The Mosquito Bowl Book Summary - The Mosquito Bowl Book explained in key points
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The Mosquito Bowl summary

Buzz Bissinger

A Game of Life and Death in World War II

16 mins
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    The Mosquito Bowl
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    Fables and Football

    It was 1904 when Blaz Butkovich left Croatia and his tiny hometown in the rolling forests, a place of fables and faeries. He crossed the Atlantic, passed through the dizzying turnstile of Ellis Island, and continued on to Illinois coal country. That’s where his own fable, a classic tale of immigrants in America, takes root.

    Blaz worked in the brutal conditions of the coal mines. He faced America’s hatred of new immigrants. The country was so opposed to newcomers it banned most of them with 1924’s Immigration Act. But Blaz and his wife had the support of others enduring the same experience. Their neighborhood in St. David, Illinois, had families from Italy, Ireland, Poland, and Croatia. Their seven sons all took up sports, the three youngest were even good enough to earn scholarships at major universities.

    Tony, second from the youngest, was the best athlete among the Butkovich brothers. He was a three-sport legend at Lewiston High School and went to the University of Illinois to play football. His first two years there were a struggle, but in 1943 the college football landscape was turned on its head as players in the V-12 Navy College Training Program moved from school to school. Other military branches thought football should be put on hold as the country prepared for World War II, but the Navy believed the sport was ideal preparation for combat.

    Butkovich was part of the V-12 program which also included Marine Reserves. He was transferred from Illinois to Purdue University where he finally lived up to his potential. A speedy running back, Butkovich led the team in scoring and yards. Purdue was 6-0 and ranked No. 4 in the country when Butkovich was called into service by the Marines. He was such a star that the New York Times, Chicago Tribune, and Baltimore Sun all carried the news. He played one last game before leaving Purdue for basic training. On the final carry of his college career, Tony Butkovich scored a touchdown to break the Big 10 conference scoring record.

    He was the No. 11 overall pick in the April 1944 NFL Draft, but Butkovich was already doing push-ups on Parris Island by then. He failed the academic portion of his officer exams but that didn’t stop the Corps from using him as a recruiting tool. Before shipping off to action in the Pacific, Butkovich and 10 other college football stars turned Marines posed in uniform for a public relations photo titled, “Grid Greats on Uncle Sam’s Team.”

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    What is The Mosquito Bowl about?

    The Mosquito Bowl (2022) tells the story of American football stars going to war and playing one more game when they get there. It details a nation divided by bigotry but united by sport and a common enemy.

    Who should read The Mosquito Bowl?

    • History buffs
    • World War II aficionados
    • College football fans

    About the Author

    Buzz Bissinger is the author of six books. He’s best known for Friday Night Lights which has sold nearly two million copies and inspired a movie and television series. He won a Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting while working at the Philadelphia Inquirer, and is currently a contributing editor at Vanity Fair and a sports writer for the Daily Beast. His work has also appeared in the New York Times, the New Republic, and Time magazine amongst others.

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