The Rumpus Book Club Chat with Steve Almond


The Rumpus Book Club chats with Steve Almond about his new book, Against Football, One Fan’s Reluctant Manifesto, the complicity of fans in the violence of the NFL, the sports media’s role in the discussion (or lack of one) and the difficulty of leaving a sport you’ve loved your whole life.

This is an edited transcript of the book club discussion. Every month The Rumpus Book Club hosts a discussion online with the book club members and the author, and we post an edited version online as an interview. To learn how you can become a member of the Rumpus Book Club, click here.

This Rumpus Book Club interview was edited by Brian Spears.


Amanda: Well you’ve completely turned my world upside down too.. I’m driving to LA on Saturday to watch my beloved Fresno State bulldogs get clobbered by USC. It’s killing me… Have you been to a football game since you started this book? How did it feel?

Steve Almond: No, I haven’t even seen a game. Actually, I’ve seen some highlights and clips and stuff as “research.” But I’m really trying to go cold turkey on watching because I would feel like (an even bigger) hypocrite if I tuned in. Especially my insistence that we, the fans, are the ones responsible for building and empowering the Football Industrial Complex.

J Katz: Is there a tipping point? What if someone offered you Super Bowl tickets?

Amanda: I appreciated your recommendations in the epilogue… But you need a weaning off treatment plan for fans : /

Ben: I’ve never been a football fan, not even much of a TV sports fan, but I watched part of a game after reading the book and experienced a sort of ghoulish interest.

Steve Almond: But as wretchedly judgmental as that sounds, I don’t want you to feel Amanda that I bear you any ill will. I get how AWESOME it is to watch the game. And I do think, as crazy as it sounds, that sports is an addiction and that it should be accorded some of the same supports as any other addiction. So maybe the next edition will have a weaning plan.

And for the record, I wouldn’t go to the Super Bowl for anything. It feels like the most corrupt event in the world. It’s just like capitalism having this big violent porn orgasm. And yes, the money shot is actual money.

Brian S: I moved on to another sport, personally. I’ve become a big fan of soccer in the last 2-3 years. And I’ve returned to baseball.

Amanda: Thanks Steve. Please just don’t kill baseball for me : )

Steve Almond: Baseball’s next on my list! Kidding. The truth is, every sport has been turned into a huge, nihilistic business. I chose to focus on football because it’s, like, five times more popular and profitable than any other sport and because I happen to love it so much and hate myself for loving it.

J Katz: Especially with the new idea of having the halftime band PAY to perform.

Brian S: I’m with you on the Superbowl. I could see going to a playoff game, maybe, but the Superbowl is just too much. And the story that hit this past week that artists who want to play the halftime show will have to pay for the privilege just drove home how much of a behemoth the NFL is.

Steve Almond: Yes, asking Katy Perry et al to PAY to play is a great example of the NFL’s insane entitlement. But we’re the ones who give them all that cultural power.

Ben: I wasn’t aware of the tax-exemptions for NFL—that’s interesting and unexpected.

Brian S: And, I’d argue, it’s one of the least defensible in terms of the toll it takes on the human body and the lengths the league has gone to to extort money from state and local governments.

Ryan: Great book Mr. Almond. I loved it. I hated it. I hated you. I loved you and agreed with many of the things you wrote. Listen to The Herd everyday. While I don’t have my season tickets anymore, I enjoy the social aspects of having friends over every week to watch the game.

Steve Almond: And Colin Cowherd, how ever lame his reasoning often is, did bring up this point about the NFL’s power the other day. The guys who report on football and comment on it aren’t dumb. They just don’t want to start to complicate their lives by turning the thing they love into something morally complex. And neither does Amanda. And neither do I, really. But the more you look at football—the totality of it—the darker it gets. I honestly didn’t mean to write such a long book. It just kept expanding as I learned more about the game.

Ben: If the moral complexity became sufficiently real to them, would they have to give it up?

Steve Almond: I hear you, Ryan. And for the record I’m going to be pretty miserable this season, because one of my favorite things in fall was watching games with pals of mine. We’re a bunch of dads with little kids and we’re all stressed out and guilty all the time and football was a kind of refuge for us. And I’m really and truly gonna miss that.

