Must Win: A Season of Survival for a Town and Its Team [NOOK Book]


Nestled amid cotton, pine, and swamps, the Deep South outpost of Valdosta, Georgia, has long drawn pilgrims from across the country to the home of the Wildcats, the winningest high school football team in America. Christened by national media as "Title Town, USA," Valdosta has thrived on the continuity of dominance: sons still play in front of fathers and grandfathers, creased men in pickups still offer steak dinners as a reward for gridiron glory, and Friday nights in the 11,000-seat stadium known as Death ...

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Must Win: A Season of Survival for a Town and Its Team

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Nestled amid cotton, pine, and swamps, the Deep South outpost of Valdosta, Georgia, has long drawn pilgrims from across the country to the home of the Wildcats, the winningest high school football team in America. Christened by national media as "Title Town, USA," Valdosta has thrived on the continuity of dominance: sons still play in front of fathers and grandfathers, creased men in pickups still offer steak dinners as a reward for gridiron glory, and Friday nights in the 11,000-seat stadium known as Death Valley still hold a central role in the town's social fabric.

Now that place is in peril. As much as Valdosta is a romantic symbol of traditional American values, things are changing here just as they are in small towns everywhere. In Must Win, author Drew Jubera goes inside the country's most famous high school football team to chronicle its dramatic 2010 season, a quest by a program that's down but not out to regain past glory for both the team and the town it represents. This town, this school, and these people have been rocked by forces that have hit the entire country, but they're a long way from giving up. They still believe in the power of a game to overcome all.

With a new coach, a new optimism, and a kaleidoscopic cast that includes an aspiring rapper, a beekeeper's son, the best athlete in the state, and the heir to a pro legacy cut short by a crack dealer's bullet, these Wildcats have been given one more chance. Must Win is the American story written across a bright green playing field.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
**Named one of the Top 10 Sports Books of 2013 by Booklist**

**Named a Top 10 Book of 2012 by Paste magazine and Atlanta magazine**

“The ‘winningest’ sports bio of 2012.” —

“Filled with insights . . . Skillfully reported and written with style.”

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

"Drew Jubera's Must Win is an elegiac and riveting look inside the myth-making factory of small-town high school football, and a meditation on the strange power of sports to give meaning to our lives." —Warren St. John, New York Times bestselling author of Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer and Outcasts United

“Jubera unspools a sophisticated saga of a comeback season for storied Valdosta High School . . . He captures the slang and race relations and home-town hopes better than any writer since H.G. Bissinger got it so right with Friday Night Lights. Jubera’s eye for detail, ear for dialogue, and heart for young hopes delivers a helmet-to-helmet blow.”

Paste magazine, “Our Favorite Books of 2012”

“The depth of detail and craftsmanship of a gifted writer at his peak . . . You don’t have to know a tight end from a Hail Mary to appreciate this book. On virtually every page, there is a reason to stop, to reread, and to marvel. This is a book worth cheering about.”

Atlanta magazine

Must Win—must read!” —Jeff D’Alessio, SportingNews

“I can think of very few books about high school football that I would lay in the hands of anyone, from a fruit vendor in Delhi to a grandma in Des Moines. In fact, maybe only one: this one.” —Gary Smith, Sports Illustrated

“The best nonfiction book I have read since the year 2000 . . . Jubera superbly captures it all—the town, the characters, the motivations, the dreams, the follies. [He] offers a book about all of us, football fan or not. It’s a book about what we try to achieve in the small town filled with big dreams inside every human heart.”

—Charles McNair, Paste Magazine

Must Win is the inspiring tale of how a coach with a grand vision and even bigger heart plucked his players out of jail and off the farm and made them believe they were champions as they returned Valdosta to its rightful place as one of the most storied programs in high school football. Jubera knows South Georgia and makes you feel the gnats buzzing around your head, the barbecue on your lips, and buy into a community where Friday night football is much more than a religion—it’s a passport to heaven."

—Joe Drape, author of The New York Times bestseller Our Boys: A Perfect Season on the Plains with the Smith Center Redmen

"Football is riddled with hype, hypocrisy, and greed on both the college and pro levels. But in Valdosta, Georgia, the game is about life, and that is what Drew Jubera so expertly and eloquently writes about. I love a story that digs into your soul. This is not necessarily a sports book. It is a character-driven tale of survival and the desire to be a champion again."

