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The historians can debate it, but there’s more than enough evidence to conclude that 1968 is one of the single-most chaotic, violent, and transformative years in the history of the United States. At the very least, it was the most transcendent 12-month period of the 20th century.
It was a year marked by the escalation of the Vietnam War; the rise and the roar of rebellion; the continuation of the nation’s seemingly never-ending division regarding race; the transfer of power in the White House from the fractured Democrats to the Richard Nixon-led Republicans; and the unspeakably tragic murders of Senator Robert F. Kennedy and civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. In 1968, it was like America was tethered to a burning fuse and you knew the detonation was coming, you just weren’t sure when.
Yet through it all, most Americans persevered, just like Americans always had. They fought through the difficult and downright scary times and continued on in their pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness, the very definition of the American dream. And for many, sports played an integral role in the quest for normalcy in a world seemingly gone mad, a veritable coping mechanism that helped provide an escape from the tensions and upheaval that permeated the country. America needed sports more than ever, and sports delivered brilliantly in its time of need.
Therein lies the very essence of Sal Maiorana’s historical novel, 1968 - Amid the crucible of war, revolt, and tragedy, sports helped soothe America’s psyche.
America needed its diversions in 1968, just as it had during two world wars, and just as it had during the Great Depression. In times of trouble, there have always been sporting events to help ease the American psyche. As George Will once wrote, “Sport enables us, for a few hours, to step out of the river of time and into a pastime.” And long before cable and satellite television existed, and only select sporting events were available on the standard 26-inch RCA or Motorola color consoles of the day, it was sports columnist Jack McDonald’s job to take Americans into the stadiums and the arenas and the locker rooms to tell the stories of the games, coaches and players in the slick pages of the nationally-renowned weekly magazine, SportsWorld.
This is the story of one fictional family, inserted into the real-life events that took place in 1968. Through Jack and his family, older readers will re-live - and younger readers will become aware of - why this was such a dramatic and significant year in United States history. But also, much like sports helped take our minds off the horrific aftermath of the 9/11 tragedy, this book will shine a light on the many magnificent athletic achievements that were somewhat lost amid the crucible of war, revolt, and tragedy that 1968 is rightly, but sadly, remembered for. Because as we have learned throughout history, even in the darkest of times, sports, and fandom, can provide a soothing bliss.