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Among the Thugs

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Among the Thugs PDF, ePub eBook They have names like Barmy Bernie, Daft Donald, and Steamin' Sammy. They like lager (in huge quantities), the Queen, football clubs (especially Manchester United), and themselves. Their dislike encompasses the rest of the known universe, and England's soccer thugs express it in ways that range from mere vandalism to riots that terrorize entire cities. Now Bill Buford, edit They have names like Barmy Bernie, Daft Donald, and Steamin' Sammy. They like lager (in huge quantities), the Queen, football clubs (especially Manchester United), and themselves. Their dislike encompasses the rest of the known universe, and England's soccer thugs express it in ways that range from mere vandalism to riots that terrorize entire cities. Now Bill Buford, editor of the prestigious journal Granta, enters this alternate society and records both its savageries and its sinister allure with the social imagination of a George Orwell and the raw personal engagement of a Hunter Thompson.

30 review for Among the Thugs

  1. 5 out of 5

    Paul Bryant

    I'd forgotten about this one. It's hilarious, in a grim kind of way, which is how hilarious should be. Expat American infiltrates the notorious English football hooligan sub-culture of the late 80s/early 90s, you may remember those horrible violent yobs. These were hard nuts like the Inter-City Firm from West Ham who yould beat the daylights out of you and leave you broken, bleeding and barfing in a back alley but always remember to leave a smartly printed business card in one of your pockets sa I'd forgotten about this one. It's hilarious, in a grim kind of way, which is how hilarious should be. Expat American infiltrates the notorious English football hooligan sub-culture of the late 80s/early 90s, you may remember those horrible violent yobs. These were hard nuts like the Inter-City Firm from West Ham who yould beat the daylights out of you and leave you broken, bleeding and barfing in a back alley but always remember to leave a smartly printed business card in one of your pockets saying YOU HAVE BEEN SERVICED BY THE INTER-CITY FIRM Bill Buford got in with Millwall, who were one of the loutiest, and Cambridge United fans too, who weren't much better, and he writes with a fabulous gusto about it all. Recommended for afficionados of British working class culture. Of course it's all now changed, hardly any football violence happens now. It's a problem that's almost been solved. How did they do that, then? Well, two things happened. The first was Hillsborough, a stadium in Sheffield, in which not quite controlled supporters were allowed by panicking police to pile into a fenced-in spectator area to such an overwhelming extent that a crowd crush built up against the restraining fence, and 96 young people died, right there live on television. That was in 1989. It shook the whole nation. The football authorities drew up new rules for every stadium in Britain : no spectator's standing areas (they were called terraces) any more - football will be all-seating from now on. This was the first major change in football for donkey's years. After that came wholesale gentrification and prices of season tickets going through the roof. But the second thing which rendered the gruesome football violence a thing of the past was ECSTACY Irvine Welsh spins this (to me convincing) theory in his excellent novel Maribou Stork Nightmares. The dance/rave culture that boomed in the early 90s in Britain sucked in all the working class delinquents who had been happily inflicting grievous bodily harm on each other, and infused their bloodstreams with the wonder drug Ecstacy, which was a major component of rave culture. It took a few years but the violence began to melt away. So the all-seater stadiums and the soaring prices, plus the beatific state of mind achievable at 150 beats per minute, solved what had previously been seen as ugly and intractable. Curious how these things work out sometimes.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Anders

    A stunning work of non-fiction, Among the Thugs chronicles Buford's attempts to understand the English phenomenon of soccer hooliganism by immersing himself into its characters, events, and lifestyles. He starts as an outsider, an American living in London for many years without ever attending a soccer game. Intrigued by the stories of violence and lawlessness the games ignite in the supporters of the teams, he sets out to understand how and why so many young and working-class people are continu A stunning work of non-fiction, Among the Thugs chronicles Buford's attempts to understand the English phenomenon of soccer hooliganism by immersing himself into its characters, events, and lifestyles. He starts as an outsider, an American living in London for many years without ever attending a soccer game. Intrigued by the stories of violence and lawlessness the games ignite in the supporters of the teams, he sets out to understand how and why so many young and working-class people are continuously worked into a fervor attending soccer games. But the deeper goal of this book, and this is where it gets interesting is: what are the societal factors which have produced this demographic? Buford comes to the conclusion that the problem is that England's former working class, which has a strong sense of cultural pride attached to it, is no longer the working class. Their income now puts them in the middle class, and the awkwardness of this shift has left them disaffected, in need of the jolts of adrenaline that rioting produces. When they riot, they riot against everything and everyone: their dreary suburban lives, as they randomly assault passersby and destroy property; state power, as they provoke, outsmart, and attack police forces which seek to contain them; and even each other, as they reserve their most vicious attacks for the fans of competing soccer teams. They riot to feel on top of the world, even for only a few minutes, in spite of the danger. Bill Buford is living the good life. As a highly successful non-fiction author, he puts himself in reality-show-like situations which place him in a lot of potential bodily harm. In Among the Thugs, Buford is often in sketchy situations without a safety net-- in this book he participates in a number of soccer riots, attends a white power party in a pub in England, makes friends with the sketchiest thugs he can find. Basically, he gets your heart pumping from time to time. And not surprisingly, these situations render increasing returns. He gets your attention for when he schools you with the social insights. In the hands of a lesser writer, this book could've been a lot more annoying. The premise-- studying the soccer hooligans by "becoming one," inasmuch as that is possible-- is a little X-treme for my tastes. But Buford really makes it work, as he seamlessly and realistically combines an interesting, compelling story with his spot-on insights into the English working class.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Evan

    HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION! I can say without hesitation that this is the best of the 55 books I’ve read this year. It’s gonzo-style journalism at its very best; funny, horrific, impertinent, robust and insightful by turns; it one-ups Hunter S. Thompson and does for English soccer hooligans what HST did for Hell’s Angels in his classic book on same. It’s not just a read but an overwhelming experience; intensely engaging and memorable. I doubt I’ll ever forget about Mickey and Sammy and Rod and DJ and HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION! I can say without hesitation that this is the best of the 55 books I’ve read this year. It’s gonzo-style journalism at its very best; funny, horrific, impertinent, robust and insightful by turns; it one-ups Hunter S. Thompson and does for English soccer hooligans what HST did for Hell’s Angels in his classic book on same. It’s not just a read but an overwhelming experience; intensely engaging and memorable. I doubt I’ll ever forget about Mickey and Sammy and Rod and DJ and Harry, different men from different backgrounds brought together ostensibly under the banner of soccer fandom for the purpose of affecting mayhem as a way of giving defining meaning to their lives. Of all the characters in the book, it is Harry—middle class, securely employed, doted on by a loving wife and child; soft-spoken and seemingly as harmless as his Cowardly Lion appearance—who shatters all the standard illusions, including Buford’s, of what a British soccer hooligan is and what their motivations are. Harry, driven by some unknowable compulsion but in keeping with the irrational violent expectations of his fellow “lads,” ends up perpetrating one of the most wincingly horrific acts of violence you will ever read about. Author Bill Buford was an American abroad in the 1980s when he began to immerse himself into the culture of English football/soccer thugs, trying to understand what brings their members together, why they engage in petty crime (forming gangs of jibbers, for instance--fans who leave for matches with nothing, bully their way onto trains and into stadiums and return with loot in their pockets), and to find out if there is any sociological pattern to their gang-like violent behavior and to understand the psychology of mob riots. What he finds is disturbing, and shatters all his preconceived liberal-leaning notions. Buford plunges heedlessly and naively headlong into the melee and comes out the other side bloodied and bruised and glad to be alive but saddened and in some ways more baffled at the phenomenon of mob mentality and violence than when he started. As he gapes with fascination and horror into the mouth of human ugliness (sometimes literally; English soccer punks have even worse teeth than their fellow Englishmen), he finds his penchant for non-judgment falling away; his journalistic objectivity challenged. By the end of the book, he is calling these immature boy-men, “little shits,” these men that he so desperately desired acceptance by. The more he becomes drawn into their world and the more he finds himself accepted in it, the more he finds himself becoming a willing participant in the thrilling violence. Soon he finds himself pushing and cursing at old couples in his way on the street, having his head slammed against a metal pole by a neo-Nazi skinhead and being beaten horrifically by the Italian police during a soccer riot in Sardinia—where the English fans, as is often their wont, make it their goal to own whatever piece of foreign property they occupy. “The city is ours!” is a frequent cry. These fans are not merely waiting for a goal to be scored, they are waiting for the moment of release to wage war. What Bufords starts with as he begins his journey are preconceived humanistic notions that ascribe mob frustration and violent outlet to various underlying social causes tied to want and deprivation and injustice but what he finds are that many soccer hooligans don’t feel downtrodden, are often respectable and middle class, have jobs and money and family, tend to be right wingers and simply are there for the adrenaline high, the thrill of the total abandon they achieve in their groups. In short, he comes to find that his preconceived notions are bunk, and what he finds is that crowds are as predictable as they are unpredictable; for every answer there are none. This is, of course, an overly simplistic summary of what Buford discovers, but what he comes to understand and convey to the reader is that all the so-called experts on the nature of crowds—from LeBron onwards—often culled their observations from second-hand sources and spun their theories from the safe distance of their ivory towers, often with an emphasis that absolves society from its complicity. The mob is never *us.* It’s a theme that constantly emerges in press accounts and official inquiries in the aftermath of violence. It’s all due to a few bad eggs, some outside agitators, etc. It’s never us. Buford cites press accounts of sports violence, eerily, from the past—some as far back as 1909, in which nothing in the social order has changed at all. His own descriptions of how a riot escalates—how individual participants, feeding off the collective energy and the collective mob in turn feeding off individual acts of inspired mayhem—are vivid and pungent. His description of how the sound of glass breaking animates a crowd and lends an aural stimulant to escalate violence is incredibly evocative. Buford explains how riots are an act of consent; there may be emergent leaders of a mob, but ultimately it’s the collective that decides what it will do. The book elegantly examines the process by which the boundaries toward violent escalation are transgressed. Those of you worried that this is a book about sports should disavow yourself of that notion. It’s a book about psychology, about human nature, about the conflicting complex currents in the social order and its dizzying alliances, about tribalism, nationalism and social change, about the complicity of the press in fanning the flames of disorder and about the contradictory impulses and actions that drive people alone and in groups and about the transgression of that thin line known as the law and civility. I wrote many notes while reading the book, but rather than engage in confused analysis I would direct you posthaste to the book itself. It’s peerless.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Michael Burnam-Fink

