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Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite
An Unlikely Season: Destined, From Tykes to Titans, A Season Unbound is a non-fiction sports memoir written by J.R. Wirth, James (Jim) Joyce and Roy Rhino. The 1977 Gladstone Gladiators football season should not have been anything memorable, judging from the team’s dismal performance in the past. As one of his fellow Gladstone High teachers remarked to Coach Roy Rhino, “This school is full of nothing but losers.” But something special happened that season, something that even forty years later seems to stand out. It was a perfect storm of talent, energy, resilience and team spirit that forged the Gladiators into a force to be reckoned with -- it made them champions. An Unlikely Season is written by three of the men who played major roles during that season: Jeff Wirth, a junior who Rhino described as “the smartest quarterback that I coached in my 12 years"; Jim Joyce, one of the very talented senior level athletes who initially resented the influx of juniors on the team until they realized those juniors were kindred and awesomely talented players; and Coach Roy Rhino.
J.R. Wirth, James (Jim) Joyce and Roy Rhino’s sports memoir will convert anyone who’s ever wondered at all the fuss about high school sports in general, and football in particular. Wirth is the first voice heard in this engaging and well-written book, and he quickly had me following his story as he ruefully accounts his accident-prone childhood and, later, his development into a first-class football and baseball athlete. Joyce’s portion helped me gain a better perspective of the varsity team and how it functioned and grew to accept the dynamic and very talented juniors. Coach Rhino’s account of his drive to be the best coach he could be and his non-stop focus on continuing education to that effect is fascinating. I loved reading about his academic studies, enrollment in a football book club, and weekend clinics which all helped him become the best of all possible coaches for this team. His dedication and commitment to the sport and his athletes is inspiring and so very moving.
I particularly appreciated the fact that each of the accounts was concerned with the injuries that players are prone to, especially concussion, and discussed the move from brute strength tactics to better, safer strategies. This is an exciting book that makes the reader feel as though they were present during the games described by these authors, and it belongs in the library of anyone interested in football or having anything to do with the sport. An Unlikely Season: Destined, From Tykes to Titans, A Season Unbound is most highly recommended.