Sociology professors win book award

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Sociology professors win book award

James Holstein discusses the book he co-authored about NFL athletes' post-playing careers.

James Holstein discusses the book he co-authored about NFL athletes' post-playing careers.

Photo by Maryam Tunio // maryam.tunio@marquette.edu

James Holstein discusses the book he co-authored about NFL athletes' post-playing careers.

Photo by Maryam Tunio // maryam.tunio@marquette.edu

Photo by Maryam Tunio // maryam.tunio@marquette.edu

James Holstein discusses the book he co-authored about NFL athletes' post-playing careers.

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Marquette sociology professors James Holstein and Richard Jones received the Outstanding Book Award for 2016 from the North American Society for the Sociology of Sport.

“It’s not like winning the Nobel Prize, but it’s nice to be recognized by our peers and have it regarded as a good piece of work,” Jones said.

Their book, “Is There Life After Football?: Surviving the NFL,” is co-authored by George Koonce Jr., a former Green Bay Packer linebacker and previously a Marquette senior associate athletic director. The book was published in 2015 by New York University Press and is about NFL athletes’ transition from short-lived professional athlete to retirement and the subsequent post-football career options.

The book offers “a better understanding of the lives of people who are very poorly understood and often caricatured,” Holstein said.

The book grew from Koonce’s doctoral dissertation, which addressed the post-career lives of professional athletes. Holstein and Jones served as Koonce’s doctoral advisers.

As Koonce was finishing his dissertation, tragedy struck the world of professional football. Junior Seau, a Hall of Fame linebacker, committed suicide in 2012, two years after his retirement. Seau’s death came shortly after the 2011 suicide of Dave Duerson, a former NFL safety.

With many issues surrounding the NFL, including the effects of concussions and retirement benefits for players, the trio decided to delve more deeply into the personal lives of NFL players and their lives after football. They interviewed a significant number of former players and collected over 2,500 pages of interviews.

“(I have) a complicated relationship with this book,” Holstein said. “I’ve been interested in sports for a long time. I jumped in because I thought it was challenging.”

Holstein always wondered if he could write about sports. This book was his opportunity.

“I’ve written a bunch of books, but they are only read by other academics,” Holstein said. “This we thought was a topic of general interest and so I wanted to see if we could write a book that would also be of interest to sports and football fans as well as an academic audience.”

Holstein and Jones both enjoy sports in their personal life. They found combining their professional and recreational interests in this book to be more fun than their usual research.

Jones serves as a faculty athletic representative and was excited about the book.

“As a little boy I was a Packer fan,” Jones said. “This research brought out the fan and scholar in me.”

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