Review of “Across the River”

Many books about a sports team turn out to be about much more than the sport or the team. This excellent book on the coach of a high school football team is one of those books. Here is my of “Across the River” by Kent Babb.

REVIEW:  In the New Orleans neighborhood of Algiers, gun violence is a way of life. That is part of the a-too-familiar lifestyle of the mostly Black residents but for those young men who are football players on the Edna Karr Charter School football team, there is a welcome distraction. That is not just because of the football, but also because of their coach, Brice Brown and his staff. He spends as much time mentoring his players, talking to nearly every one of them daily to ensure they are safe – this takes more time than he spends on his football plays and strategy. Coach Brown’s story and that of his assistants and players is told in this terrific book by Kent Babb.

Babb first covers coach Brown for the Washington Post in 2018 and this book is a more complete story of the complex coach. Babb weaves stories about coach Brown, stories about his players and his own inner turmoil about whether to move on to become a college football coach. The stories can be uplifting, like those who graduate and earn football scholarships to college; heartbreaking, such as the story of one player’s trauma when his mother is sent to prison when he is being raised by her alone; or downright maddening, usually when accompanied by descriptions of the desperate situations of these players. It was compelling reading and often times, these were much better reads than the passages about the football team.

Don’t skip over those, however, as they are just as good. While not greatly detailed or heavy on the “X’s and O’s” these games nonetheless do highlight not only the success of the Karr program and their many years of playoff football, but also provided the reader a glimpse of the mindset of the coach and his sometime unorthodox means of not only playing the game, but also motivating his players. 

Along with discussions on racial inequality so prevalent in New Orleans and other areas, this book is a fascinating look at a high school coach and his challenges to be the best he can be for his players on and off the field. A reader doesn’t have to enjoy football to be rewarded by reading this book.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *