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BOOK REVIEW:
The Single Wing and a Prayer by Keith Piper with David Piper
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Written mostly by Keith Piper, this was completed this year by his son David Piper. The elder Piper was the head football coach at Ohio’s Denison University for a long time, from 1954-1992. His record of success is legend, as was his use of his signature play, the single wing offense, which is affectionately explored throughout. His son, David Piper, is a celebrated songwriter in Los Angeles, one half of the Trough Records  duo Piper-Grey.  He’s also a teacher, and a former football player himself, at Ithaca under the late Hall of Fame coach Jim Butterfield.  So this is more than a tremendous labor of love, which it is, it’s also an informed one. Piper the son has a lot of love and respect for his father’s play and signature moves, which are related here as intricately and lovingly as classic Julia Child recipes. Even those of us mostly unfamiliar with the intricacies of this game are entranced by the union of precision and passion here, the art and science of this thing which unfolds physically, but is keenly calculated.  In David’s introduction, he explained his motives, that his father hoped to provide future generations of coaches with the single wing wisdom, which is both a method and a philosophy of the game, so that any coach could lead his team to triumph as he had some 200 times. But this is more than a play book:  Piper the son wove his own memories and anecdotes, and those of many others he collected,  around the technical stuff, as well as instilled all of it with rich textural photographs and diagrams on every page, so what you’re getting here is the full vision of a man’s life. Football is the focus, but it’s bigger than that, it’s about dedication, focus, passion, fearlessness and love. It’s also a gift to David’s mother and Keith’s wife, Philomena, to whom the book is dedicated, as a way of preserving the beauty and magic of this wonderful life, in which she was always present: “[She] missed only two games,” wrote David, “in my father’s entire 39 year career.”  If you love football, if you love wisdom and poetry intertwined, if you love the love of a family: father-mother-son – this is a place you should visit. You’ll be glad you did.

All proceeds will go toward the Denison University Football Program.

[www.thesinglewingandaprayer.com. Purchase at Denison University bookstore:http://www.denisonbookstore.com and look for The Single Wing and a Prayer.  Cost is $38.95 plus shipping.]

All proceeds go toward the Denison University Football Program. Image

Keith Piper, Denison University Head Football Coach, 1954-1992

 

Paul Zollo is the editor-in-chief of Blue Railroad, a magazine for the arts (bluerailroad.com), and is a senior writer for American Songwriter Magazine.

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