Ben, you’ve put your finger on the purpose of my book. I’m really trying to see what happens if people start to think of football in moral terms, if we connect the consumption of the delicious product to the moral cost of it to all of us. Amazingly, that’s really never been done in the case of football. It’s like there are all these damning aspects to the game, but we simply ignore them because we’re so much in the thrall of the game. And yes, fans behave pretty terribly at games, I’m sure. But why wouldn’t they? You’re watching a game in which the whole point is the knock people senseless.

Ryan: Question about the fan “behavior” before/during games. Any thoughts on the terribleness of it all? One of the reasons I gave up my tickets was I couldn’t in good faith take my kids to the games anymore.

Brian S: And you add in alcohol, not a great mix.

Ben: War continues to have moral complexity, but we haven’t exactly given it up because of that. Football serves some deeper needs perhaps?

Brian S: Ben, we haven’t given up war, but we (aka the US public) has gotten way less willing to accept large numbers of casualties, and so we don’t get involved in big wars so much anymore.

Andrea: My husband and I have been holding some rather animated breakfast debates, which is okay because our Cheerios needed a little enhancement. One point that I could not readily counter involved the enhancement of the local economy. Any thoughts? I also was not quite clear on the tax-exemption point. I was told that players pay our city wage tax, but I never really followed football, was just asked about funding a stadium.

Steve Almond: So Andrea, the way it works is that the NFL and owners use the massive popularity of the game to get local politicians to pledge public monies to build stadiums. But the public doesn’t see any return from those investments.

Andrea: Oh, that I understood and found quite shocking.

Steve Almond: As for the question from Ben about football serving deeper needs, it absolutely does and has from the beginning. Even a hundred and fifty years ago, football was popular because it provided a manly spectacle that lots of men needed, after the industrial revolution. We went from a culture that lived out doors and expanded the frontier and fought the Indians to a bunch of guys in offices. So football provided this jolt, a kind of exalted cult of masculinity. And it still does that. Perhaps even more so today. It also offers us a sanitized spectacle of combat that has a clear resolution, which we need more and more today given our incoherent overseas “wars.”

Maggie: I didn’t grow up watching sports but now I live in the land of college basketball (Durham, NC) and spent a few years bartending. I realize that sports (in general) are the easiest way to talk to anyone. I now maintain a passing interest in the sports that are always on around me for that reason. What would you want your bartender/barber/barista etc to say to you each fall, instead of “how about those raiders?”

Frances: OK—old lady here. What about the social aspects of being at your kids’ soccer and baseball and hockey games? We didn’t allow our kids to play football (over 30 years ago) but we went to all their other games and enjoyed the social aspect.

I am eager to lend the book to my 95 year old father who played football at small college over 75 years ago. In a leather helmet.

Steve Almond: Frances, I think it’s great that you’re going to give the book to your dad. My whole intention was to have people give the book to fans they knew, because it’s the non-fans, or the reluctant fans who are going to have to take the lead in starting a larger cultural discussion. I honestly believe that. There’s an invisible army of woman and men who really don’t get why we give so much of ourselves to football. And they need to SPEAK UP.

Andrea: It is the added stadium jobs and enhanced business (enhanced sales tax). Is the tax-exemption on just a specific level, such as federal? Or does it apply just to the accepted “members,” such as owners, commission, etc.?

Ryan: It was incredible to be reading this in Colorado as talk radio discussed if Wes Welker should retire after his 3rd concussion in less then a year. Most were in favor of him continuing to play. Screw the long term consequences.

J Katz: Obviously, a $10 billion industry (and growing) is not going away. Do you foresee any changes to make it a safe sport. New cutting edge helmets, with impact sensors.

Ben: I certainly don’t understand why, but it would seem that making the game safe would also make it even more clearly pointless.

Brian S: I think the threat to the NFL is something that making the game “safer” won’t fix. The problem is that more parents are refusing to let their kids play Pop Warner and high school football, and without those kids to fill the pipeline to the college ranks, the NFL won’t have future players. It feels a bit to me like boxing, which was huge when I was a kid in the 70s and is almost an afterthought now.

Michelle: Are fewer kids really playing? I don’t see that in my town or in the poor areas around me.

What has been the personal response you have received from those pals you mentioned and your family to your book? And do you follow scores and the sports talk? I know you don’t watch games but I’m wondering if you have completely amputated football from your life.

Ryan: Any thoughts on the HUGE push the NFL is making to welcome women and mothers into the flock so to speak with the breast cancer month and the new “heads up” gatherings they are holding in each NFL city?

