Thursday, 29 September 2016

Fight for Old DC

Written by Andrew O'Toole, the Fight for Old DC started in 1932 when laundry store tycoon George Preston Marshall became part owner of the Boston Braves franchise in the National Football League. To separate the team from the baseball team of the same name, he renamed it the Redskins in 1933 and moved them to Washington in 1937. 

Marshall was an innovator, his team were the first to telecast all their games, have their own fight song (as is customary in College Football), have half-time entertainment and assemble a cheerleading squad.

However, innovation does not come without controversy. As a proud patriot of the old South and the flag of the Confederacy; Marshall insisted on his team remaining white, his team were the last team to intergrate black professional football players.

Partly due to pressure by NFL commissioner, Pete Rozelle who wanted league expansion across the nation and the new television contracts, as well as pressure from Congress; the reluctant owner would eventually relent and pushed the team trading for Bobby Mitchell, in 1962 becoming the team's first black player. Mitchell's image adorns the books front cover.

O'Toole does a fine job of not only researching the era, but painting a picture of the systemic problem of racism that is so paramount and at the forefront of current affairs in the United States currently.  Quoting Sam Lacy, columnist for the Baltimore Afro-American;
'Only in the capital of the nation, in a stadium be-deckled by flags of freedom 
does the spirit of democracy get kicked in the pants'

Lacy liked referring to Marshall's team as lily-white, which would go hand-in-hand with contemporary beat writer Shirley Povich, who would refer to 'the decor Marshall has chosen for the Redskins is burgundy, gold and Causcasian'.

Yet for all his innate bigotry, the forward thinking of Marshall cannot be ignored:
Image result for george marshall nfl images'
You'll see the time comes when having good seats to a pro football game becomes a status symbol, when almost every stadium in the land is sold out before the season begins....Going to the football games will be the thing to do in the social fabric of the nation. It will be all that because we're going to make fans of the women, and what appeals to the women will carry along the men who are national football fans.'

This was said by Marshall in 1952 as he nursed a drink with writers, what he states could easily be used as the tagline for the NFL by Goodell in the 21st century.  From humble beginnings, the NFL has become this monster of commerce, growth and yet it has sometimes forgotten about the well-being of its players, be it the black players being segregated or up to now the safety of the players being put at risk by a high impact physicality that cannot be absorbed by the human body irrespective of padding and protection.

Imagine an owner today being so racist, you cannot because at that level of professional sport there is a need to be integrated and understanding of all people you employ, your fanbase may be of that skin colour so you have to embrace it.  There has been a lot of misunderstandings with the stance Colin Kaepernick has taken in light of police brutality in targeting black individuals culminating in another tense few days in Carolina, yet no owner has come out and told their players that they can or cannot stand and protest like Kaepernick has done. The owners stand too lose too much, in this day and age it is right to protest peacefully.

While it is good to see people like Marshall be out of the game now, for all his fall backs he was a trend-setter who did burn a trail for louder-than-life owners who wanted the team they owned to be an extension of their personality, like we have Jerry Jones now and his JerryWorld complex.

The book itself is fascinating with its insights into the world of professional sports and how it has changed pre and post Second World War, how sport became more and more a part of the social fabric Marshall mentioned, how NFL has slowly overtaken Major League Baseball.

Filled with amazing anecdotes and brimming with interesting characters who pour out of this opus ranging from the aforementioned Rozelle and Lacy to the hard working Secretary of Interior, Stewart Udall who after being picked for the job by JFK, took it upon himself to integrate the nation's football team, it gives the appeal of a big picture of new v old and liberalism v bigotry.

The Fight for Old DC is not just a valuable football book but an important book of cultural understanding.

Published by University of Nebraska Press it is released on 1st November in Hardback for £22.99RRP

<img src="" width="80" height="80" alt="Reviews Published" title="Reviews Published"/>

American Band

American Band, is the 11th studio album by one of the best and still unheralded bands in America, Drive-By Truckers.

Image result for Drive-By Truckers American Band

Consisting of a five piece with duelling compositions by Mike Cooley and Patterson Hood; the band is one of those spit and sawdust bands you imagine exist in every bar in the Southern states of America. And yet the older they have got as a band, the better they have become as a unit but also as a voice of the disillusioned masses.

The bands writing has consistently had a great sense of story and narrative, one of this reviewer's favourite albums of the 21st century remains Brighter Than Creation's Dark, which consisted of such fables as 'Two Daughters and a Beautiful Wife', 'Three Dimes Down' and 'Monument Valley'.

Image result for Drive-By Truckers

When Drive-By Truckers released their first single of the album 'Surrender Under Protest', the point was made by Patterson Hood in a statement:  

"These are crazy times and we have made a record steeped in this moment of history that we're all trying to live through. We've always considered ourselves a political band, even when that aspect seemed to be concealed by some type of narrative device i.e. dealing with issues of race by telling a story set in the time of George Wallace or class struggles by setting "Putting People of the Moon" in the age of Reagan.

This time out, there are no such diversions as these songs are mostly set front and center in the current political arena with songs dealing with our racial and cultural divisions, gun violence, mass shootings and political assholery. Once again, there is a nearly even split between the songs of Cooley and myself, with both of us bringing in songs that seem to almost imply a conversation between us about our current place in time."

