Cover Image: We Want Bama

We Want Bama

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Member Reviews

Being a huge Bama fan I was looking forward to reading this book.  With that said I was very disappointed in it.  Yes it does tell the story of the 2020 football team that won the National Championship against all odds of even a football season happening.  Yes it tells of how the campus dealt or even sometimes didn't deal with Covid. Yes it does tell of the great coaching job Nick Saban did during the all SEC schedule in the mist of Covid.  But then it turned political.  I don't read sports books to be preached to about social awareness.  Or how bad the former president might have been.  I want to know about players and highlights of games.  I don't think I will be recommending this book to my fellow Bama fans.
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Just like everything else, the year 2020 saw major disruptions in college football.  However, one thing that didn't change was the dominance of the Alabama Crimson Tide and another national championship for them and coach Nick Saban.  This book by Joe Goodman on that squad is quite different than any other book written about a particular team or season – which I guess would be quite fitting for anything about 2020.
This book does have some review of the games and highlights of that season for the Crimson Tide, but that is not how this book is structured – indeed, it seems to jump all over the place, but underlying that is one central theme that was that, to the author and after reading this book to this reviewer as well, the Alabama football team's march and other means of communication about racial injustice made a much louder impression than anything they accomplished on the football field.  Goodman made this point in several different ways – through highlighting the activism of players like Chris Owen Najee Harris and Alex Leatherwood, who wrote a powerful song/poem that was recorded by him and many teammates.  It was quite moving to just read it and see how a college football team would come together during this summer of unrest in 2020.
While most of the book has a serious message, whether football or racial equality, Johnson throws in plenty of humor and sarcasm as well as uncomfortable truth in this book.  This is especially true when he talks about how important Alabama football is to the students, the university and the bank accounts of the university.  He will often end sections about these topics with the phrase "Roll Tide!", the cheer for the football team yelled by fans.  I thought that was a nice touch to illustrate his message.
While this book did seem to jump around on topics and at times, I had to re-read passages to figure out whether Goodman was being serious or sarcastic, it is one that really should be read by those who are unfamiliar with the history of racial injustice in Alabama as well as those who are either Alabama fans or wish to understand just how important the Crimson Tide football team is to the state.  It is also a great look into the detail of Nick Saban and his recruiting success that is the ultimate reason for Alabama's continuing success.
I wish to thank Grand Central Publishing for providing a copy of the book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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Reads more as a fan letter to Paul Finebaum about the Crimson Tide more than a journalist's recount of the 2020 team. The author does a good job of capturing the various social and pandemic related issues going on in 2020 while telling the story of one of the most dominate teams in college football history. At times the tone seemed off, but the admiration for the players and staff was evident throughout. 

I received an ARC of this book via NetGalley in exchange for my open and honest review.
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We Want Bama has moments of brilliance, although I must say for every two great chapters, there is one that is a bit of a letdown. The book itself follows the 2020 Alabama football team, but it is about so much more--America, race, Alabama, history, etc. Author Joseph Goodman is a columnist, so it's aggressive in its viewpoint and not always pure reporting. 

The hard reporting performed by Goodman is the best part about We Want Bama. For instance, the chapter on Chris Owens--one of the best in the book in my opinion. Goodman uses metaphor and personal teammate relations and digging back into Owens' childhood to give a picture of Tuscaloosa, the Alabama team and Owens as an individual. The very next chapter is excellent, too. Goodman provides all of the details on the biggest story of the offseason: Scott Cochran leaving for Georgia. Alabama fans will be especially interested to hear a theory on why the program had so many kicking issues in the past. 

However, for every two chapters like that, there is a chapter 10 that felt all over the place. I don't believe he was fair to Dabo Swinney. He critiques him for being from Pelham (a 'white flight' suburb of Birmingham) and some of his tone-deaf comments. I don't deny Swinney's comments rightly should be questioned, but to totally question the whole of the man is a little unfair. Meanwhile, Kirk Herbstreit, who is practically best friends with Swinney, is treated like some demigod for being concerned about whether or not there would be a 2020 season. 

Goodman is pretty funny at times but occasionally misses the mark. The humor is needed because Goodman doesn't shy away from the difficult topics necessary to address and (at least somewhat) specific to the 2020 team. Overall, I can't deny a few minor flaws, but this is a great read.
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WE WANT BAMA is an amazingly special and profound nonfiction work. The debut of Sports Journalist Joseph Goodman Jr., WE WANT BAMA is remarkably literate, historical,  profoundly philosophical and sociological.  Don't come here looking for a facile light-hearted tour of the Crimson Tide.  That's not what you'll find. You don't even need to be a Tide fan,  a lover of college football,  or a sports aficionado. You don't  have to be Alabama-born. Every thinking American ought to read this book, ponder, and think about the lessons for society that are uncovered here.
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There's so much silliness in this life that we take seriously and when that silly hobby (football) is tasked with shining a light on serious issues in our society, it shows us just how important, messy, disgusting, frustrating and beautiful all of it really can be when the two meld at the right time.

The writing in "We Want Bama" is impeccable — and very much southern — and Joseph Goodman's style and biting commentary is not only hilarious but, I'm almost certain, welcoming for any outsider who wants to learn more about Alabama and why the state and its most revered football program are the way they are.

Goodman is our guide through the greatest football program of all time and the greatest social problem of all time. He tours the triumphs and failures on the field and in the streets while framing societal problems so despicable that they almost seem silly (just like the sport we all take so seriously) with his direct, biting and humorous commentary.

This is a beautiful story of tragedies and victories in the state of Alabama, and why the two were destined to cross paths in 2020.
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We Want Bama takes an in depth look at the 2020 Alabama college football team, which is possibly the greatest year for the Crimson Tide. The challenges faced by the team were far greater than just football: a global pandemic, politicians using them as talking points for their gain, and racism on both a historic and current level.

We Want Bama is everything I hoped for in a book and much more. The author covers the 2020 team with so much passion and respect that it is hard not to be engaged in every chapter. Each topic is thoroughly covered, with no detail left out and a writing style that is filled with both humor and brutal honesty. Pandemic sports.....there is just so much to it. As the author notes, not playing the season was never an option for the SEC, and there were certainly a lot of consequences that went along with this. And seriously, what bravery and strength it took to combat such a long history if racism. No small tasks here for one football team. We Want Bama is a great book and one that I would recommend to football fans.

Thanks to Netgalley and Grand Central Publishing for this ARC; this is my honest and voluntary review.
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