Steve Almond: Mr. Katz, I’m sorry to say that I don’t believe the sport is going to get much safer. For two reasons. First, physics and physiology. The basic facts are that mass times acceleration equals force. And the brain is a soft organ inside a hard skull. You can’t come up with some helmet to transcend that. You just can’t. Because if you could, it would be in use right now, given all the money at stake. But more fundamentally: Roger Goodell and his henchmen know that VIOLENCE SELLS. It’s what we fans WANT. And they’re going to continue to give us what we want as long as it makes them money. So it’s really up to us to turn away from the game until it becomes less violent. Two-hand touch, anyone?

Brian S: Michelle, yes, the national numbers for Pop Warner have declined for the last 3 or 4 years running.

Frances: We were among a large group of parents who did not let our kids play football and I have seen that in my small upscale town for 30 years. I think there really is a lot less football.

J Katz: Any notable sports figures jump behind your cause? Any high profile support?

Steve Almond: Okay, so re: Michelle’s question—what I suspect is going to happen in the next few years is that fewer kids from wealthier areas are going to play, because their parents are going to say, “No way! I sent my kid to school to make his brain more active, not less!” And that will increase the trend that’s already in effect, which is that the sport is promoted and even worshipped in areas where there isn’t a lot of other economic opportunity for young boys. That’s maybe the sickest part of all this, and the reason I find Obama’s response to football so sickening.

Michelle: That’s the population I serve as a nurse and I can tell you they see sports as the main way out.

Amanda: Steve—I don’t think the book was ‘long’ at all—I think the writing was excellent. You were concise and well-organized and it made for a very persuasive book that I could give to any football fan and HOPE they would understand. I have already bought my college football season tickets this year, but it will probably be the last year I do that.

Steve Almond: In response to the Heads Up stuff and targeting moms—the NFL folks are SMART. They know they have a huge problem with women, who see the brutality of the game as much more troubling than man (as a rule). And so they want to target that population and neutralize a potential protest bloc. But I think the moms of America should just rise up and call bullshit on the whole fucking thing. Honestly. And as many dads as can muster the courage should join them.

Maggie: I felt like some of the issues you discussed could be applied to sports culture in general. Football is clearly more violent than say basketball, but there’s still a certain amount of tuning out the real world to follow something that one can make sense of. Do you follow other sports and if you do, do you think abstaining from football will just lead people to another distraction?

Amanda: I just had a disturbing talk with my secretary today. Her 7th grade son had to choose between being in band and football this year. He chose football. I tried to explain to her that he should choose band. Her response was ‘no way! Band will never make him any money. Football could.’ She didn’t even seem concerned about that possible brain damage. So in her case it seems like Obama is spot on—you can tell people not to smoke, but they still will…

Brian S: Not to mention that the chance her son will ever make money at football is thousands to one.

Mike S: Isn’t the opportunity problem really more a society problem than a football problem? If kids can only escape crushing poverty through football and you take away that sport, basketball, baseball, etc. will replace it. But it’s really the lack of opportunity that needs to be addressed.

Against FootballSteve Almond: Mr. Katz asked about other high-profile folks who have publicly criticized football. Buzz Bissinger is one guy who’s been pretty brave. So has Gladwell. He gave a very ballsy town down at UPenn calling on students to boycott football. But at the same time, I saw an interview with him recently where he said that he still loves the pro game and watches it. It’s a strange thing. Fans really can’t cut the cord.

Amanda: Exactly!!! It’s so ridiculous.

Kim: MLS also does the breast cancer awareness campaigns. Goalies dressed in pink.

Hi Steve! Our boys don’t play football in Swampscott, but it is big here. There will have to be a lot more in the media before parents here refuse to let their kids play, even when they don’t like it and know better.

Brian S: I admit, I don’t watch the game anymore, but I still read news stories about the Saints, and I know what their record is at any time in the season.

Amanda: Someone mentioned boxing earlier and you briefly mentioned it in the book. Why is it less popular now? Is it possible that it’s just because of the rise in popularity of the more brutal alternative—UFC?

Steve Almond: Amanda, but Obama also said, basically, “I wouldn’t let any son of mine play, though I do watch.” And that struck me as remarkable! It’s like he’s saying, yeah, let some other set of parents or guardians put their boys up for that kind of punishment (and for my amusement). But not mine! It’s just abject hypocrisy from a guy who should know better. Just imagine what would happen if Obama grew a pair and in his last year in office just said, “Forget it. Football is just too violent and too damaging to the economically vulnerable communities in this country. And it normalizes violence and fosters intolerance, etc.” I mean: that would be awesome.

