Keanon Lowe was a high school phenom and successful college wide receiver at the University of Oregon (check out the University of Nike book for more background on that college) and had become an assistant coach in the NFL. However, after losing a close childhood friends at just 26, Lowe returned home to Portland as he struggled to come to terms with the loss. Ultimately he became head coach of a football team at an underfunded high school that had lost 23 consecutive games. Hometown Victory is the story of the teams two seasons with Lowe as their coach.
The book recounts Lowe’s early struggles to connect with the students, to infuse them with confidence and teach them to believe in themselves. It’s a story of empathy, compassion, and the power a role model can have. I won’t spoil what happens but safe to say, it’s unlikely a book would have been written if they lost all 9 games that season!
It’s also a particularly American story – the vast financial differences between schools, the greater challenges faced by young kids of color, the ridiculous co-existence of great poverty with great affluence, the outsize role that school sports are given culturally and the depressingly high probability of a gun making an appearance in any story about a US high school.
If the story was fiction it would feel like a cliché – the young talented coach who gives up his dream career to try and make a difference in the lives of young men of color and win some football games along the way. It even includes the inevitable reference to the players ultimately teaching the coach more about himself than he has taught them. Lowe, however, comes across as a genuinely compassionate man who has channeled his grief at losing his friend into a commendable commitment to service. He talks at length about his belief in the power of love, fate and optimism but he also demonstrates this vision through his actions. The cynic in me wanted to roll my eyes, but his enthusiasm, genuineness and passion is infectious. Lowe has done an unambiguously good thing by being a positive force in the lives of young men who had so many negative forces to gravitate towards. He has also written a great book.
Hometown Victory is a very enjoyable, inspiring book. It will leave you frustrated at a world where, in the richest country in human history, a 15 year old kid can be homeless, but optimistic about what can be achieved when passionate talented people choose to try and make a difference. I also particularly enjoy the focus on a young coach at the beginning of his career and seeing his trial and error process – usually such books tend to have experienced coaches on high calibre team.
The book blurb calls it Friday Night Lights meets the Blind Side and it’s hard to come up with a better summary than that.