Growing Up on the Gridiron: Football, Friendship, and the Tragic Life of Owen Thomas, Vicki Mayk
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Growing Up on the Gridiron: Football, Friendship, and the Tragic Life of Owen Thomas

Author: Vicki Mayk

Narrator: Brian Conover

Unabridged: 5 hr 17 min

Format: Digital Audiobook

Publisher: Penguin Random House Audio

Published: 09/01/2020

Genre: Sports & Recreation - Sociology Of Sports


Explores the experience of one young man and the concerns about CTE he helped to illuminate, and the cultural allure of football in America that keeps boys trying to make the team despite the dangers

Award-winning journalist Vicki Mayk offers deep insights in telling the story of Owen Thomas--a star football player at Penn, who took his own life when he was 21, the result of the pain and paranoia caused by chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).

It was Owen's landmark case which demonstrated that a player didn't need years of head bashing in the NFL, or multiple sustained brain concussions, or even a single skull-rattling hit to cause the mind-altering, life-threatening, degenerative disease known as CTE. This is also the story of Dr. Ann McKee, the neuropathologist who bucked conventional wisdom, and the football establishment, as she explored Owen's brain and its larger significance with the tenacity of a rampaging linebacker, building an ever-stronger case that, at the very least, football should not be played by boys under the age of 14.

With its focus on a single life and the community touched by it--Owen's family, his buddies and girlfriends, his teachers and coaches--Growing Up on the Gridiron explores not only the experience of one young man and the health concern he helped to illuminate, but the cultural meaning of football in America, and the allure that keeps boys trying to make the team despite the dangers. Through the story of Owen's life and his community, Mayk explores the place of football in our lives. It explores why sports matters for young men and why they continue to take risks despite the evidence of serious, long-term harm. The author doesn't make a heavy handed argument to abandon the sport. But she raises a critical question for young players and their communities: does loving a sport justify risking your life?


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