Brian S: I have a theory—Muhammad Ali. He was this god of boxing, and then when he refused to hide himself away after he developed Parkinson’s, he really put a face on the damage that boxers took.

Kim: Have you written about Rashard Mendenhall (apologies if he’s in the book, I haven’t finished). I was so impressed with his decision to retire at 26 and his reasons.

Steve Almond: Kim, yes, I quote Mendenhall at length. He’s an absolutely stunning example of someone with real moral courage.

Amanda: I agree with you Steve on the Obama thing. It’s no different than politicians sending other people’s kids to war, but they probably wouldn’t make a statement saying “I would never let my son join the army.”

Michelle: To be honest, I didn’t get the book’s relevance to me as a non-fan who sees football as barbaric and brutal until you brought the stadium issue and financing up. Then I felt like there was a reason I should pay attention. I appreciated that you were able to make it relevant to someone who already agreed with your premise.

Amanda: Brian—interesting idea about Ali. I liked that the book sort of highlighted the fact that these brain injuries and early deaths are sort of a dirty little secret. You would think that the suicides would have swayed more people though…

Steve Almond: Brian, Ali is a complicated figure. But he represents the larger paradigm, which is that we want to see guys who are super-human, who represent a certain kind of grace and omnipotence that we all wish to possess (especially us fat dudes on the couch, with the nachos). So we get off on that vision of hyper-masculinity. But we really disconnect that from what they eventually become. We just don’t connect those two synapses in our brain emotionally, even if we do intellectually.

Amanda: I appreciated the stuff that Michelle is pointing out too. I felt like the effectiveness of the book was that it took all these different problems with football—some that I’ve heard before and some that I hadn’t—and put them all together in a way that wouldn’t let me ignore them like it’s easy to do individually.

Brian S: Amanda, I think part of what happens is that the majority of football players fade into anonymity after retirement, and so when something happens to them, it’s a tiny story at most. Easy to ignore.

Ryan: Do you think Simmons will respond on Grantland?

Steve Almond: Yeah, Michelle, I hear you. Part of the problem with the title “Against Football” is that it makes the book seem narrow in its concerns. And for the record, I wanted to call it “This Eager Violence of the Heart.” But the truth is that football is a HUGE industry and a form of entertainment that’s incredibly influential in all sorts of subtle, but crucial ways. It really is a kind of refuge, for instance, for patriarchal values, the sort that basically feel women exist to serve sexual and/or ornamental purposes. So it was vital to me that non-fans understand that they have a huge stake in this, as well, even if they find the game brutal and absurd.

Ben: How is it that some of us feel completely uninterested by the game and unmoved by its alleged “values,” while others find it so immensely important. Does it require early exposure, like religion, to develop loyal fans?

Michelle: Yes, I never got that until we moved from CA where football was not a big deal to a very small midwest town where almost all boys play football and all sisters cheer. I was shocked and disgusted and it has really affected our social circle because it is SO prevalent here.

Brian S: Football and small towns, man.

Andrea: Ben, it is probably for the same reason that some Romans went to the Colosseum and some did not. It is sad that some things just refuse to change.

Steve Almond: Ryan, I have no idea if Simmons will respond on Grantland. I very much doubt it. His whole thing is to be this super-enthusiastic and thoughtful fan and he does it really well. He’s likable. I’d love to shoot the shit with him. But Against Football is really kind of nightmare for him and the other guys on sports talk/ESPN. Because the book really questions their culpability so directly, the ways in which they’ve constructed professional identities founded on a kind of moral blindness. They simply can’t look at the dark side of football, and most of all at their collective role as promoters of this denial. What they do every day is minimize the moral concerns by finding convenient scapegoats, giving fans new reasons not to face their own complicity. Heck, I’d love to debate Simmons. Or any of these guys. But there’s no way they’re going to let me near a studio, I don’t think.

Ben: There is no hope for real reform of the game.

Michelle: I also think one issue that was alluded to through the Incognito parts was the emotional abuse rampant in football. I recently walked past a 7-year-old practice and the ways the dad-coaches yelled at the boys was abusive. When I remarked to my husband he said the men he works with (corporate engineers for a big company) love that. The more demeaning a coach is to their son the better. I thought I had fallen into an alternate universe.

