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Out & About / Ventura County | page turner : Educator
who once played the college game--at age 37--details
his 'wild ride.'

Football's Power Play


Robert R. Sands studied football from the inside out when, at age 37, he became a backup wide receiver for the Santa Barbara City College Vaqueros during their 1994 and 1995 seasons.

Then the Ventura resident wrote about his experience in "GutCheck!--An Anthropologist's Wild Ride into the Heart of College Football" (Rincon Hill Books-$15.95).

Sands, an anthropology instructor at Moorpark College and Santa Barbara City College, has written four books on sport and culture. He has been a participant-observer of college basketball players, black sprinters and college football players.

Sands, who will discuss and sign his book Sunday at the Thousand Oaks Barnes & Noble, learned about himself and football--which he calls a rite of passage--when he played in Santa Barbara.

Most cultures have some kind of rite of passage for males who will turn into warriors, such as the Masai of Kenya, and they usually involve pain and risk, he said. When Sands played football, he said, he felt he was going through a rite of passage as well.

"Sports reflect culture where the game is embedded, which happened to be Santa Barbara culture, which happens to be the overall American culture," Sands said.

Sands said his teammates in Santa Barbara were more like real-life people than the huge linemen who terrorize college football in places such as Tennessee and Nebraska. They were like the people you see on the street, from ex-cons to PhDs, he said.

"They weren't getting scholarships to play the game--they played because it was fun," he said. "They were just normal, everyday guys--as normal as a guy can be in a very violent sport."

Coaches, Sands said, tell players that if somebody does something to you on the field or plays cheap and dirty, this is where it's legal to get back at them. But you have to do it within the rules, which happens to be the way our society is set up, he said.

"Football is a metaphor for life," Sands said. "That might sound like a cliche, but it's true. Any sport is a metaphor for life."

According to Sands, the sport is one of the very few bastions where males can act like males and have it be OK. And he doesn't see football becoming a coed sport in the near or far future.

For many players, including Sands, football becomes more than an addiction--it takes over and becomes larger than life. Sands describes the sport as a ritual, patterned and repetitive, that brings people together in congregation--a lot of the properties found in religion.

Meanwhile, he is at work on his next book--and possibly next addiction. It's all about surfing and spirituality.



The Simi Valley Library celebrates "Families Reading Together, Growing Together" for National Children's Book Week next week. Call 581-1906 for more information. For information on other planned activities, call 983-0629.


* Today: noon. Bruce Alexander will discuss and sign "The Color of Death." Mysteries to Die For, 2940 Thousand Oaks Blvd., Thousand Oaks, 446-2820.

* Today: 1 p.m. Marie Oser will discuss and sign "More Soy Cooking." Thousand Oaks Barnes & Noble, 160 S. Westlake Blvd., 446-2820.

* Today: 3 p.m. Don and Audrey Wood will read and sign "Jubal's Wish." Adventures for Kids, 3457 Telegraph Road, Ventura, 650-9688.

* Sunday: 1:30 p.m. Dan Dye and Mark Beckloff will discuss and sign "Amazing Gracie," about a deaf and partly blind great Dane whose story led to the founding of the Three Dog Bakery, an international retail chain for canine confections. Borders, 125 W. Thousand Oaks Blvd., Thousand Oaks, 497-8159.

* Sunday: 2 p.m. Robert Sands will sign "GutCheck! An Anthropologist's Wild Ride into the Heart of College Football." Thousand Oaks Barnes & Noble, 446-2820.

* Sunday: 2:30 p.m. Jan Brett will sign her newest book, "Hedgie's Surprise." Adventures for Kids, 650-9688.

* Tuesday: 9:30 a.m. Storytime on "Today is Thanksgiving" by P.K. Halliman. Ventura Barnes & Noble, 339-9170.

* Tuesday: 4 p.m. The Channel Islands Ballet Company will read and dance "The Nutcracker Suite." Ventura Barnes & Noble, 339-9170.

* Tuesday: 7 p.m. The Second Tuesday Contemporary Book Group will focus on "Plainsong" by Kent Haruf. Borders, 497-8159.

* Tuesday: 7:30 p.m. The Ventura County Writers Club will hear Michael Miller, writer and producer of the practical Jokes segment of NBC's Bloopers & Practical Jokes. Call Joan Sehnem at 579-9414 for more information. Borders, 497-8159.

* Wednesday: 7 p.m. Roby James discusses and signs her Starfire titles, "Commencement" and "Commitment." Borders, 497-8159.

* Thursday: 10 a.m. Michael Hague will sign "The Book of Fairies." Adventures for Kids, 650-9688.

* Thursday: 1 p.m. Lecture and book-signing by Carl Sferrazza Anthony, author of "America's First Families: An Inside View of 200 Years of Private Life in the White House." Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum. Reservations recommended. 40 Presidential Drive, Simi Valley, 522-2977.

* Friday: 6 p.m. The Radio Disney Street Team and Van visit Borders in Thousand Oaks to help celebrate "How the Grinch Stole Christmas." 497-8159.

* Friday: 7 p.m. Storytime on "If You Take a Mouse to the Movies" by Laura Numeroff. Ventura Barnes & Noble, 339-9170.

Information on book signings, writers groups, publishing events can be e-mailed to or faxed to 647-5649

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