Thunder on the Tundra: Football at the Top of the World

( 4 )

Overview

No one thought Barrow, Alaska, would be the ideal place for football. Eight hundred miles north of Anchorage, in a part of the country where grass won't grow and snow falls in July, Barrow is a town more likely to field a bowhead whale hunt than a football team.

But the kids wanted to play and the adults wanted to fight high dropout rates and substance abuse. So in a town where people need each other to survive and rely on each other in ways ...

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Thunder on the Tundra: Football Above the Arctic Circle

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Overview

No one thought Barrow, Alaska, would be the ideal place for football. Eight hundred miles north of Anchorage, in a part of the country where grass won't grow and snow falls in July, Barrow is a town more likely to field a bowhead whale hunt than a football team.

But the kids wanted to play and the adults wanted to fight high dropout rates and substance abuse. So in a town where people need each other to survive and rely on each other in ways most communities never will, it turns out that Barrow was the right place after all.

Just ask "Big John," the 340-pound lineman, or Pili, the only girl on the team, or Albert Gerke, the quarterback who helped bring a sport seen only on TV into the lives of the 4,800 people who live in town. Their stories are the stories of the Inupiat Eskimos who have called Barrow home for thousands of years, who have worked hard for respect, who strive to integrate with mainstream American culture while keeping their traditions alive every day.

The community comes together around football. "It is not simply a football field," says a local, "but a field of dreams to inspire our children." Football has brought them closer, carrying with it the lesson that when they work together, Barrow can be the ideal place for anything.

About the Author:
Lew Freedman is a Chicago-based sportswriter who lived in Alaska for seventeen years

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Editorial Reviews

School Library Journal

Gr 7 Up

The isolated tundra town of Barrow, AK-traditional home to an Inupiat Eskimo whaling community-might not seem like the ideal place to start a football program. But, faced with escalating teen dropout rates and boredom-borne substance-abuse problems, the superintendent of North Slope Borough Schools stubbornly worked to create the Barrow High School Whalers. The team first suited up and began practicing on their barren, rock-riddled gridiron in 2006-once, that is, they had actually figured out how to put on their pads. With a team presumably more prepared to hurl harpoons than 30-yard touchdown passes, and the nearest "crosstown" rival hundreds of seemingly impassible miles away, the Whalers drew the attention of ESPN, which aired a human-interest piece on their improbable initial season. The segment drew the attention of one Floridian football mom who, convinced of the sport's redemptive powers in channeling youthful energies, raised enough money for an artificial turf field and attendance at a football camp in Florida. Her pigskin philanthropy seemed to galvanize once-wavering community support, and what follows is a game-by-game account of their emergent second season-one in which the team learns to win and to lose as a cohesive unit, and does so with nearly perfect dignity. Though the book probes a bit less into the individual teen lives potentially salvaged by adopting a completely alien Lower 48 sport than one might have hoped, it does, nevertheless, provide rare insight into adolescent, academic, and family life on America's quickly changing final frontier.-Jeffrey Hastings, Highlander Way Middle School, Howell, MI

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780882407425
  • Publisher: Alaska Northwest Books
  • Publication date: 8/1/2008
  • Edition description: Illustrated
  • Pages: 264
  • Sales rank: 1,268,554
  • Lexile: 1080L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

LEW FREEDMAN is a sportswriter with the Chicago Tribune. He has worked as an award-winning journalist with the Anchorage Daily News and is the author of over 21 books.

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Table of Contents


Acknowledgments     5
Introduction     7
August Two-a-Days     11
This Is Barrow     21
Beginnings     34
Practice Makes Perfect     43
Are You Ready for Some Football?     53
Football on the Last Frontier     66
Field of Dreams     80
Do You Believe in Miracles?     88
Bad Old Days     99
It's a Girl     107
Wild Life     117
Monroe Catholic     127
The Whalers     142
Seasons     152
Getting Ready     162
The Ravens Are Ravenous     170
Road Trip     177
Everyone Knows the Whalers     184
Houston Hospitality     191
Home on the Tundra Again     200
Making It All Work     208
Delta Force     216
The Pipeline Bowl     226
Pivotal Moment     234
The Longest and Last Road Trip     244
End Game     251
Barrow High School Football Roster 2007     260
About the Author     263
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 4 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 28, 2012

    Entertaining book

    It was a great book about a true story. I loved reading it.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 28, 2008

    The Best Sports Story in America

    Lew Friedman captures the story of the Barrow Whalers, and poignantly reminds us what it means to play high school sports. Not for college scholarships, or glory-but to build and demonstrate character, and be a part of a team. You feel as if you are a member of the team as you enjoy their wins, and watch them deal with their losses. While the Whalers are unique (in the book some kids serve on a traditional crew that actually kills and eat Whales) it is the story of the good that can be found in every football team in America. One thing is for certain, you'll leave this book with a different perspective on the need for high school sports and the POSITIVE difference it makes in kids lives...... and if you are like me, you'll be a lifelong fan of the Barrow Whalers

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 29, 2008

    Inspirational

    This is such a nice book. I saw this on ESPN and the news so I picked up the book. The author really helps you understand the reason for the team, and the effect playing football has on the kids and town. Its the best book I've read all year. Makes me remember why we go to football games in the first place-for the kids....

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 16, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews

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