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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
Austin Murphy has written for Sports Illustrated since 1984. In 1992 he did a feature on St. John's College, a small Benedictine school in Minnesota, and its head football coach, John Gagliardi. Seven years later Murphy returned to the St. John's campus with his wife and two kids, ostensibly to write a book about Gagliardi and the Johnnies' season. Murphy is up-front with the reader: More important than writing this book for him was saving a troubled marriage.
The personal aspects of The Sweet Season border on treacle -- "Things are going better for us in bed..." -- without ever crossing that line ("...Bear with me here"). Murphy's family anecdotes are funny enough to keep readers entertained, but what really makes The Sweet Season take flight is Murphy's moving portrayal of the gracious, somewhat oddball characters at St. John's and their spirited postseason play.
Murphy is truly smitten with Gagliardi and the Johnnies. The 73-year-old Gagliardi is an aging pirate, forever sneering at the conventions of calisthenics and full-contact practices. His nonconformist tactics work: Gagliardi is the NCAA's second-winningest head coach of all time, behind Grambling's Eddie Robinson. In the '99 and '00 seasons he led St. John's on nail-biting playoff runs that would give younger men heart attacks. By the end of the book, the author realizes that the outcomes of the Johnnies' games become far more important to him than he had expected. The fervor with which Murphy follows the team adds dramatic tension, and a few revelations, to the end of an ultimately startling book. (Brenn Jones)