Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Reading Huddle: I Am Third Discussion Questions

Last month, I introduced you to I Am Third, the memoir of Chicago Bears legend, running back Gale Sayers.  If you missed my synopsis and back story on this latest “Reading Huddle” selection, click here to see that post.

If you read the book, continue reading for some discussion questions. You are welcome to post any reactions or thoughts in the “Comments” section below, or feel free to use them for any book club you belong to in the real world.

1.            Have you ever had an injury like the one Sayers suffers at the start of the book?  Was your reaction as dark as his?  When Dr. Fox told him he was game ready, he became human again.  Before that he was hard to live with.  Do you think reactions of athletes to such injuries are much from those of non-athletes?  Did you feel like saying "just get over yourself" (like I did)?

2.            There are many aspects of Sayers’ career described in the book that show just how different the career of professional football in the 1960’s differs from that career today—like the fact that he worked as a stockbroker in the offseason.  One of the most striking examples is when he negotiated his new contract with Bears owner George Halas.  No agent, just player and owner.  Is that kind of player-team relationship better or worse than how things work now? Do you think Gale got as much as he would have with an agent?

3.            Consider Gale’s relationship with Dr. Fox.  Do you think Gale considered Dr. Fox a mentor?  If so, was he as much of a mentor to Gale as any of the Bears coaches?  Perhaps more?  Recall the statement by his friend Buddy Young:  “No, you’re not hurting.  You’re looking for Dr. Fox and he ain’t gonna be on that football field.  It’s illegal to have twelve men on that field.”

4.            Sayers said that Brian Piccolo was living the “I am third” philosophy "and yet it was a very positive attitude."  Does this indicate that Sayers didn't think that it could be positive? Why then did he choose it as his mantra?

5.            Why do you think Gale and Linda married?

6.            Why do you think he included the story about his sick dog to the end of the "Linda" chapter?

7.            What did you think of the sections “by” Linda that appeared at different points in the book?

8.            Think back to Sayers’ description of the draft and his decision to sign with the Bears.  Do you think he was being honest about the reasons for going to Chicago (bigger market, more opportunities for a black man, etc.) or was he just a kid swept up by the hard sell from Buddy Young?  Did you find it strange that, at such a pivotal moment in their young marriage, that there no "Linda" section in that chapter?

9.            Sayers noted that, as an athlete, you have to walk a thin line regarding activism:  you don’t want to offend whites for getting involved or blacks for not being involved enough.  One issue during his time in college was housing for black students, a fairly volatile issue.  But later in life he had “safer” projects:  the city’s “Reach Out” program with camps; parks commission; charities (Gale Sayers Foundation providing clothes and scholarships for newspaper boys).  He also worked with Jesse Jackson (but he notes that white people respected Jackson).  Do you think he was successful is walking that thin line?*

10.          What did you think about his discussion on "paying the price"?  With all that's coming out regarding concussions, etc., does this attitude seem archaic, or does it still prevail today?

11.          When Gale and Linda considered adoption, they preferred to adopt a daughter because they didn't want a boy to feel pressured to play football.  Why not?  So what if they had a son would it be that hard to resist?

By the way, if you're a lover of books like I am, check out a new Facebook page that I've joined, Book Lovers Haven:  https://www.facebook.com/#!/bookloversdomain

They've got book lists, photos and news from the book world.  Enjoy!

*In the July 5, 2012 issue of Sports Illustrated, Gary Smith wrote an article entitled “Why Don’t More Athletes Take a Stand?”  He explored the general issue of how today’s generation of athletes play it very safe compared to the social activism of athletes in previous generations.  If you haven’t read the article, which focuses on the actions of one civically-minded college football player, I highly recommend it.

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