Amanda: There were so many parts of this book that just blew my mind. One was that it NEVER occurred to me that it’s weird that sports are part of the educational system. It was like a lightbulb—duh! Why in the world should sports be connected with school.

Ryan: The chapter on the Wells Report was really well done. I was sad to see that Incognito is wanted by no less then 4 teams.

Amanda: I found the part of the announcers really interesting too. I loved your point that they basically provide a filter through which we can view and justify what would otherwise be completely unacceptable violence.

Michelle: Yes, that was one of my favorite chapters too!

Steve Almond: Ryan: yes, Incognito is still wanted. Again: capitalism doesn’t consider morality. It considers profitability. And the same thing goes for Amanda’s comment, about the way football has infiltrated our educational system. A lot of the reason for that is that it generates money. And not for the schools, but for the whole complex of people who survive off of football. But when you step back, it’s just absolutely psychotic. And a part of me just looks at this as another sign that America’s imperial reign is coming to an end. I mean: we’ve given our high schools and colleges over to a violent game. How much more obvious is it that we’ve got horrible, self-destructive priorities?

Amanda: Another interesting Raiders side note… I follow Derek Carr on Facebook, who was just drafted to the Raiders from my alma mater, Fresno State. Right after I’d started your book he posted about that concussion he received in the first pre-season game, assuring fans it was no big deal and he’d be back at work in no time. Made me so sad : (

Brian S: I wonder if, as the research on brain injury continues, there will come a time where public schools have to get out of football because they can’t find insurers willing to take on the risk anymore?

Steve Almond: Yeah, one thing I’m still hoping to do is to “live tweet” a game, or “live blog” it, or whatever, and rather than providing the sanitized, euphemized propaganda of the corporate announcers, I’d love to point out the facts that really matter, like how many times the injured player has suffered concussions on previous plays and how much the coaches are paid, versus the adjunct professors at their college. Stuff like that. It’s my dream gig.

Brian S: If you want a co-host on that, let me know. I volunteer.

Ryan: I think live tweeting a game would be a really fun and insightful read!

Bernsteinn: Did you see the gruesome James Blake head injury when his head slammed into a net post, and are you in favor of helmets in tennis?

Steve Almond: Bernsteinn, as you know, I’m in favor of helmets in all sports, including golf. Next question!

Brian, your point about the medical part of this is sound. I talked to one lawyer who basically told me that high school football (in public schools) was doomed, because it would soon be clear what the risks were and no school would be able to deal with that kind of liability. We’ll see.

Shayla: The justification I hear again and again is that football pays for other sports. But then you’re simply saying that a poor black kid should essentially kill himself so a wealthy white girl can play tennis.

Brian S: Shayla, on the college level, that’s true at a relative handful of schools. Another dirty little secret is that most universities lose money on football. Very few are profitable, and when they are, the university sees almost none of the money.

Guest: I have been away from football as my favorite spectator sport since my career in medicine began. Front page of 8/24 Houston Chronicle: “A Dynasty’s Dawn: Katy Football.”

Steve Almond: Amanda, I just wrote a piece about Wes Welker, the former Pats receiver who just got his third concussion (that we know about) in ten months. He’s probably going to come back and play some more. And to some extent, I understand why. These guys LIVE to play the game. They have a warrior mentality. There’s a twisted Christian aspect to this, the idea that the highest good is sacrificing your body for the greater cause. The problem is that they can no longer do so without having to face the reality that they may wind up like Junior Seau or Mike Webster or poor Tony Dorsett. What they need are people around them—strong mothers and fathers and wives, etc.—to pull them back from the fray and offer some perspective.

Amanda: Maybe they should make your book required reading for every kid and parent of kid who signs up for football… Then we could truly say it was assumption of the risk

Andrea: That is an excellent idea!

Amanda: Of course that only covers the medical aspect and not all the other points about the tax exempt status, impact on education system, proliferation of violent culture, etc.

Brian S: I don’t know. At this point I’m tempted to say that allowing your kid to play full contact football is borderline child abuse.

Tina: all about high school football here on the Katie prairie. The book has changed me. I’m gonna send the coach your book and he’s not the only one.I will be buying dozens of them.

