I read Among the Thugs for a Sociology of Sports class that I’m taking right now, but I see no reason not to review it here.
This is an intense book. Buford spent a few years in the late 1980s insinuating himself into a group of “football hooligans” – what we would call soccer fans in the US. Football fandom is absolutely a lifestyle for these men, and violence is a given. Buford wanted to understand why they did what they did: rioting and morphing into a violent crowd nearly every single football game, “taking” entire cities, inflicting unspeakable violence and untold property damage everywhere they went. The closest he really came to an answer involved addictive euphoria, but he certainly explored all the obvious options.
It’s definitely a worthwhile book if this is a topic you’re at all interested in. I wasn’t previously interested, and I enjoyed it a lot. If I were to criticize it, I would say that sometimes there’s not a lot of momentum – just a bunch of matches, a bunch of violence, a bunch of rioting, and although different events have certain significance or distinctions, by the latter half I guess I was looking for some kind of climax or suspense that wasn’t there, but it’s nonfiction so maybe that’s just me. It is definitely a smart, thoughtful, very disturbing book. In my opinion Buford found just the right balance – he didn’t integrate to the point that he lost sight of what he was doing, but he integrated well enough to make this a very visceral, first-person book.
I also wish that he had included a little more…context, I guess. I didn’t really know much about football hooligans and it would’ve been nice if he had included a bit more of an introduction to the concept for those not familiar, but you do catch on fast. You don’t need to know anything to appreciate this book.
As discussed here, I am going to be adding a content warning at the end of my reviews so that anyone who wants to be aware of certain content can look for that. I will place it at the end so you can skip it if you’d rather, and place it lower if it could be considered spoilery. If there is anything you’d like me to add to the “Things to Warn About” list, no matter how obscure or irrational, please feel more than free to either leave it in a comment or e-mail me privately at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I will be more than happy to add it.
Content warning for Among the Thugs: binge drinking, anti semetism, bullying/verbal abuse, dead bodies, endless graphic descriptions of violence, drug use (not graphic but referenced several times), fire, gross eyeball stuff (like really gross – whatever is the grossest thing you can think it, it’s probably worse), guns, murder, Nazis, lots and lots and lots of profanity, racism, one near-rape, riots, serious injury, sibling loss (once, brief but intense), spiders (one extremely brief but pretty unsettling reference, p. 135), vomit