Stay Low and Circle Left by Floyd Winter and Daniel DiMarzio

Floyd Winter and Daniel DiMarzio’s Stay Low and Circle Left: The Story of Floyd “Bad News” Winter (232 pp. $12.99, paper) is an account of Floyd Winter’s life growing up that includes a chapter about his tour of duty in Vietnam as an Army infantryman. Mainly, though, it focuses on one of the most formidable Greco-Roman wrestlers and coaches in the world.

We are not talking here about Wrestle Mania, WWE, or UFC, but the places where many participants in these sports got their start: freestyle, catch, and Greco-Roman wrestling.  Randy Couture (the famed former UFC fighter), a Floyd Winter protégé, starts the book off with an admiring and inspirational Foreword and then tells his own story in the book’s Afterword. Co-author Daniel DiMarzio has written books on catch wrestling, machete fights, and jiu-jitsu.

The first half of Stay Low and Circle Left is filled with stories DiMarzio elicited from Winter. It paints a picture of Floyd Winter from his perspective as a long-time military wrestler and wrestling coach. It is very interesting and sometimes riveting. The chapter on his tour in Vietnam is very good. We learn that he is a combat-tested grunt with a Purple Heart.

The second half of the book is a compilation of interviews DiMarzio had with 23 people whose lives were touched and altered by Floyd Winter. The stories relate what Winter has done for them, in wrestling and in life in general. Together, they paint a picture of Floyd Winter as a very humble and caring man. This short list of 23 comes from a very long one that includes military men, Olympic medalists, and movie stars. Wherever he went, people knew, liked, and respected Bad News Winter.

Being a military spouse takes a special person. That would make Floyd Winter’s wife Paula a Superwoman of sorts. Because of Floyd’s involvement in Army Wrestling (and much more), their military-spouse issues were multiplied several times over.

I recommend this book to wrestlers and non-wrestlers alike.

–Bob Wartman

The Game by George Howe Colt


George Howe Colt was inspired to write The Game: Harvard, Yale, and America in 1968 (Scribner, 400 pp., $28, hardcover; $14.99, Kindle) after watching “Harvard Beats Yale, 29-29,” a terrific documentary film made in 2008 by Kevin Rafferty. The documentary and book focus on one of the most improbable football comebacks imaginable—so improbable that the tie felt very much like a victory for the underdog Harvard team.

Colt was fourteen years old in 1968, living what he calls “a Harvard-saturated childhood.” He went to The Game in 1968 with his father and brother—and, in fact, still has his game ticket.

There are many interesting story lines in The Game, and the writing is generally engaging. With the subtitle, “Harvard, Yale and America in 1968,” the book’s scope is ambitious. I wonder, though, whether Colt would have given us a better book if he’d concentrated in more depth on fewer stories lines. He writes about so many players, coaches, and others that I needed a cheat sheet to keep track of who everyone was.

The first 125 pages drags a bit. But the book picks up speed midway, and ends with a bang. The book takes off when Colt gets to the story of John Tyson. Tyson, an African-American football player at Harvard, is an admirable figure who allows Colt the opportunity to weave in a several Civil Rights stories.


Pat Conway

The war in Vietnam is a constant presence in the book, though Colt doesn’t provide many specifics. The most Vietnam War-related compelling story involves an older Harvard player, Pat Conway. The defensive back had dropped out of Harvard, enlisted in the Marines, and ended up at the Khe Sanh.

Conway then made his way back to Harvard—and to the football team—in time to take part in the 1968 season. Colt’s descriptions of Vietnam War battle scenes are memorable. But I wish he had spent more time on Conway’s time in Vietnam.

Colt does a lot of name dropping—(Do we really need to know that one of the players dated Meryl Streep?)—with some names having no context for readers unfamiliar with the 1960s. That said, there are many interesting folks who make their way into the book, including Harvard roommates Tommy Lee Jones and Al Gore, and fledgling Yale cartoonist Garry (“Doonesbury”) Trudeau. Jones played offensive guard in The Game.

11111111111111111111111111There is a double epilogue of sorts, with a chapter on antiwar activities on the Harvard campus in 1969, followed by a true epilogue with updated info on the book’s main players. The mature reflections of a few players are startling in their vulnerability.

Even with the attempt to capture so many different stories, there are some gaps. There is nothing on the dramatic and contentious 1968 presidential election, for example, which seems strange.

In a nutshell, the book is kind of history-lite, but with enough stories and odd bits of information to keep you entertained—and to make you want to learn more.

I just might go out and read a biography of the Yale’s noted antiwar chaplain, William Sloane Coffin.

–Bill Fogarty