The band are celebrating their 20th anniversary with the release of this album, and it can be interpreted that the album is a call to arms about the way the world is but also a sense of America coming to terms with not being the biggest noise in the room anymore, a realisation that the country's time is passing with the possible calamity of a Donald Trump presidency mere months away.

Image result for Drive-By Truckers

The album has the usual bombast and rock and roll guitars from the opening riffs of 'Ramon Casiano', but there is more subdued tone in the lyrics from the lead single of 'Surrender Under Protest' to the wrenching 'Guns of Umpqua' to the reflective 'Once They Banned Imagine'

Cooley and Hood's vocals are great to hear as they mix maturity with the ever optimistic streak throughout their oral history, yet there is still that sense of a moment passing by and of America changing in this current political climate.

'I might get better when the sun don't shine,
Much rather watch the clouds go by'
- 'When the Sun Don't Shine'

The album is a must for all Americana fans and those who love the sound of riffing guitars be it from Neil Young or Bruce Springsteen; this album packs a direct punch and will get your toes tapping quicker than a line dancing contest.


1)      Ramon Casiano
2)      Darkened Flags on the Cusp of Dawn
3)      Surrender Under Protest
4)      Guns of Umpqua
5)      Filthy and Fried
6)      When the Sun Don’t Shine
7)      Kinky Hypocrites
8)      Ever South
9)      What It Means
10)    Once They Banned Imagine
11)    Baggage

American Band by Drive-By Truckers is released by ATO Records on 30th September 2016

Catch the band on tour
Follow them on Twitter @drivebytruckers

Monday, 26 September 2016

The Yucks

Image result for the yucks images

Jason Vuic is a lifelong Tampa Bay Buccaneers fan, and he brings his critical journalistic eye to the creation and formation of the NFL franchise known as the Bucs that were born in the Tampa Bay area of Florida in 1976 and in became the losingest team in NFL history when they lost 26 consecutive games ending in 1977.

The book is a pleasant sprightly read through the early history of a franchise that would ultimately reach the pinnacle by winning the Super Bowl in 2003. Yet it was a very long road, and continues to be so; they have endured more losing seasons than winning seasons in their 40 year history. Although following the draft of Jameis Winston last year, perhaps the cementing of a stronger team is coming to fruition.

The story began with promoter Bill Marcum who wanted to bring a NFL team to his hometown, and the owner Hugh Culverhouse, who was a miserly figure such as charging players for soda in the locker room. Yet the best stories and tidbits of the novel come from the ever quotable head coach John McKay, who would drill his players in an attempt to replicate the success he had at the University of Southern California (USC).

The images that stick with you are a college great in McKay who won National Championships being unable to replicate the success at a professional level, doing two-a-days in 100 degree heat for a whole month running his pros into the ground and instilling a negativity from the outset.

Image result for john mckay images
John McKay - coach of the worst team in NFL history

This failure to build a cohesion and team spirit because they were too fatigued meant that they were always facing an uphill battle, and the losing began leading to them becoming a national punchline led by Johnny Carson on 'The Tonight Show'.

Yet the Bucs had good players in quarterback Steve Spurrier (who would go on to become a college great himself in the coaching ranks), defensive end Pat Toomay who was ultimately banished after writing a tell-all book.

However bad they were, the Yucks became something more than if they were a .500 team. They became prominent in the public consciousness and everyone knew who the Bucs were, even if they were not winning. Fans came to the games to cheer on their endeavours no matter how poor they were, McKay would offer a fight with fans who questioned his integrity yet it all culminated with a victory over New Orleans in the Superdome over the Saints led by Archie Manning (the father of Peyton and Eli), the account of their plane ride home is worth the read alone. A first victory turned into the greatest victory.

The Yucks is out now from Simon & Schuster in Hardback

Tuesday, 20 September 2016


'An ark is a mysterious vessel full of wonder and untold magic. In effect, if you were to take a chance on this Arq you would be pleasantly surprised.'

Tony Elliott - writer for Orphan Black - in his directorial debut has written a time loop film in the same vein as Source Code and Edge of Tomorrow, where our hero,  in this case Renton (Robbie Amell) keeps waking up each morning after a nasty end to the previous day.

Renton wakes up in the same bed with Hannah (Rachael Taylor) next to him and is then attacked by three masked men who after his scripts (digital money) in this dystopic future world where there are two sides to the civil war in America; the rebel Bloc and the corporation known as Torus.

Renton used to work for Torus but left after he built an energy generator which is actually a time machine. While that is an implausibility there is nothing wrong with the execution of the screenplay, Elliott uses his minimalist production values - same set throughout and small cast - to his advantage.

Image result for arq film images

Other reviews have dropped derision on the film for its shortcomings, which they put at the feet of its on paper limitations. Whereas this reviewer feels it handles the problem of time travel cleverly and ends with a nice message from Renton's character, Elliott's script helps by placing as much emphasis on character development as the narrative functionality and gimmick of time looping.

Image result for arq film images
Robbie Amell is having a bad day
Arq is a taut gripping thriller that slowly gives you different nuggets and changes of direction that are both surprising and thrilling. Featuring good performances by Amell and Taylor (from Netflix's Jessica Jones) and a superb electronic score by Keegan Jessamy and Bryce Mitchell which is reminiscent of the best works of John Carpenter. Arq has enough charm

Arq is available on Netflix around the world now.