'ACROSS MANY FIELDS' Ohio football book covers it all
The book was written by a Lakewood St. Edward graduate and includes area schools.
By JOE SCALZO
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
Christopher Butler attended close to 50 high school football games last year in just about every area of Ohio.
In every town, he heard the same thing.
"No matter where we went, the people told me, 'We have the best football here,' " Butler said with a laugh. "Everyone."
Butler, along with photographer Jennifer Rothchild, took off on a prep football pilgrimage last fall, scouring the state for color, pomp, circumstance, tradition and as much culture as they could handle.
Their end result was the book, "Across Many Fields: A Season of Ohio High School Football," with 160 pages of photos, interviews and stories from 45 games.
Covered all aspects
Butler talked to players, coaches, cheerleaders, concession stand workers, band members, administrators, fans -- just about anyone else who had an opinion about, and an affection for, Ohio high school football.
"We had two goals," said Butler, a graduate of Lakewood St. Edward and the Miami (Ohio) University. "First, we wanted to celebrate the game through stories and pictures.
"Second, we wanted find out what motivates people to come to these games.
"We figured if this book was going to fly anywhere, it would be Ohio," Butler said.
Probably the most famous high school football book to come out was "Friday Night Lights," which focused on one Texas high school team.
"Across Many Fields" is much more expansive, covering teams from all six divisions in the state for the whole season.
Given the passion for prep football in Ohio, why is this the first book of its kind?
"That's a good question," said Butler, who works as a grant writer at the Cleveland Food Bank and attended games in his free time last year.
"I think a lot of it has to do with the publishing industry," Butler said. "The industry is very risk averse. I'm not sure if most publishers think a book like this will sell."
Luckily, Butler had a friend at Cleveland Landmark Press. He pitched the idea and, after securing a deal, managed to persuade his boss to give him Friday nights off.
The book was scheduled to come out Aug. 10, but has been delayed. Butler hopes to have the book out this week.
Here are some of Butler's highlights.
Favorite stadium: "I would go against convention. I loved Bo Rein in Niles and "The Pit" at Cincinnati Elder is a wonderful place.
"But I kind of like places like [Bowerston] Conotton Valley. They have a stadium up on a hillside with farms all around. It's very picturesque. We went to the Poland-New Middletown opener last year [that game appears on the book's cover]. We got there at 6 p.m. and they were selling 50-50 tickets and greeting people they hadn't seen all week. It was like a big cocktail party."
Most memorable person: "Marshal McCorkle hasn't missed a Bellaire game since 1923. He's taken just about every mode of transportation to a game -- horse and buggy, ferry boat, foot, taxi, car, bus. He's taken them all.
"And one of my favorite interviews was with [Warren Harding coach] Thom McDaniels. He has a really commanding presence. You left the interview with no doubt where football was in his heart."
So... who has the best football?
"Well, if you're going by wins and losses, you have to go with northeast Ohio," Butler said. "In terms of tradition, it's still hard to get away from Stark County. When you start invoking names like Massillon, McKinley and Paul Brown, even people out of state know who you're talking about."