“Bears s**t in the woods – everyone else s**ts on Beartown”

Posted: July 26, 2018 in Visions
Tags: , , ,

I can’t remember when I’ve enjoyed a book this much. In fact, it probably goes all the way back to either his A Man Called Ove (soon to be remade into a movie with Tom Hanks in the title role,) or his My Grandmother Said to Tell You She’s Sorry.

Maybe it was the sense of Team that permeates the story that got to me so early and so strongly. Both as a player on many teams growing up, usually coached by my dad, and later as a coach myself, sometimes with and sometimes without him, the dynamic of the Team was nurtured in me from early on. The sense of never wanting to let the rest of the team down, to do your part and then some, to play at 110%, each play, every play. Loyalty, camaraderie, the sum being greater than its parts – all of that came to be second nature no matter the sport, no matter the location.

All of those traits were especially strong when your team was winning. And expected to win, every time. We won a few championships, came close to a few more, and there was nothing like it. Some of the best and most powerful memories of my childhood happened on a field, or a court, or in a dugout, or on the trip to or from an away game.

Then there was the supportive circle around these teams, the parents and siblings and friends who never missed a game, who yelled at the ump or the ref as loud or louder than the coaches and players. Who would defend these guys as staunchly as their own parents.

All of those feelings, and the learning of those lessons of teamwork and sportsmanship, flooded back within hearing the first few chapters of Beartown. (I listened to the Audible version, which unfortunately kept me from highlighting the many great quotes I heard.)

Throw in the pressure on the coaches and GMs and Presidents and sponsors and all the other ancillary people and organizations counting on these kids – and they are still kids – to win, and its amazing all of them didn’t just blow a gasket and meltdown completely.

So when the unimaginable, the unspeakable happens in Beartown, it affects everyone differently.

I found out about halfway through, well past the point that I knew I was experiencing a lifetime favorite “read,” that Backman had written a follow-up to this one called Us Against You, and I was debating even then whether to read it or listen to it – I could capture the best quotes if I got the Kindle version, but I’d miss Malin Ireland’s OUTSTANDING narration if I did. She totally took me to that small Swedish town in the forest, and made me feel what each of these incredible characters felt, made me pissed off for them, or at them. Sometimes both.

By the time I got to the end, wrung out and wasted from the cheering at the highs and shouting angrily or sorrowfully at the lows of each of these characters I’d come to know so well from such amazing writing power, I wondered if Backman knew then that he’d be writing a sequel or not, and if any of the outcomes described at the end of Beartown would be further explored in Us Against You or if it would explore new, unrelated futures.

I decided I didn’t care. If it’s written as well and as truly as everything else of his that I’ve read and listened to, I’m willing to go on the ride with him again. As long as I can check in with Benji, and Bobo, and Amat, and Maya, and Ana, and Peter and David and Kira and Sune, and all the other Bears from Beartown, I’m in.

Can’t wait.


As promised, a few of my favorite quotes – there were MANY, so it’s hard to narrow it down to just a few…

“There are two things that are particularly good at reminding us how old we are: children and sports.”

“What an uncomfortable, terrible source of shame it is for the world that the victim is so often the one left with the most empathy for others.”

“Never trust people who don’t have something in their lives that they love beyond all reason.”


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