I am a huge biography fan; as much as I love learning about concepts and ideas, those ideas become so much more meaningful when they’re connected to a person. I am not, however, a huge football fan. In fact, sports in general have always baffled me. I just don’t get the appeal. So how did I end up reading The Sacred Acre: The Ed Thomas Story by Mark Tabb?
The simplest explanation is that I was just looking for something encouraging to read. And in reading about Thomas’ crucial role in Parkersburg’s recovery, his bold proclamation that the team’s field would be ready for the first home game of the 2008 season (100 days after the tornado), and the impact that Thomas had on so many former players (many of whom went on to play in the NFL), I got exactly that.
This is not a traditional biography, in that it doesn’t start with Thomas’ birth and end with his death, murdered at the hands of a mentally-ill former student in June of 2009. Tabb could have written that book, but I don’t know if it would have been nearly as compelling to read. Instead, he chooses to focus heavily on what turned out to be the last year of Thomas’ life, from the day of the tornado until his murder, peppering in relevant details about his background as he went. The result is a book that highlights Thomas’ character more than his just his accomplishments. And I think that’s what I appreciated most about the book because it made me care about this man who I’d never heard of until reading this book.
I suspect that has as much to do with the anecdotes shared about Thomas as it does Tabb’s writing style. Mark Tabb is one of those writers whose work if very comfortable to read, at least from my perspective. He doesn’t sugarcoat things to make them easy to digest; in fact, there are times when it seems like he goes out of his way to avoid “flowerly” language. But he does a wonderful job conveying emotion with his choice of words and bringing the reader into the events he records.
Prior to reading The Sacred Acre, I’d never heard of Thomas or the town where he coached football for 37 years. As a non-sports fan (and being from Canada, where we don’t really have as strong a following for high school and college football), this was no real surprise. But here’s what I did learn:
I learned that Ed Thomas was a man who deeply cared for his community and the students he taught over his career. He was a man who loved his wife and family, even if he wasn’t a perfect husband or dad (this is strongly demonstrated by the exchange between Thomas and his wife recorded on pages 71-72). He was, by Tabb’s account, a man of great integrity who understood the meaning of hard work and discipline.
And if nothing else, that’s as good a reason as any to pick up a copy of this book.
Title: The Sacred Acre: The Ed Thomas Story
Author: Mark Tabb
Publisher: Zondervan (2011)
A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes by the publisher