Love, Zac by Reid Forgrave

"The truth is inconvenient. The truth could be painful. This is a game people love. But as a society, we evolve."

Football has become almost as American as the Statue of Liberty or the Fourth of July. I mean, think about it for a moment. My time in the high school band revolved around supporting our football team every Friday night. Thanksgiving wouldn't be complete without "the big game" playing on the TV. Even colleges, places that are supposed to be dedicated to higher learning, feature massive football stadiums looming over the rest of campus. American's love the game, but as author Reid Forgrave explores in his new book Love, Zac, our love affair with the sport may be doing more harm than good.

Zac Easter was the quintessential all-American high school athlete. What he lacked in size he made up for in toughness. Football and grit seemed to run in his family. Zac's dad was the assistant coach at his rural midwestern high school. His older brother was a high school football star player. Playing the sport was not only a rite of passage for the Easter men, but it was also an expectation. If you don't play football, how will you become a proper man?

Every game, Zac put forth all of his efforts, willing his body to push the limits of what it was capable of. Each play saw the young man violently collide with other players. It even earned him the coveted "big hammer" title from his coach. There were plenty of plays that left Zac raddled, dizzy, or even knocked out, but he always got up and returned to the field. Somewhere along the way, playing through the pain became the rule, not the exception. Finally, a catastrophic impact during his senior year took Zac out of the game for good. His football career was over, but the lifelong impact of his time playing the game was only beginning.

"Spread the word of mental illness and concussions, and over time, please spread my story. Great things can still happen from this event."

I don't often include trigger warnings in reviews, but I feel it is appropriate to do so with this book. Love, Zac is a gut-wrenching look at one person's struggle with injury, mental illness, and eventually suicide. This isn't normally the kind of book I would pick up to read, but Forgrave treats the subject with respect and transparency. After reading it, I'm happy that the publisher saw fit to send me a copy to review. The book doesn't just bash the sport. Forgrave even admits to being a fan of Football himself. Instead, it paints an intimate portrait of one young man's struggle with the aftereffects of traumatic hits to the head. As his headaches became a permanent symptom of years of physical trauma, Zac began to keep a journal. In reading the passages from it, we see his mental and physical anguish play out in real-time. Forgrave also interviews coaches, athletic trainers, doctors, and family members, filling in the gaps of Zac's writing and providing a complete picture of this one case. Football is ingrained into our culture, a part of our national identity. Love, Zac is never an argument against the game. Rather it is a sobering reminder of the price of this obsession.

For more information visit Amazon and Goodreads.
Zac's family has set up an organization in his honor. Learn more about CTE Hope here.
(2020, 41)

This entry was posted on Tuesday, September 15, 2020 and is filed under ,,,,,,,,,,. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response.

16 Responses to “Love, Zac by Reid Forgrave”

  1. "Love, Zac is never an argument against the game. Rather it is a sobering reminder of the price of this obsession."

    That's a difficult thing to balance. Football has become a symbol for America, yet it leaves tragic consequences for the players.

    Glad you took a chance and enjoyed this one.

    Karen @ For What It's Worth

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    1. That balance is exactly what his family has made their mission now. They run a non-profit that promotes research into this kind of trauma and ways to keep the sports but make it safe.

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  2. We do put a lot of importance on football as a society, don't we? So many people seem to forget it's just a game. I think it's good books like this one get published...to remind us of what is truly important...even if they're heartbreaking reads.

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    1. That's the biggest point of it all. There is something to be said about the qualities of teamwork and discipline that a sport can teach our youth, but those qualities shouldn't come at the detriment of their physical well being.

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  3. I actually just finished reading beartown by fredrik backman which was about sports culture and how it can be great, but it can also be incredibly toxic. This book sounds like it digs in deep, and is emotionally gut wrenching to read as well.

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    1. Oh I've heard great things about this one. It sounds like it would pair nicely with this one.

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  4. Even though CTE is something that is recognized today, and there are more stringent concussion protocols in contact sports, there's still a long way to go. A few years of athletic glory just aren't worth a lifetime of physical and mental health decline.

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    1. It really is going to take us having the uncomfortable conversations to find a solution.

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  5. It's good to keep reminding people about the effects this sport can have on a player and to keep CTE in our minds. This is heartbreaking story.

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    1. I was shocked to learn of the far reaching effects this has had on so many players. Such an important story to share!

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  6. I saw this one and just thought I can't read that. And yet, the effects of concussions from any cause is just reaching public forums. Changes need to be made - in so many ways. Great review Ethan.

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    1. It was a difficult read, but I think the topic is too important to ignore.

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  7. Sounds like a hard subject to review but I've heard good things about this one but I haven't read it. Thanks for the great review.

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    1. It isn't something I would ever pick up as a leisure read, but it was very well done.

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  8. These sorts of injuries are only just being acknowledged here in Australia and I think more people should read books like this. Not to bash any game but to understand what it could mean for them. I think adding Zach’s journal entries was a brilliant addition.

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    1. I agree. It is such a complex issue that is clouded by our love of the game.

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