—Jim Dent, author of Courage Beyond The Game and Twelve Mighty Orphans

"Drew Jubera’s Must Win is a must-read, a book that not only makes good on the promise of its title, but makes its title come blazingly alive. You start reading it because you want to know how a team from a small town in South Georgia—the Valdosta Wildcats—became the greatest and most storied team in the history of American high school football. But Jubera is a writer who can go deep, and the story he’s telling is the story of how even winners can become underdogs in post-crash America, and how even underdogs can find a way to beat the odds and win again."

—Tom Junod, Esquire

Kirkus Reviews
A former writer for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution witnesses the resurrection of the football fortunes of the Valdosta High School Wildcats during their 2010 season. In this narrowly focused treatment, Jubera is most interested in the lives of the players and others directly associated with the team, including boosters, parents, coaches and the occasional cheerleader. The author avoids discussion of the school's teachers or fellow students with other talents and interests. This is understandable given the fact that, in this area of the country, football is king (one booster compares the new head coach, Rance Gillespie, to Jesus). Jubera became a great admirer of Gillespie, whom Valdosta hired to restore its once-stellar football program. Indeed, much of the story is a paean to the coach's work ethic. The author also follows some of the key players--a laidback white quarterback and some enormously talented black athletes--many of whom come from very troubled backgrounds. These are kids with attitude, who only do schoolwork to stay eligible and who have lost friends to gunfire. But Gillespie whipped them into shape with ferocious practices, and they went 11-1 during the regular season (losing only to a hated crosstown rival) and won a couple playoff games. Unfortunately, Jubera hurls around the clichés as frequently as forward passes (one juggled ball "just hung there, in mid-air, almost still, like a low-hanging peach"), and some readers may ask: What if all that energy, money and community support went into, well, education? Moves swiftly, but lacks gravity and neglects uncomfortable questions.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781250018571
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 9/4/2012
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 490,245
  • File size: 3 MB

Meet the Author

Drew Jubera

DREW JUBERA is an award-winning journalist who has written for The New York Times, ESPN The Magazine, Esquire, Texas Monthly, and many others. He covered the South as a national desk reporter for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He lives with his family in Atlanta.

DREW JUBERA, the author of Must Win, first wrote about Valdosta for The New York Times when he realized that much more was going on in the town than could be told in one article. Jubera is a five time Pulitzer-nominated journalist and has been a staff writer for Texas Monthly, The Washingtonian, and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, where he was the national correspondent for nearly a decade. His pieces have appeared in The New York Times, ESPN The Magazine, and Esquire. He lives in Atlanta, GA.
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix

Prologue: What It Means Here or Thug Tears 1

1 Welcome or Your Grave Is Ready, Coach 7

2 Hand Me My Traveling Shoes or Home 21

3 A Brief, 200-Million-Year History or Beaches! Whales! Gnats! Lynchings! 32

4 The Trinity or Gucci Mane, Young Jeezy, Eminem 45

5 Building a Team or Anybody Eligible? 55

6 Living and Dying in Valdosta or "What's Going on Down There?" 70

7 One-Armed White Jihadi or Nub 76

8 Pick One. The White One or The Gospel of Football 94

9 The Firm or Feeding His Soul 101

10 Do It Again! or Hell 106

11 Rome the Elder and Rome the Younger or Royalty 120

12 God, Family, Football or Road-tripping to the Swamp 137

13 Getting Crunk or We Ready! 153

14 Hero Worship or Can I Google You? 169

15 Quarterbacks and Comebacks or Turn It Up a Little Higher 175

16 Saturday Night Lights or Bumpin' with the Principal 191

17 The Content of Their Character or MLK in the ATL 196

18 Thugs vs. Plowboys or Winnersville, Baby! 210

19 Boosters, 'Cruiters, Funerals or Grinding 246

20 Pretty Boys and Mohawks or Back in the ATL 261

21 Shooting Deer, Giving Thanks, Waging War, Moving On or The 229 Forever 286

Epilogue 309

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 3 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 28, 2012

    Essential for present and past fans of the Valdosta Wildcats!

    This was a page turner for me. I am an alumni from many years ago and I still keep up with this team. I highly recommend this book; it also makes a great present for fans both present and past.

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    Posted October 8, 2014

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    Posted December 15, 2012

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