|Q. How has high school football changed since you played?
A. One change is that teens believe adults have no idea how much high school football has changed. Acknowledging this gap is an essential step in understanding what some of the changes have been.
One main difference is the pressure to be bigger, stronger, faster. Weight lifting is much more intense and year-round training and specialization have increased. Players have far greater access to supplements, pills, and steroids and have many more decisions to make about what they will and won’t take to be better football players.
Another change is the high school game is more sophisticated than when I played. The plays, formations, and terminology are more complex and the quality of coaching is generally more advanced.
One change I was worried about was the speeches coaches give to fire up players. I remember these as being pretty bad, and I was worried that the coaches now all gave great, thoughtful speeches. Teens were more than willing to tell me that they still heard plenty of bad speeches and were able to help me with the speeches Coach Stahl gives in CRACKBACK.
Q. The library is an important place for Miles in the bookwhy?
A. For Miles, the library is a refuge from home. He goes there to get away from his dad and he reads what he wants without anybody commenting on it. The library also has all kinds of sports magazines and papers for him. And it’s free.
Later in the book, the library becomes even more important because this is where Lucia is. Miles comes to find her and sees how the new information he gains there expands his sense of who he is.
The library is that type of place for many people.
Q. What were your favorite books as a teen?
A. I was one of those sports-playing boys who stopped reading fiction in my teens. I liked to read when I was younger, but as a teen, I increasingly read magazines, the sports section of the paper, and nonfiction. I only read fiction if it was assigned for a class and much of what was assigned didn’t seem very interesting.
Part of the problem was there was not as much interesting teen reading as there is now. Part of the problem was the teachers doing the selecting picked books that did not seem relevant or connected to my interests. And part of the problem was that like many boys I stopped reading fiction for pleasure. Because I was one of these boys, it makes it easy for me to empathize with teens who do not read outside of school. CRACKBACK is a book I would have liked as a teen. I hope it will draw from a wide range of readers.
Q. Do you have a favorite football number?
A. Of course. Twenty-three. What’s yours?