Paradise High’s junior safety Dylan Blood said it this way: “After all we’ve been through, we have each other’s back in everything; we play for each other. It’s win or death. If it wasn’t for Paradise, none of us would be who we are. Paradise is something within each of us, and we’re fighting for it together.”
It’s the spirit of “CMF”–“Crazy Mountain Folk.” And it’s captured in a heart-rending new book by LA Times columnist Bill Plaschke. Reporting on the Bobcats’ first football season after the Camp Fire, Plaschke entered the life and thoughts of Coach Rick Prinz, the coaching staff, athletic director Anne Stearns, the players, and those who cheered them on.
“Paradise Found: A High School Football Team’s Rise From The Ashes” ($28.99 in hardcover from William Morrow; also in audiobook and Amazon Kindle formats) reads like a cliff-hanging thriller — because it is.
Readers may know how the season ended, that cold (and rainy) dose of reality, but will not be prepared for the many stories of players and their coaches escaping the burning town and then living what came next: disruption, anger, questioning, and–commitment to football. It is enough to reduce a book columnist to a puddle of tears.
“Football became the thing that bound the town together,” explained Jay Bell, athletic director at the high school from 1985 to 2004. ‘Paradise is a different kind of town, and we had a different kind of football program.’”
On Thursday, November 8, 2018, coach Prinz texted team members at 8:10 a.m., confirming practice that afternoon at 3 p.m. unless the smoke got in their way. Little did he know.
Much later, after the season, at the banquet to honor the players, Prinz recalled that text. Then he said: “Eleven minutes later, we were running for our lives. These young men faced the reality of death. … I could see the anguish and fear in my players’ eyes. We didn’t have a school, we didn’t have a practice field, we didn’t have cleats, we didn’t even have a football!” But, of course, they had something else.
You must read this book. Period.
Dan Barnett teaches philosophy at Butte College. Send review requests to email@example.com. Columns archived at https://dielbee.blogspot.com