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"All American is riveting and grand-that rare pairing of exquisite writing and unassailable research. Crawford delivers you to an age when iconic titans like Jim Thorpe and Pop Warner marched across the planet, and he is the perfect guide to their enormous triumphs and tragedies. This is epic American history at its page-turning finest."
-Bill Minutaglio, author of City on Fire and First Son: George W. Bush and the Bush Family Dynasty
He was the greatest football running back of his era, leading his Carlisle Indian Industrial School team to victory over all the great college powerhouses. King Gustav of Sweden called him "the greatest athlete in the world" after he won gold medals for the decathlon and pentathlon at the 1912 Olympic Games. Yet Jim Thorpe was also at the center of the greatest sports scandal of the twentieth century-a scandal that took away his Olympic medals and banned him forever from intercollegiate sports.
Now, in this revealing new biography, Bill Crawford captures Jim Thorpe's remarkable rise and fall. From his youth on Oklahoma's Sac and Fox Indian reservation to his astounding feats on the gridiron, from his Olympic triumphs to his complex relationship with coach "Pop" Warner, who mentored, exploited, and ultimately betrayed him, All American brings you up close and personal with the greatest athlete of the twentieth century.
Crawford's terse, punchy biography of sports legend Thorpe (1888 1953) illuminates the current debate over the exploitation of unpaid college athletes by money-making, headline-grabbing educational institutions. Thorpe's own story is familiar: of mixed Caucasian and Native American background, Thorpe was raised on an Oklahoma reservation and was a somewhat obstinate kid before being sent to the Carlisle School, where educators sought to "detach Indians from their native 'savagery.' " Thorpe's awe-inspiring athletic prowess was harnessed for the football team by the school's bullying coach, "Pop" Warner. The young sport, a brutal endeavor still played without guards, was just beginning to catch on when, in 1911, Thorpe led Carlisle to a stunning upset over Harvard. The next year, Thorpe won gold medals in the pentathlon and decathlon at the Olympics and was arguably America's most lauded athlete. In 1913, though, true reports that Thorpe had played professional minor-league baseball (violating rules for Olympic amateurs) caused a scandal, marked by racist reporting and Thorpe's betrayal by the well-paid Warner, after which Thorpe was stripped of his medals. Texas journalist Crawford enlivens what is normally treated as a gauzy story of struggle against adversity with a no-nonsense approach, letting the racist attitudes against Thorpe speak for themselves and creating a resonant portrait of a champion in a hostile age. Photos.