, how it has been a neighborhood that has never escaped a high crime rate and that New York City has kind of ignored this downtrodden and mostly forgotten neighborhood and whatever help that was given to Brownsville, like building projects within the community has only aided the lack of prosperity. By looking at the community and how it relates to the team, the reader sees how intertwined the collective yearning of a neighborhood for a better life is and these teams of boys who are learning discipline, respect, and pride really are. Samaha approaches much of the book presenting the facts and then considering the pros and cons of each situation. For example, Samaha juxtaposes the idea that parents try to achieve enough financial stability to escape from Brownsville, and yet many of those same parents feel like living in Brownsville or other like communities can provide a yearning and drive to escape that can help young men, especially those with a Mo Better pedigree, achieve success in life.

    Not only are their many societal questions that are considered, but Samaha also tells of the Mo Better teams and their games with such an emotional feel and clear description that the reader gets wrapped up in the kid's seasons. By the end of the book, the reader is riding the highs and lows of each game right along with the kids and the coaches.

    Presented with challenging topics that warrant extensive consideration, NEVER RAN, NEVER WILL is a novel that is impactful in ways few books are. Entertained by the players, coaches, and their seasons, the reader enjoys the book as it's being read. Once finished, the book will linger in my mind for good while because of the questions it poses and the answers it searches to find. Samaha has crafted a book that should be considered one of the best in 2018.

    Thank you to Perseus Books/PublicAffairs, Albert Samaha, and Netgalley for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

  • Albert Samaha
  • Arianna Rebolini

    In Never Ran, Never Will, Albert Samaha zooms into the pressing, complicated conversations around privilege, gentrification, and anti-blackness in America by examining them within the context of a boys football team in the high-crime and close-knit Brooklyn neighborhood Brownsville. The book follows the Mo Better Jaguars — the coaches, led by Chris Legree, and the preteen players — over the course of five years. And while the games drive the narrative, it's the way the team shapes the boys' traj

    In Never Ran, Never Will, Albert Samaha zooms into the pressing, complicated conversations around privilege, gentrification, and anti-blackness in America by examining them within the context of a boys football team in the high-crime and close-knit Brooklyn neighborhood Brownsville. The book follows the Mo Better Jaguars — the coaches, led by Chris Legree, and the preteen players — over the course of five years. And while the games drive the narrative, it's the way the team shapes the boys' trajectories that is most compelling. Samaha gets at this by weaving in the history of the town and its residents, the persistence of gang violence and the circumstances that enabled it, and the nationwide threats on the lives of black boys and men. That Samaha is able to give such an intimate view of this large cast of characters is a testament to his dogged reporting and his deep investment in their right to tell their stories. The result is a captivating book that will make you feel like you're right at the sidelines, breath held, rooting for the team.

  • Sam Rega

    Albert Samaha's "Never Ran, Never Will" is a page-turning wonder. Started reading and I couldn't put it down. It's a New York story, but it's an American story. If you've read Samaha's work before you'll instantly recognize his attention to detail and his natural way of captivating his audience. It's a must read for people, not just sports fans.

  • Ben Westhoff

    Great journalism and storytelling. It tells a story about a part of Brooklyn that's not trendy -- Brownsvile -- through the eyes of a group of at-risk football players who you really fall for.

  • Lance

    Brooklyn is noted for its diverse neighborhoods and the changing landscape of the borough is bringing more wealth and success to many of its residents. However, the neighborhood of Brownsville has felt that some of this success has left it behind. There is a great success story that originates from Brownsville – the youth football program known as the Mo Better Jaguars. This excellent book by Albert Samaha captures the spirit of these football squads, as well as its players and coaches.

    The main

    Brooklyn is noted for its diverse neighborhoods and the changing landscape of the borough is bringing more wealth and success to many of its residents. However, the neighborhood of Brownsville has felt that some of this success has left it behind. There is a great success story that originates from Brownsville – the youth football program known as the Mo Better Jaguars. This excellent book by Albert Samaha captures the spirit of these football squads, as well as its players and coaches.

