Book Review: A Fan’s Folklore – Six Seasons of Triumph, Tragedy and Tough Luck by Dean T. Hartwell

Sport is often held up as a metaphor for life; no matter what the sport, the country that it is played in or whether you experience it as a participant or spectator. Dean T. Hartwell takes his early years watching his beloved Oakland Raiders in the National Football League (NFL) and Los Angeles Dodgers of the Major League Baseball (MLB) to illustrate how they taught him lessons in ways he “…could not have otherwise understood…”

Hartwell focuses on a six year period, from 1972 to 1978 and in particular nine games, as the basis of this book. These include NFL games between the Raiders and their great rivals the Pittsburgh Steelers, Cincinnati Bengals, San Diego Chargers and Denver Broncos and MLB fixtures featuring the Dodgers against Chicago Cubs and New York Yankees. They are then grouped into three categories, Triumph, Tragedy and Tough Luck, to illustrate the points the author wishes to imparts to the reader about the lessons he has learned from those games, in relation to ‘the good, the bad and the ugly’ aspects of life.

Some of the games are infamous such as that remembered for the ‘Holy Rollers’ play involving Oakland Raiders and San Diego Chargers (1978) and another that is known for the ‘Immaculate Reception’ between Oakland Raiders and Pittsburgh Steelers (1972). Hartwell looks at these incidents (and others in the nine games in the book) in detail to ascertain or offer a hypothesis as to what took place. For the most part this provides interesting reading, although I was not convinced as to the real benefit of the authors re-run of the 1975 AFC Championship game between Oakland and Pittsburgh based on Raiders home advantage and therefore less inclement weather.

This book is obviously a cathartic work for the author and Hartwell should be praised for his bravery in expressing such personal and sometimes painful episodes from his life. It is part sport, part self-help and a book that will spark debate.