Hemorrhoids at Halftime is a work by an expert whose insights just might lead to improved athletic experiences.
Hank Roth’s memoir Hemorrhoids at Halftime recounts the author’s fifty-five years as a student athlete, coach, game official, and high school administrator, and simultaneously explores the history of high school athletics.
Anecdotes weave together; the writing is careful and clear. Roth’s view of sports programs and players is wholly an insider’s, down to his revelation that, when high school athletic directors say they are retiring “to spend more time with their families,” they actually mean that they have had enough.
Some of Roth’s stories are funny, some are ridiculous, and some add little to the book’s purpose, including the titular tale about an official with painful hemorrhoid. The sexual encounters of athletes are remembered alongside many wins and losses. The book’s pace is patient, even plodding.
Perhaps the best parts of the book are its multiple accounts of angry, interfering parents who believe that their sons and daughters should have had more play time, should have won most valuable player, or should have made the varsity team. These stories introduce parents who are convinced that coaches don’t know what they are doing, favor one kid over others, or picked the wrong members for the team. Descriptive sections that detail organization, scheduling, administration, and booster clubs add little to the narrative.
Roth’s weary frustration, now muted after almost six decades, is understandable. Although high school athletics have changed since the author began his long tenure, his familiar story, tinged with nostalgia, emphasizes how politics, money, and mercurial school board members marred the fun of true sportsmanship.
The book’s final chapter—a checklist of advice to all participants—is valuable and should be consulted by student athletes, coaches, and parents. Roth’s good, sensible advice is to be a respectful athlete and enjoy the game, to be a parent who neither hovers nor interferes, and to be a coach who truly mentors athletes and encourages academics. His emphasis on education is most refreshing, and he reminds student athletes that no matter how well they play in college, less than one percent of college athletes, including Heisman Trophy winners, make it to the professional leagues. Roth’s years of experience crystallize in this final checklist; its sage recommendations make it useful for all those involved in high school athletics.
Though it is not a general interest title, Hemorrhoids at Halftime is a work by an expert whose insights just might lead to improved athletic experiences.
Philip J. Kowalski
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