Running away from the Buffaloes – book under fire in Middle School

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Running with the Buffaloes by Chris Lear

The book Running with the Buffaloes which chronicles the 1998 CU Cross Country team lead by Adam Goucher is under consideration of being banned in a middle school in Virginia. Its started when a 14 year old avid reader picked up the book from the library. His mom was glancing through it and found some curse words then called the school furious looking for answers. Here is the video.

The book has become a cult classic among high school, college runners and running fans alike. As author Chris Lear follows the team around during the tumultuous 1998 season on their quest for the national Cross Country title, he journals the conversations they have which at times are brash and juvenile yes, but remember this is who they are, young confident college students.

Of particular interest to running fans are the trails they run including the Buff Ranch, the Grange and the fabled Magnolia Road which runners from all around have added to their bucket list.

The controversy has sparked many discussions throughout Facebook and the internets. Teammate Steve Slattery commented on twitter: “People want to ban running with the buffaloes because of my #jersey language. In the age of #jerzyshore you think they would be cool”

Adam Goucher on his blog Run the Edge felt compelled to say,

I know I am partly to blame for the language used in Running With the Buffaloes but that is how we talked. Chris wanted the book to be authentic so he took down our words verbatim. In that sense the book is honest and does a great job of portraying real people on a real team going through a real season. He did not water it down to make it appropriate for all ages.

Tim Catalano, also a CU teammate and Adam’s best friend in college added this:

I taught and coached in high schools for eleven years after I graduated from CU. I am not sure if I ever walked into a middle school bathroom where I did not see graphic illustrations of genitalia on the walls along with language that would have made the characters in Running With the Buffaloes blush. I did not use foul language as a coach because I knew I was supposed to set a standard of intellectual maturity. I was not always mature, but I did uphold those standards fairly well.

A library is the same thing. It sets a standard by what it carries on its shelves. Not carrying books such as these will not prevent kids from cursing. Just as not carrying books about violence and sex will not stop fights and teen pregnancies.

But both Adam and Tim added that Middle school libraries probably aught not to carry the book. “If young runners want to read it, they can find it on amazon, the community library, or at the bookstore.”

And finally author Chris Lear stated:

They (the readers) may surmise after reading it that running can provide an avenue by which they will gain a sense of fulfillment and a sense of self. They may even learn that this melting pot of folks on the team may become like kin should – through shared effort and sacrifice – they commit to chasing some big goals.

There are worse takeaways to be found all around in media accessible to middle schoolers everywhere.

Are there some f-bombs along the way? You bet. Try training like those men trained, and you’ll find it’s not all unicorns, butterflies and cotton candy.

Personally, as a father of a middle schooler, I am surprised that this mother didn’t take the time to talk to her obviously smart and well-read child about the context of these words within the story. The book doesn’t contain sex or drugs and is an honest chronicle about hard work, friendship, teamwork, and the twists that life can throw at you. This mother was quoted as saying “I know they hear it. I know they probably say some of them. It’s the age. They think it’s cool. But why should it be put under their noses in a book in the school library to read?” I think what she is forgetting is that her child had a choice to check out the book, and he has a choice not to read it.

Who knows, maybe this boy will connect in some way with the story and take up running himself. Now wouldn’t that be something?

3 thoughts on “Running away from the Buffaloes – book under fire in Middle School”

  1. stuart swineford says:

    Chris Lear just sold another book. Thanks for the post, Todd.

  2. Pingback: Magnolia | A Miler's Dilemma
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