The Bulldogs of Westinghouse High School were a legend in mid-century Pennsylvania as perennial Pittsburgh city football champs and much-feared exhibition-game opponents for elite, outlying Western Pennsylvania steel-town teams where many greats like Johnny Unitas, Joe Namath, and Joe Montana were trained. Supported by his “winning” record, the Bulldogs’ head coach of this era led national clinics on how to condition young players.
Then there were his Bulldog players, some highly talented, some simply courageous, paying the horrendous price--in bullying, vicious hazing, serial concussions and other major injuries--of winning at any cost. And there were most of the ex-players--idle on street corners, faking old handoffs with a bottle of wine, because the coach’s “winning” system had nothing to do with preparing its mostly impoverished, mostly Italian-American and African-American players for college or college-level ball.
At the heart of the system was the team’s private room, where bloody ritual floggings and other humiliations enforced a ruthless code of fealty, discipline, and silence.
“A fascinating read from cover to cover,” according to the Midwest Book Review, The Room relates the true, first-person story of how one young player, John Brewer, Jr. grew up idolizing the Bulldogs until he himself became one of its best players. Once trapped inside, he and a few other teammates rebelled against the Bulldogs’ brutal master and the system that was chewing up their lives and bodies. The Room--insightful, frank, gripping, sometimes grim but deeply humored--records John’s personal struggle and the prices he and other teammates paid to speed the downfall of a tyrannous, dangerous coach.
Any reader whose passion is football or is concerned about concussions and other injuries to young players, or about institutionalized adolescent hazing and bullying will want to read this true, well-told account.