    The main focus of the book is not just the sport of football but the issues facing boys and young men in the inner city. Several players – Gio, Oomz, Isaiah and Hart just to name a few – are portrayed and their issues with family, school, gangs and other matters are told in painstaking detail. Some of the stories are inspirational, some are heartbreaking. Their lives are taking shape while playing for the Mo Better program and they may surprise the reader on just how some of their experiences do not fit the stereotype of life in the inner city.

    The same goes for the coaches – Esau, Vick and Chris. These are even better reading as they are not only coaching the boys to improve their football skills but also on what they need to do or not do in order to succeed. Their overwhelming theme is to avoid “the streets” as they can swallow a young man up and he will find himself in gangs, in jail or dead. These coaches not only talk the talk, but they walk the walk. I found Vick’s story quite compelling, especially that at the same time he is telling his players about the importance of school and reading, he is trying to better himself by going to school to become a nursing assistant while trying to find a job.

    The reader will also learn about Brownsville – its history, its struggles and the lack of support it has received from the rest of New York City. It is important for the reader to absorb this information as well, as it helps to illustrate what the Mo Better players are experiencing and how the Jaguars have become such a vital part of the neighborhood as many of these youth view football as the means to get onto a path to success. That success may come in the form of an NFL career or a scholarship to college where the education received will lead to a successful career in another field.

    Football writing is not forgotten, however, and while Samaha is not a sportswriter by trade, his narratives of the action on field, both in practice and during the games, will be easily digested by all fans of the game no matter how closely they follow the sport. The detail is just as good here, especially when describing how much the players like to hit. It feels like they are releasing all of their frustrations with their issues at home or in school on the other kid, whether it is a teammate at practice or an opponent who will not be able to continue the play.

    This book will make an impact on the reader in ways that other sports books cannot, especially when one considers the topic and the issues faced by these young men. It will make the reader think, it will make the reader cheer, and hopefully it will make the reader help to take action to ensure that young men living in places like Brownsville are not left behind.

    I wish to thank Perseus Books for providing a copy of the book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

  • Dree

    For this book, Samaha followed a Pop Warner football team form 2013-2014. Based in Brownsville, Brooklyn, the club has a storied past, but the concussion issue is causing all area teams to struggle for players. Focusing on the coaches, several of the best players, and the families, Samaha examines why these kids are playing, why their parents let them, and what they think about it all.

    Brownsville is a rough neighborhood, and while some of these kids live there, some are the sons of dads who made

    For this book, Samaha followed a Pop Warner football team form 2013-2014. Based in Brownsville, Brooklyn, the club has a storied past, but the concussion issue is causing all area teams to struggle for players. Focusing on the coaches, several of the best players, and the families, Samaha examines why these kids are playing, why their parents let them, and what they think about it all.

    Brownsville is a rough neighborhood, and while some of these kids live there, some are the sons of dads who made it out, typically due to football. Football can get you into a good public high school, or even a private one. A good high school means graduating and the possibility of a good job. Or a college scholarship. And they like it. Just because these kids or their parents are from Brownsville does not mean they don't have hopes and dreams--but football doesn't protect them from the lure of the streets. They play football because it is a foot in the door, but there are easier ways to make money quickly, and one goal of the coaches is to keep the kids occupied and on the straight and narrow. I found the book got a little repetitive, with another practice and the same drills same dads, same shouts, another game, same things. I know this is how it is, having been a soccer mom. Repetitive.

    Samaha follows up in 2017, when the main group of kids is in 10th grade. They are in high school. I found the follow up chapter to be weak--partly due to only few kids being covered, partly due to it only being 3 years later. These kids are in high school right now! He also follows up with a few coaches, but again, I wanted more.

    This book is certainly interesting, but will be most interesting to people who like reading about football, youth sports, rough neighborhoods, and school choices.

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