Reviews

Rise of the Black Quarterback: What It Means for America by Jason Reid

mariahistryingtoread's review

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5.0

Rise of the Black Quarterback is exactly what it says on the tin: it is an examination of the cultural and social factors that led to a never-before-seen amount of quarterbacks in the NFL being Black back in 2019 and how much that differs from the climate of racism upheld by the NFL at its inception to beyond.

Full disclosure, I don’t know anything about football that cannot be gathered by a sports biopic so I was lost a fair amount of time. I had to cross reference and double check constantly to keep track of what was being communicated. It made retention difficult overall, but I got the gist of the book well enough even if a lot of the statistics and specific performance metrics were immediately dumped from my brain after reading. If you are well-versed in football you will, undoubtedly, have a much better time.

As a general historical account and attempt to document an ignored cultural phenomena, it did a decent job. Jason Reid clearly knows what he’s talking about and he backed it up with background data or research. Each chapter covered one to a few different Black football players, not just the quarterbacks. Since quarterbacks were implicitly required to be white for decades even if Reid wanted to focus only on the quarterbacks it would make for a very short book that a publisher would probably pass over. The book chooses to bolster the thesis by exploring the impact of Black players on the sport of football as a whole.

My one complaint was that it was very difficult to follow what was going on at a given time. He mentioned several of the players often in different crisscrossing chapters and would not always establish what year he was discussing, only context. As someone young who has not lived through any of this to even be familiar with it from a cultural standpoint, I was often completely unmoored. At least an older person would likely have heard about certain accomplishments on the news as they were occurring.

It also was confusing when he would reference a player in an early chapter then do a deep dive later since the lack of specific years would make me think that the player existed outside of the timeframe that they actually did. To clarify, he would describe a situation involving Football Player A in chapter 3 then give Football Player A his flowers in chapter 6 which has to take place years after the circumstances in chapter 3 where Football Player A was first mentioned. I would think Football Player A was relevant in the 60s when he didn't arrive on the scene until the 80s.

Someone more aware of football would get more out of this book, certainly. I learned about some interesting general trends and larger systemic influences, but the direct football information went over my head. I really don’t think I got much out of this due to how deficient I was, however, that obviously is not the fault of the book. Still, I will argue that it could have been more inclusive to the poor, ignorant souls like myself who could have used a little direction. I don’t think adding in a glossary or footnotes would have killed anyone.

I gave it five stars regardless of not being particularly moved because it was 70ish% my fault I didn't understand which isn't fair to hold (entirely) against the author. Take this review with as much salt as you can find.

gator_boy's review

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hopeful informative inspiring reflective medium-paced

4.0

sherwood's review

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3.5

A little clunky in that sports journalism sort of way, but as comprehensive a history as you could ask for.

UPDATE. Chose underrated king Lamar Jackson as my fantasy football quarterback bc this book was on the mind and I’m amenable to the Ravens. One fantasy football championship title later (and hopefully a Super Bowl, Lamar?), I report back, and bump it up a half star. Let’s go Ravens. 

library_jones's review

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challenging informative inspiring medium-paced

4.0

snowdennathan's review

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5.0

Great read on the history of the quarterback position and on black players playing the position. I didn’t realize that the league had a “black ban” back in the day and that it was such a concerted effort to ensure that black players weren’t even allowed in the league. Seeing that the league especially at the quarterback position is so much more diverse now makes you appreciate the work of Fritz Pollard, Doug Williams, Shach Harris, and others. The book talked about many of the modern black quarterbacks that so many love but it didn’t talk about one who has been so polarizing. I would’ve loved a chapter that talked about Cam Newton considering both his college and pro success. None the less Jason Reid did an excellent job giving a historical overview on those who attempted to play the position but weren’t given the opportunities due to racism. It makes you think about how many black quarterbacks were talented enough but just didn’t get an opportunity.

rmotti's review

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3.0

Really interesting, even if the writing didn't always grab me.
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