Our Boys

A Perfect Season on the Plains with the Smith Center Redmen

Joe Drape

Times Books

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An inspiring portrait of the extraordinary high-school football team whose quest for perfection sustains its hometown in the heartland

The football team in Smith Center, Kansas, has won sixty-seven games in a row, the nation’s longest high-school winning streak. They have done so by embracing a philosophy of life taught by their legendary coach, Roger Barta: “Respect each other, then learn to love each other and together we are champions.”

But as they embarked on a quest for a fifth consecutive title in the fall of 2008, they faced a potentially destabilizing transition: the greatest senior class in school history had graduated, and Barta was contemplating retirement after three decades on the sidelines.

In Smith Center—population: 1,931—this changing of the guard was seismic. Hours removed from the nearest city, the town revolves around “our boys” in a way that goes to the heart of what America’s heartland is today.

Joe Drape, a Kansas City native and an award-winning sportswriter for The New York Times, moved his family to Smith Center to discover what makes the team and the town an inspiration even to those who live hundreds of miles away. His stories of the coaches, players, and parents reveal a community fighting to hold on to a way of life that is rich in value, even as its economic fortunes decline.

Drape’s moving portrait of Coach Barta and the impressive young men of Smith Center is sure to take its place among the more memorable American sports stories of recent years. 

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1Championships aren’t won on the field; they are only played there.—Team motto for the summer, June 2008There was nothing but blue sky, miles and miles of it, disturbed only by cotton ball clouds that drifted across a horizon as flat as a tabletop and tiled with the gold, greens, and yellows of healthy crops. A John Deere combine, all shiny metal and sparkling glass, groaned in the distance as it knocked, skinned, and sorted wheat on the first day of what was going to be an abundant and profitable harvest. It had been a perfect summer, and farmers here were looking at an average yield

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Our Boys: A Perfect Season on the Plains with the Redmen

An inspiring portrait of the extraordinary high-school football team whose quest for perfection sustains its hometown in the heartland.

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Joe Drape discusses his book Our Boys

Hear author and sportswriter Joe Drape talk about his book Our Boys: A Perfect Season on the Plains with the Smith Center Redmen. The New York Times sportswriter discusses this high school football team, which holds the nation’s longest winning streak and embraces a unique philosophy of life.

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Reviews

Praise for Our Boys

"Our Boys is about far more than football. It’s an inspiring story about how a coach and a community are building young men with the simple values of love, patience, and hard work. This is a great book."—Joe Paterno, head football coach, Pennsylvania State University

"If you want to turn away from the high-voltage auctioneer babble that surrounds big-time, big-money sport, take this trip to Smith Center, Kansas, with Joe Drape. This is organic stuff, a fat and healthy slice of unadulterated American life. Simply terrific."—Leigh Montville, author of The Big Bam and At the Altar of Speed

"Our Boys delves into the heart of America in a manner that reminds me of The Last Picture Show and Friday Night Lights. Joe Drape crafts a terrific tale that will make you laugh, cry, and think. This is a story about small-town America that will make you shout."—Jim Dent, author of Twelve Mighty Orphans and The Junction Boys

"Joe Drape tells the remarkable story of the Smith Center Redmen, not only their success in winning football games, but also in swelling pride for a community and building character in young men. He shows that Roger Barta and the people in Smith Center are winners in every sense of the word."—Bob Stoops, head coach, University of Oklahoma

"Joe Drape has caught something deep and beautiful in Our Boys. It is true to the reality of life on the plains, much more than another football story."—David Maraniss, author of When Pride Still Mattered: A Life of Vince Lombardi

"A great read for all, but even more so for big-city readers to get a taste of the quality of life and genuine caring of this small community and its revered teacher, mentor, and coach – Roger Barta. It is not so much a story about football but about the true meaning of midwestern values, family life, and the spirit of small town Kansas and its special people. I couldn’t put it down."—Bill Snyder, head coach, Kansas State University

"A feel-good story of youthful drive, great coaching and the value of unflagging communal support."—Kirkus Reviews

"The tale [Drape] spins ends up being one that transcends athletics, a story of adolescence and smalltown life. . . . From the opening practice to the Redmen’s final game, Drape flawlessly paints a picture of how Smith Center achieves perfection year after year. . . . Drape gives the reader a team worth rooting for."—Publishers Weekly

“‘Hoosiers’ on a football field.”—New York Post

“The most improbable, unabashed love story I've read in years.”—Minneapolis Star Tribune

“A compelling story expertly told.”—Pat Forde, ESPN.com

                                         


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About the Author

Joe Drape

Joe Drape is a reporter for The New York Times and the author of The Race for the Triple Crown and Black Maestro. A graduate of Southern Methodist University, he previously worked for The Dallas Morning News and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. When he doesn’t live in Kansas, he lives in New York City with his wife and son.

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Available Formats and Book Details

Our Boys
A Perfect Season on the Plains with the Smith Center Redmen
Joe Drape

Hardcover

Hardcover
Henry Holt and Co.
Times Books
August 2009
Hardcover
ISBN: 9780805088908
ISBN10: 0805088903
5 1/2 x 8 1/4 inches, 288 pages, Includes eight pages of pictures
$25.00

Trade Paperback

Trade Paperback
St. Martin's Press
St. Martin's Griffin
August 2010
Trade Paperback
ISBN: 9780312662639
ISBN10: 0312662637
5 1/2 x 8 1/4 inches, 320 pages, Includes one 8-page black-and-white photograph section
$15.99

e-Book Agency

e-Book Agency
Henry Holt and Co.
Times Books
August 2009
e-Book Agency
ISBN: 9781429985055
ISBN10: 1429985054
5 1/2 x 8 1/4 inches, 288 pages, Includes eight pages of pictures
$9.99
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