Something tangential to the book before I address the book itself…
I’ve read several tongue-in-cheek books written by white men in the 1970s, of which this qualifies as one. America was dealing with the fallout from the 60s; Black people had made leaps and bounds in their rights but counterrevolutionary political forces stymied full growth. As such, the early-to-mid-70s presented a sort of post-transition time when white people were trying to understand an integrated world.
And thus, many of the white male writers I read from this age write in a way I don’t fully understand and can’t really explain. There’s like this wink to the reader from a writer who presumes to be one of the liberals, yet writes about race in a frank — and often line-stepping — manner. Black people are viewed more as curiosities; integration has torn walls down but it’s like seeing someone who lived across you for years: you don’t know how to talk to them even though you speak the same language.
That hovers over About Three Bricks Shy of a Load for better and for worse. These days, a locker room access book wouldn’t have anything as intimate and would keep commentary on racism minimal, if it is addressed at all. I think it’s a good think Blount addresses it and frankly but like I said, tonally, I’m not clear on what he’s going for. But it’s made especially interesting because the Steelers at the time had so many Black stars: White, Harris, Green, Blount (no relation to the author), to say nothing of Joe Gilliam, one of the few Black quarterbacks in the league.
I wish I had a better way of summarizing what I’m trying to say. It’s more of a budding but incomplete thought. Which is probably the tone Roy Blount, Jr. was going for.
Anyway, I guess I found that to be the most fascinating part of the book. The locker room stories and tidbits on franchise building are interesting too, especially since the NFL was a nascent power on the sports scene, nowhere near the colossus it has become. This book frustrated me at times due to its overwritten style (this was my third dance with it) yet I really enjoyed reading large parts of it. I also think it benefitted from the fact that this was a team on the cusp of something great, like writing about the Beatles just before they made it big, their dreams at their fingertips.
I’m not sure it’s one of the best things I’ve read this year but it’s definitely one of the most memorable.