Villard Books, 2010
I used to consider myself a pretty big Eagles fan. Knowledgeable, passionate, and long-suffering, like so many others who call Philadelphia home. But after reading Tom McAllister’s Bury Me In My Jersey, I feel like a bandwagoner who needs to be reinitiated. In his first book, a memoir, McAllister pours fanaticism onto the page like a blitzing Eagles defense. While detailing the often painful history of the franchise, he also comes to terms with his own pain, interweaving his story of self-discovery with the evolution of the team. Coping with the loss of his father, who first taught him to love the Eagles, McAllister struggles to make sense of his obsession and how it shaped his identity.
Bury Me In My Jersey is an honest, thoughtful book that tackles issues of manhood, grief, isolation, and love within the unique context of sports fandom. While McAllister’s experiences are particular to Philadelphia and the Eagles, the challenges faced and lessons learned reach beyond provincial allegiances. Anyone who knows the zeal of a true fan or has felt the loss of a loved one can relate to this story.
As most people who follow the NFL might know, Philadelphia Eagles fans have a certain reputation throughout the country. And while there is no mention of Santa Claus in Bury Me In My Jersey, there are plenty of scenarios that lend credence to the allegations that Eagles fans can be a rather unruly bunch. But McAllister writes with such wit and self-awareness that even accounts of some of his more questionable behavior serve as points of insight and enlightenment. One can’t become a man without making the mistakes of a boy, right?
One of my favorite aspects of McAllister’s writing is his frequent use of footnotes. They act as a sort of aside that allows for a deeper glimpse into the author’s thought process, often providing a chuckle along with their extra information. Funny moments abound in Bury Me In My Jersey, and are helped along with some creative descriptions, my favorite a reference to former Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi as “date rapist smug.” McAllister crafts some really great sentences, which can either make you laugh out loud, start to tear up, or just nod your head in appreciation as you reread them.
I’ve read a lot of memoirs, and even studied them as a literature student, but this is the first time I have actually known the author personally. I was a classmate of McAllister’s for eight years, we are still friends, and there are even a couple oblique references to me in the book. This fact did allow me to appreciate some of the stories and references in a more personal way, but as a student of the genre, it intrigued me even further to analyze how McAllister recounted certain events with which I was familiar. It was fun to think about what I would have included, left out, or emphasized if I had been writing about the same event. The experience reiterated my love of memoir for its inherent subjectivity, and I felt like I was learning about Tom from a completely different angle.
Bury Me In My Jersey is an impressive example of modern memoir, especially for the distinct perspective achieved through the lens of Eagles fandom. It’s a must-read for any Philadelphia fan, but is absolutely rewarding on many other levels. The struggle to overcome grief, to learn how to be a man, and to own one’s identity is a journey that transcends football, and can teach each of us something about our own life story.
Tom McAllister will be reading portions of Bury Me In My Jersey, as well as signing copies, this Wednesday, November 10, on campus at La Salle University. The event, sponsored by the English Department, will start at 6:00 p.m. in the atrium of the Holroyd building.