‘Season of Saturdays’ offers personal, profound look at college football

From a description of his first visit to Beaver Stadium, a moment shared by generations of Penn Staters in slightly different variations, to his chronological march through the history of college football using 14 seminal games as the starting point for an examination of what the sport means and where it fits, an award-winning Penn State alumnus delivers and engaging and entertaining read with his latest book.

With “Season of Saturdays,” Michael Weinreb examines how college football has changed through the years -- and how it has not. He reveals how it has been shaped or reflected U.S. popular culture and society through the years -- and how it has not.

From start to finish, it’s both a highly personal book and one that offers perspective on a game enjoyed and shared by millions of people. 

Weinreb sets that tone on the fifth page of the 272-page book when he writes: “No other nation in the world can even fathom the notion of attaching a prominent moneymaking athletic operation to a university; the fact that college football has existed for nearly 150 years, and the fact that it remains one of the most popular sports in America, must say something about who we are.”

“Season of Saturdays” (2014, Scribner), released in mid-August, captures college football because of Weinreb’s obvious passion. It’s a book about history, politics, popular culture and more -- all viewed through the appropriate lens of college football.

Weinreb, who earned his journalism degree from the University in 1994, will be on campus to discuss his book and meet with sports writing classes later this fall. A free public session coordinated by the John Curley Center for Sports Journalism will begin at 6 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 30, in Foster Auditorium of Paterno Library. Related book signings and events in the community will be announced closer to the date.

“This might be the most fun I’ve ever had writing a book, I have an institutional knowledge, and grew up with it,” said Weinreb, who first attended a college football game in 1978 at Beaver Stadium. “This is a book about college football, but it’s also a book about America and where college football fits because it’s such an inherently political sport. There’s just so much depth, from its regional and historical context to racial issues and changes in society. There’s a lot to try to capture.”

Weinreb captures it well. His family moved to State College when he was 5, and he attended State College Area School District and Penn State. His father, Steven, is the Russell and Mildred Marker Professor of Natural Products Chemistry, and Weinreb’s experiences in Happy Valley, from Park Forest Elementary School to Penn State, shape every chapter of the book. 

His complete and consistent reporting make the book much more than one person’s opinion about college football.

“Michael Weinreb journeys through the black and white college football world of the nostalgia junkie and the cynical critic and finds both of them wrong: college football, like America, is a culture of troubling, electrifying gray. This is our story,” said Wright Thompson, a senior writer for ESPN.

Weinreb, writes about college football for numerous outlets. He has been a contributing writer for GQ, The New York Times, ESPN and Grantland. He has been featured on public radio's “This American Life” and ESPN’s “30 for 30,” and has appeared on CNN, ESPN, ESPN Radio and WNYC. 

He is also the author of “The Kings of New York” (paperback title: “Game of Kings”), which won the Quill Award as the Best Sports Book of 2007, was named one of the best books of the year by Publishers Weekly, Amazon.com and The Christian Science Monitor, and was a New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice; “Bigger Than the Game: Bo, Boz, the Punky QB, And How the '80s Created the Modern Athlete”; and “Girl Boy Etc.,” a short-story collection. He has been a regular contributor to a number of newspapers and magazines. He lives in San Francisco.

Last Updated September 02, 2014