Are You Ready For Some Football?
In his new book, Adam Lazarus (DC’06) goes behind the scenes of the legendary Super Bowl champion Washington Redskins teams during former coach Joe Gibbs’ era in the 1980s and early 1990s. Lazarus’ “Hail to the Redskins” looks into Gibb’s career from a fresh perspective.
“Gibbs is one of the greatest coaches in history, and I was stunned that no one ever really dug into him and his career on a large scale,” said Lazarus, who received his master’s degree in professional writing from CMU.
Lazarus takes readers through the franchise’s rise from mediocrity all the way to winning three Super Bowl championships – making them the glory of the nation’s capital.
“Lazarus tells this extraordinary turn of events with marvelous insight and meticulous precision, aided by nearly one hundred interviews with former team personnel and players, including Gibbs,” said Thomas O’Boyle, an adjunct professor of English who taught Lazarus and the senior manager of audience at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
But, Lazarus faced a number of challenges while working on the book. The most difficult one: he wasn’t so easily granted the interviews – especially with former players. Yet, a majority of the team was willing to speak with him, including Gibbs, the most essential interviewee.
Lazarus also said his book started out as a parallel story about the overlapping of the Redskins and the so-called 'Golden Age' defined by President Ronald Reagan whose Vice President was George H. W. Bush.
“It's so neat that the ‘Golden Age’ completely overlaps with the Redskins dynasty,” he said. “Reagan was actually sworn in one week after the Redskins hired Joe Gibbs. And Joe Gibbs’ run in D.C. ends about two months after Bush’s presidency ends in 1993.”
There are still several places where that story remains in the book, but once Lazarus started examining Gibbs, he became the focus of the book.
In addition to Gibbs, the book also features an epic cast including Doug Williams, the first African-American quarterback to win a Super Bowl, Joe Theismann, a quarterback whose career ended with a gruesome injury caught on national television, hall of famer John Riggins and more.
Lazarus credits his CMU education with helping him learn how to write effectively by mastering style and grammar.
“That's a key element in any form of writing, but especially in long form, like this book,” said Lazarus. “I learned at CMU that every sentence, every word needs to have purpose and that's how writing becomes polished and ultimately effective and memorable.”
This will be Lazarus’ fourth book, and he’s already working on his fifth. He co-wrote his first book, “Chasing Greatness,” with his former ‘History of Golf’ professor Steven Schlossman. They conducted extensive research and interviews to tell the story of one of the most dramatic sports victories in the past half-century—Johnny Miller’s triumph over golf greats like Arnold Palmer at the 1973 U.S. Open.
Lazarus considers Schlossman and O’Boyle to be the two biggest influences on his entire career. Lazarus’ “Advanced Journalism” class with O’Boyle taught him real world, “hard-nosed" journalism lessons.
“Tom not only wrote for dailies, but also wrote books, and his lessons and discussions on the ethics and practices of being a journalist were invaluable,” Lazarus said. “I think of Tom as my ‘journalistic conscience’ in a lot of ways, and he's been a great sounding board for me over the years.”
And, while Lazarus has learned a few lessons since writing his first book, he said the most important was learning the value of incorporating original interviews into his writing.
“As important as newspaper archives have been to all my books—especially my first—the interviews add so many things, including new perspective, authenticity and oftentimes neat anecdotes, which are my favorite,” said Lazarus. “Those each give a new dimension to the story and the writing as well.”
By: Amanda King
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