Third and Long

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Title: Third and Long: A Novel for Hard Times
Published by: Trolley Car Press
Release Date: September 1, 2010
Pages: 260
ISBN13: 978-0977791521


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A dying midwest factory town finds new life when a former Notre Dame football star is hired as the local plant manager. Soon, he is handed not just the job of saving Made Right clothing, but the far more daunting task of saving the town. As it turns out, this may be the one challenge for which his checkered career has prepared him.

Like the town of Longview, Nick Nocero has seen better days. Unlike many in this rust belt community, however, he has no appetite for rehashing past glories. His desire to leave football behind and start anew appeals Marie Zanay, a single mother who has her own reasons for wanting to move on. Marie has spent too many years cheering for her hometown and knows too much about the overwhelming odds against it.

Laced with keen insights into contemporary issues – the power of community, pitfalls of the global economy, the skewed importance of sports in the lives of people who desperately need a victory – Third and Long is a moving portrait of a vanishing America hanging by a thread, with perhaps just enough time remaining for one last miraculous play.


“This novel is so good-hearted, so life-affirming, it’s a joy to read… What Katz does so well is evoke the feelings of love the people have for their town and their close connections, even when the football team keeps losing. Katz clearly has compassion for all of his characters, and some of his descriptions of their feelings are so beautiful you’ll want to read whole paragraphs several times.”
Mary Ann Grossman, St. Paul Pioneer Press

“The handsome, laconic stranger with the mysterious past alights from the train in a small town, and… It sounds like the start of a western in stagecoach times, but it’s really a mid-western in a global economy. Third and Long is an engagingly sweet tale of first impressions, second chances.”
Frank Deford, novelist, sportswriter, commentator

“If John Steinbeck had known as much about sports as Bob Katz does, he would have been proud to have written Third and Long. Katz has offered us a smart, moving, beautiful and important book.”
E. J. Dionne Jr., syndicated columnist, NPR commentator

“Third and Long is an American classic. It’s a story about hope and possibilities, crumbled dreams, and surprising redemption. I loved it!”
Lynne Cox, author of Swimming to Antarctica

Excerpt (from Chapter 1):

Wally watched Nick hobble up the embankment and across the iron bridge. Then he phoned Lou Zanay, a buddy from the legion hall, simply to say that a stranger had arrived on the morning eastbound who looked suspiciously like the local news anchor on Channel 4. This was a running joke between Wally and Lou. Whenever they watched the newscast together over a few beers - okay, more than a few -they eventually fell into speculating who in town most closely resembled the news anchor or some other broadcast personality. This parlor game was most enjoyable when the TV personality in question was a saucy young female.

We were not yet a cell phone town. Nor was the world wide web then a feature in our lives except as a distant technology pumping the stock market into a bullish frenzy, or so we'd heard. The Internet Age, Web1.0, the Digital Divide, all that would arrive on our shore eventually, though the changes for us would be distinctly less than were occurring elsewhere. At the time Nick came here, Longview's favored communication network was the tried-and-true phone tree.  Wally would phone up Lou who called Rusty who phoned Maddy who called Gina who rang up . .. that sort of thing, on and on. The phone tree was what knit us together, joining the disparate pieces of our community of nearly 12,000. It was an emergency broadcast channel, an oral history archive, and, yes, a rumor mill. It was, in retrospect, a precursor to online chat rooms. Phone trees were how we disseminated information as well as allegations. They were how, after the dust had settled, we gathered together, figuratively speaking, to process events and settle on the version of the story we'd tell ourselves and anybody else who might be interested.

The way it worked was simple. No instructional manual necessary. The sole requirement for formal membership in the network was to have a sheet of paper scotch-taped on the wall nearest the most commonly used household phone, generally in the kitchen. On this list was a sequence of names and phone numbers. If you received a call from the name above yours it was your duty to call the next name down, and if nobody answered, the name below that. When anything of consequence occurred, news was transmitted with jaw-dropping speed. From the inaugural call ("each one, call one" was the byword), regardless of time of day or night, weekday or weekend, the entire network could achieve saturation communication within an hour. Give us credit: you can't say that about New York City or LA.

Some of us had separate call sheets serving distinct phone trees. PTA for school emergencies. Made Right workers for communications that needed to avoid the watchful eye of management. Sports parents for rain-outs and re-schedulings. Chamber of Commerce members for windfall tips that rarely materialized. Etc.,etc. In theory, these overlapping networks could all coordinate with each other("link" in contemporary technospeak), but the need for that had thus far never arisen.

Transcripts of these various communications would, if they existed, reveal all that any outsider would need to know about us: our concern for family; our penchant for gossip; our inordinate fondness for sports; our appetite for and susceptibility to hero worship in all its manifestations; our lip service to organized religion; our economic myopia and distrust of financial success; our detachment from national politics; our affection for tradition and preference for mainstream aesthetics; our love of a good joke and our ongoing vulnerability to same. The phone tree, in sum, was our collective voice, our chorus, the one responsible for this account.