Steve Almond: Shayla, what football is really saying—that is, what we the fans are saying through our support of football—is that the poor kids who wind up mostly filling the rosters exist to perform for us. And we will worship them for their carnal prowess, and even subsidize their salaries. But that’s not the same as actually giving a shit about them, as people. Part of what depresses me so much about football is that it’s so clearly about exploiting people, most of them poor boys of color, because of what they can do to entertain us, not because we have any genuine concern for them as people.

Amanda: And they are starting them younger and younger! My boyfriend’s nephew is starting tackle football at age 6!!! I wanted to shake his mom!!

Michelle: Football in a way is another lottery system for the poor. In my opinion. They can be told the risks but being poor sucks and its worth the one in a million shot

Steve Almond: Brian, it’s really complicated, though. Because you could say the same thing about gymnastics, or most other sports. And you also run into the crisis of free will and of wanting your child to excel at something and be made to feel good about themselves. I provided that example of my pal Pat in the book. I mean, his kid really LOVED playing football. It gave him real joy. And Pat knows that it’s bad for his kid and dangerous. But he also wants his son to be happy. As a parent, that’s a real dilemma

Brian S: Yeah, I understand that. I have a 24 year old daughter and two 6 1/2 month old girls, so I know the trouble of denying your kid something they love. But that’s also part of the parenting gig.

Michelle: I also think there is no informed consent because developmentally the age these kids start playing is an age of feeling invincible. So I think you are right. It will take the moms and dads and wives!

Steve Almond: Michelle is ABSOLUTELY right. Football is Lotto for kids from economically vulnerable neighborhoods. And to connect the dots a bit, that’s why I got so pissed at Obama for endorsing football when asked about it. He of ALL PEOPLE should recognize that football is selling poor communities in this country a false dream. And it’s a distraction from the real issue, which is creating equality of opportunity for all citizens.

Brian—you’re right. As my friend Karl Iagnemma (the amazing writer) says, “Parenting is the part where it’s hard.”

Kim: Football practice also starts mid-August for elementary school kids and practices are most days of the week. For any kids that wants to do something—anything—in addition to football, knowing that is a pretty good deterrent. Unfortunately, most kids sports don’t trail too far behind, a separate problem, but the argument seems to be more effective for kids than you will get hurt and you might get brain damage.

Amanda: But it just sort of goes along with the belief system of this younger generation—get rich quick schemes (or the NFL lotto) is valued over paying your dues and working your way up. (not trying to sound like an old curmudgeon—I’m 32 so I’m criticizing my own generation).

Brian S: I know it’s the case in basketball that the majority of successful athletes are actually from middle-class backgrounds rather than the economically disadvantaged. They’re the ones who can get coaching and equipment and such. I wonder if that’s the same for football?

Frances: Did his son sneak off to play football at the start? If you never sign your kid up for football will he love it? Or will he love soccer and hockey and the other things you sign him up for?

Steve Almond: Yes, Kim, football is the kind of game where you have to really segregate kids from the general population and kind of colonize their minds. It’s more intense and demands more than other sports. And this is why the folks who are involved (as players, coaches, boosters, fans) are so much more devoted to it. It’s really a cult, when you think about it.

Brian S: A very powerful, successful cult.

Steve Almond: The most successful cult, in terms of members and profits, in human history. Oh wait, there’s also religion.

Guest: And religion has a not for profit status too… but that’s a different discussion and book.

Kim: Thinking of it as a cult makes it even scarier.

Ben: I’m against football and religion, and especially invocation of the Deity at games (or in churches, for that matter).

Kim: We also almost never have the TV on a football game. Baseball, basketball yes. I think that input or lack thereof makes a difference.

Steve Almond: Yeah, a lot of what I’m having to do to get myself weaned from football is really limit what media I allow myself to consume. And it’s a big drag. But it’s also the only way to kick the habit.

Brian S: Best of luck with the book Steve. Hope it’s successful and that it starts a national conversation (as opposed to a bunch of talking heads screaming at each other).

Amanda: Thank you for writing this book Steve. It was brave and necessary. I hope it gets all the media attention and readership it deserves. I think I will be buying several copies as gifts!

Ben: Thanks Steve—also, I liked your comment about the young man’s need to compartmentalize with respect to the Italian woman studying gender roles.

Steve Almond: Yes, I wish I could have answered all the questions. And thanks to anyone who read the book and didn’t throw it across the room. I would only ask of all of you that you find at least one fan in your life and utz them to read it. If you want to fight a cult, you’ve got to form a cult. Or something. Onward, together, Steve.

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