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First and Last Seasons: A Father, a Son, and Sunday Afternoon Football

Review

First and Last Seasons: A Father, a Son, and Sunday Afternoon Football



As the life expectancy of most Americans increases, many people are
faced with confronting the slow dying process that our elderly
loved ones endure. In recent years several writers have recognized
the significance of dealing with the loss of someone dear to us.
TUESDAYS WITH MORRIE, the story of a former student and his dying
professor, has maintained a position on the best seller list for
several years. FINAL ROUNDS by James Dodson tells the story of a
golf trip to Ireland for the author and his terminally ill father.
FIRST AND LAST SEASONS by Dan McGraw brings an additional
perspective to facing the problem of death and dying; it offers an
unsentimental perspective of a father and son whose rocky
relationship matures as the father unsuccessfully battles
cancer.
This
memoir is not the idyllic recounting of a model father-son
relationship. McGraw centers his saga of the relationship with his
father on their mutual love for football and their beloved
Cleveland Browns. The story begins with one Sunday afternoon of
football watching that ends when McGraw's exasperated father, tired
of watching his son waste his life on beer and drugs, orders him
out of his house. At this point, the younger McGraw begins to turn
his life around. He commences a successful career as a journalist
and ultimately becomes a senior editor for US News and World
Report, covering major stories including the tragedies at Waco,
Oklahoma City, and Columbine. An assignment to cover the
resurrection of the Brown's football franchise has the additional
benefit of bringing him back to his hometown and his family. Sadly,
his return coincides with his father's diagnosis of
cancer.

Richard McGraw was an active Cleveland trial attorney who
enjoyed the intellectual combat of the legal profession. "I
realized very early on that the courtroom was the only place in our
society where fighting was officially sanctioned by our culture,"
he told his son. The elder McGraw prided himself on his ability to
relate with blue-collar jurors. He often quoted Hemingway and
Shakespeare during closing arguments. He rarely lost a case.

While FIRST AND LAST SEASONS is about the death of Richard McGraw,
it is equally about the rebirth of the Cleveland Browns football
team. The new Cleveland Browns are a unique sports franchise
because they retained the identity of their namesake, a team that
abruptly moved to Baltimore several years earlier --- most
expansion sports franchises have no identity. But while the
original Cleveland Browns had a history of great championship teams
and Hall of Fame players such as Otto Graham, Marion Motley, and
Jim Brown, the new Cleveland Browns franchise represents everything
that is wrong with professional sports in America today in many
respects. Whereas the old Cleveland Browns had a large cadre of
loyal fans who lived and died with their team through success and
failure --- Browns fans did not have to be taught how or why to
cheer for their beloved team --- the new management of the Browns
seems more concerned with their profit and loss statement than
their wining and losing record; ownership seems more interested in
the new Cleveland Browns credit card than the tradition and history
of the old Cleveland Browns. The senior McGraw recognized this
problem even before his son. Indeed, he experienced the same
problem in the legal profession. Richard McGraw retired early from
his litigation practice bemoaning the fact that lawyers no longer
seemed to be interested in justice.

Richard McGraw's last days are chronicled by his son with a genuine
warmth and affection that comes from the realization that his
father was the kind of man a son would want to emulate. The younger
McGraw ultimately realizes that his generation, born in the 1950s,
has on some levels become similar to their parents; but on other
levels he speculates that his contemporaries may well be the first
generation in many that is not substantially better off than their
parents. Whether that is a good or bad state of affairs will only
be determined by the passage of time.

FIRST AND LAST SEASONS has extraordinary qualities for almost any
reader. It is funny and moving and honest but neither soapy nor
maudlin. While the book discusses death and dying, it evidences a
love that may not have been present when the author began his
project, teaching us about life and living and about our
relationships with both the generations that preceded us and the
generations that will follow.

Reviewed by Stuart Shiffman on January 22, 2011

First and Last Seasons: A Father, a Son, and Sunday Afternoon Football
by Dan McGraw

  • Publication Date: October 10, 2000
  • Genres: Memoir, Nonfiction
  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday
  • ISBN-10: 0385498330
  • ISBN-13: 9780385498333