Island Cup: Two Teams, Twelve Miles of Ocean, and Fifty Years of Football Rivalry

Overview

To most of us "mainlanders," the islands of Martha?s Vineyard and Nantucket are resort destinations, summer homes for the Kennedys, the Obamas, and Patriots coach Bill Belichick. But after the tourists and jetsetters leave, the cold weather descends, and the local shop owners, carpenters, and fishermen ready themselves for the main event: high school football. For over fifty years, the local teams have been locking horns every November. They play for pride, a coveted trophy, and, very often, a shot at the league ...

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Island Cup: Two Teams, Twelve Miles of Ocean, and Fifty Years of Football Rivalry

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Overview

To most of us "mainlanders," the islands of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket are resort destinations, summer homes for the Kennedys, the Obamas, and Patriots coach Bill Belichick. But after the tourists and jetsetters leave, the cold weather descends, and the local shop owners, carpenters, and fishermen ready themselves for the main event: high school football. For over fifty years, the local teams have been locking horns every November. They play for pride, a coveted trophy, and, very often, a shot at the league championship. Despite their tiny populations, both islands are dangerous on the football field.

This far-reaching book tells the story not only of the Whaler–Vineyarder rivalry, but of two places without a country. Filled with empty houses nine months of the year, Nantucket and the Vineyard have long, unique histories that include such oddities as an attempt to secede from the United States and the invention of a proprietary sign language. Delving into the rich history of both places, Sullivan paints a picture of a bygone New England, a place that has never stopped fighting for its life—and the rights to the Island Cup.

James Sullivan is the author of Seven Dirty Words, The Hardest Working Man, and Jeans. He has written extensively for the Boston Globe, and previously served as a feature writer and culture critic for the San Francisco Chronicle. He has spent considerable time, including his honeymoon, on the islands.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
College is the province of football rivalries, but two small high schools in Massachusetts have established a rivalry that challenges the phenomena of “Army-Navy, Ohio State-Michigan, Georgia-Florida.” The high schools on Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket play annually for the coveted “Island Cup,” first awarded in 1978 after the rivalry was almost 20 years old. Sullivan (Seven Dirty Words) chronicles the evolution of the contest played not by the “wealthy white Americans” who summer there, but by “boys of polyglot heritage,” “the working people who truly define Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard.” The rivalry achieved enough fame to be featured in Sports Illustrated and the New Yorker, but Sullivan’s narrative is uneven, at times to the point that chapters are little more than a series of paragraphs that themselves are isolated vignettes. Island history is a highlight interspersed between game summaries and life stories, but part of that history is “uncommonly high rates of depression, alcoholism, and suicide,” and what sadly emerges is a tale of broken homes and the physical toll of high school football. (July)
Kirkus Reviews
Friday Night Lights, Northeast division. Casual sports fans know that in the South, high school football is a religion. However, few may know about a small pocket in the Northeast where the level of teenage football fanaticism is just as high. Even fewer would guess that pocket is centered on two of the most seemingly civilized areas in all of New England, Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket. For almost 50 years, the Martha's Vineyard High School Vineyarders and the Nantucket High School Whalers have done battle for the Island Cup, the prize given to the winner of their annual gridiron clash. Sullivan (Seven Dirty Words: The Life and Crimes of George Carlin, 2010) discovered that the passion of the players, fans and local media are about this rivalry, and he does an adequate job bringing that story to the page. As in his previous outings, the author is an engaging, detailed storyteller, giving us intimate glimpses into the lives of the players, coaches and locals, and making the intensity of the Whaler-Vineyarder rivalry palpable. He moves back and forth in time, without ever losing control of the material. However, due to the nature of the story, the narrative is a patchwork quilt, and the lack of a singular arc makes it come across as a series of interconnected essays. While this is a more-than-competent, readable book, it's not quite sporty enough for serious football fans and not quite rich enough for hardcore history buffs. With its soap-operatic storyline, Friday Night Lights transcended geography, but this less linear, more episodic book likely won't resonate far beyond New England.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781608195275
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
  • Publication date: 7/17/2012
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

James Sullivan is the author of Seven Dirty Words, The Hardest Working Man, and Jeans. He has written extensively for the Boston Globe, and previously served as a feature writer and culture critic for the San Francisco Chronicle. He has spent considerable time, including his honeymoon, on the islands.

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Table of Contents

Kickoff: The Napoleonic Wars 1

Chapter 1 Fish Out of Water 11

Chapter 2 What's Homecoming? 25

August 2010 38

Chapter 3 New Era 43

Chapter 4 Too Proud to Go Out of Bounds 65

Chapter 5 There Were Shells on the Field 81

Chapter 6 Whaler Pride 90

Chapter 7 The Dotted Line 100

September 2010 115

Chapter 8 Roll-Cut-Print 120

Chapter 9 Like "Chopsticks" for Monk 138

October 2010 153

Chapter 10 An Aura of Invincibility 167

November 2010 181

Chapter 11 Purple Pride 202

Chapter 12 The Son Everyone Would Like to Have 215

Chapter 13 Doozies 229

Chapter 14 Going Down 254

Chapter 15 Brotherhood 274

Chapter 16 Whale of a Game 284

Overtime 289

Acknowledgments 291

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