It takes something willing to go pretty far to call it one of the most intense reads I've ever had. Among The Thugs makes it in there, easy.
The premisIt takes something willing to go pretty far to call it one of the most intense reads I've ever had. Among The Thugs makes it in there, easy.
The premise is Buford, an American living in the UK, starts following football/soccer. In the late 80's and early 90's, this was not an easy thing to do. This was a violent, crowd-ruled thing.
In one short chapter, Buford talks to a police captain who can't believe that in the States, at a football game, people show up shortly before the game (as opposed to rolling into town days before to drink and destroy), they head to assigned seats (as opposed to barb-wired, fenced-in pens), they yell and cheer for their teams (rather than doing gorilla imitations when a black person handles the ball), and then they file out to their vehicles (as opposed to crushing their way to the exit, which has resulted in injury and death more than a handful of times) and go home (as opposed to seeking out rival supporters for a good ol'fashioned beating). A stabbing at a football game would be unbelievably rare in the States, and in fact, it's a lot more likely that a player will get a concussion on the field than it is that a player will get one in the stands. A riot directed towards a hosting city would be unusual. There are not cohesive units composed of supporters that roam the streets looking for rivals to beat up, and who, if other supporters can't be found, will settle for some hapless locals. The police are not there, always, with dogs, horses, and full riot gear.
This police captain had to sit back and wonder about how this worked.
This book is a great example of someone writing about, and let's be honest, participating in, something awful, an unreal amount of violence, and creating something really great. The characters are not good people. The violence is so over-the-top.
Buford avoids getting voyeuristic. I don't think this is a book where we're meant to revel in the violence. Buford walks this line where he can tell us about the violence, talk about the appeal, and it doesn't feel like he's trying to convince us to get involved or that it's not so bad.
Buford's point is best made about halfway through the book. He adds in all these ideas about crowds, all these great thinkers and how they talked about crowds. And he tells us that all these great thinkers were thinking about crowds from the outside, applying what they saw as outsiders to something they didn't understand one bit.
Among The Thugs is a great and terrible book. It's totally relevant, and as long as people engage in crowd behavior, it will remain so.
It was lucky that Buford's time as a soccer hooligan matched up with some of the peaks of the violence, and also that it ended around the same time that the folks involved seem to be fading away and a lot of the violence was dying down.
Every once in a while I happen into reading a book that I would call "important." I don't read a lot of "important" books because...I think when an "important" book is attractive to me, it's usually because I think it's going to agree with how I feel about shit. Reading someone who feels the same way I do can be comforting at times, but it's not the best use of reading time.
And sometimes it's hard to look at a book online and tell whether a book is both a good read and "important." I've read a lot of "important" stuff that makes good points and is headed the right direction, but the writing just doesn't do it for me.
This book checks the boxes. It's "important," it presents something I don't fully agree with or understand, and the writing is damn fine. ...more