My grandpa is an avid sports fan. Growing up in the 40’s and 50’s, my grandpa loved to play baseball and basketball. After high school, he has continued to referee various sporting events to this day. He coached my dad in baseball and basketball, and supported my development when I was playing baseball and basketball.
My grandpa is also an avid sports book reader. Around Christmas time, he gave me The Kids Got It Right, by Jim Dent, to read. Personally, I love reading these books as well: they take me back to my childhood. Each summer, I would go to my grandparents’ house and play a number of sports with my grandpa: baseball, basketball, football, golf, etc. Any book which talks about high school sports I can relate to. Two additional reasons why I love books like The Kids Got It Right: they are a history lesson and a break from my standard reading (personal development, business, finance, etc.)
Summary of The Kids Got it Right
The Kids Got It Right is a story about how in the 60’s, the best Texas and Pennsylvania high school football players would play to determine the best state; the Big 33 All-star game. In August, Texas would host an all-star game for the best players before they went off to college. In 1964, the Big 33 All-star game was on the same day as the Texas all-star game; so the Texas team was made up of second stringers. Pennsylvania won, and the Texas coaches were determined to win the next year. The Kids Got It Right is about the lead up to the 1965 Big 33 All-star game.
In 1965, most high schools in Texas were not integrated, black and white students were not in the same schools and therefore, not on the same football teams. The coach, Bobby Layne, of the Texas team wanted to have both black and white football players on his team because he knew there were multiple black players who were fast and strong enough to compete at a high level.
Jerry DeVias and Bill Bradley
The basis of the story is around how the friendship of Jerry DeVias, a black Wide Receiver, and Bill Bradley, the white Quarterback and Defensive Back, develops and ultimately allows the Texas team to overcome and beat the Pennsylvania team. Jerry DeVias, a smaller player, was fast as lightning and came from an all-black school.
Bill Bradley was a natural all-star at all sports when he was younger. He was the popular kid at school, always joking around while putting in the necessary work to succeed. When they arrived in Pennsylvania, the coach asked if Bill would room with Jerry as some of the other boys might not have been as comfortable. Over the week, Bill and Jerry became best friends on and off the football field. In the 1965 Big 33 game, Bill and Jerry lead the Texas team to a win.
Two thoughts I have from The Kids Got It Right. First, I was amazed to learn how the Texas schools in the mid-60’s were not integrated yet. I suppose I didn’t learn about this in school, and since I live in Minnesota, I never learned about this from family or friends. It has certainly widened my perspective on the United States’ history of racism and prejudice. We still have some work to do.
Second, I was born in the early 90’s, so, I have no direct experience living in the 50’s and 60’s. My thoughts on this time period have been influenced by what I’ve learned through my parents and grandparents’ stories, what I’ve read, and what I’ve learned in school.
A Different Era
One thing I kept thinking about while reading The Kids Got It Right is how there is a romanticism about the 50’s and 60’s. In particular, the 50’s and 60’s was a period of fun times for young boys and girls; a period with not many consequences for goofing around. Yes, there was strict discipline, but there was also fun times had. It’s a slight regret I have now that I’m older; I wish I’d been more outgoing in high school and experienced more socially.
My main takeaway from this book is to approach life like Bill Bradley: to be easy going and accepting of all people, not matter where they come from, what they do, or how they act. I have tried to apply this at basketball on Saturday mornings: the guys I play with are from different cities, counties, backgrounds, and are different ages. By being open and a friend to all, I can create a fun environment.
I enjoyed The Kids Got It Right. I love sports and love sports books. I’d recommend this book to other sports fans, but also, anyone interested in learning about the south in the 60’s. It was very interesting to learn that even in the late 60’s, the major football conferences had not integrated yet. Jerry DeVias was the first black player in the Southwest Conference for SMU in Texas. He faced harsh racism and hatred during his college career.
It was eye opening to me to learn and get a better perspective on the American culture during the 60’s. As mentioned above, my main takeaway from The Kids Got It Right is I should be welcoming and open to everyone I meet. I’m trying to do this when I play basketball on Saturdays; I’m naturally quiet and I’m trying to be more open as time goes on.
Do you like sports books?