    Among the Thugs stands next The Hell's Angels as an unflinching look at a violent male subculture, in this case the classic English football hooligan of the 1980s. Buford was an American living in England. What he depicts as an idle curiosity about a strange feature of English culture, much sensationalized by the press, became a multiyear sociological study. It is an undeniable fact that by all conventional measures, attending a football game in England is a terrible way to spend a Saturday after Among the Thugs stands next The Hell's Angels as an unflinching look at a violent male subculture, in this case the classic English football hooligan of the 1980s. Buford was an American living in England. What he depicts as an idle curiosity about a strange feature of English culture, much sensationalized by the press, became a multiyear sociological study. It is an undeniable fact that by all conventional measures, attending a football game in England is a terrible way to spend a Saturday afternoon. Bad weather, hours walking and standing on cement terraces, and being crushed in narrow passageways and too-small cages by a drunk, chanting, mass of the lads. There's also a chance of random violence at the hands of supporters of the other team, of the police, or the crowd itself. And then there's the minor problems of no parking, poor transit, and sanitary facilities consisting of 'pee on the people lower than you'. But somehow, thousands if not millions of English headed out to the grounds every Saturday. Football gives the week meaning. In a series of short narrative essays about his experiences across England and the continent, with all sorts of fringe members of "the Firm", Buford explores what that meaning is. Buford's first topic is the crowd itself, human individuality compressed into the herd, submerged in the crush, the chanting, the mass of movements. The crowd is the the base of everything else in football, an animal energy that is the true draw, not the action on the pitch. Crowds are fickle things, always an outsider to the body politic. The crowd demands a leader, but one cannot just declare themselves the leader of the crowd, you must be chosen. The second theme is violence. The crowd is a means to an end, and "when it goes off", as signaled by someone throwing a trash bin through a window, the crowd becomes animated in mass violence, from throwing stones at riot police, to mass property destruction and semi-random knifings. If being part of a crowd is transforming, being part of a violent mob is ecstatic: Buford describes feeling like he could fly, the electric thrill of chasing and being chased, and he was a journalist maintaining his distance from the event. The third theme is racism. The lads are proud to be English, happy to tell you they don't much care for non-white people or foreigners, and delighted to go to another country and be as beastly as possible to the inhabitants. Buford attends a National Front white power disco, a profoundly weird homoerotic punk-rock rave, of shirtless skinheads men jumping up and down in a mass and rubbing each other's heads while their girlfriends look on. While the football firms are gleefully racist, and white power foot soldiers football fanatics, there's not a true alliance between the two, because the mid-80s leadership of the National Front are a bunch of dweebs afraid of the raw physicality of the crowd. And of course there's the minor stuff, life "on the jib" to get as much stolen beer and illegal rides out of football as possible. After all, who can compel payment from a crowd? There's the ambiguous relationship between hooligans, the press, and law enforcement. There's the Hillsborough disaster, and crowd control reform. There's the international hustling of 'DJ', a counterfeiter and aspiring photographer from a privileged background. But ultimately, this book is about The Lads and their mythos. Buford observes that in England, it is just not done for members of the literati to talk about the working class, and so no one will admit that the true "English working class" has vanished. I quote in full. "It is still possible, I suppose, to belong to a phrase-the working class—a piece of language that serves to reinforce certain social customs and a way of talking and that obscures the fact that the only thing hiding behind it is a highly mannered suburban society stripped of culture and sophistication and living only for its affectations: a bloated code of maleness, an exaggerated, embarrassing patriotism, a violent nationalism, an array of bankrupt antisocial habits. This bored, empty, decadent generation consists of nothing more than what it appears to be. It is a lad culture without mystery, so deadened that it uses violence to wake itself up. It pricks itself so that it has feeling, burns its flesh so that it has smell." Yeah. You feel that? Go Manchester United!

  5. 4 out of 5

    Roy

    The English disease in all its gory. This book does a wonderful job of reporting and commenting on the horror of soccer crowds. For me, this comes after a six month fascination with soccer violence. There is very little to explain why hooligans do what they do, but what interests me is that this is a problem that seems to effect most western "civilized" nations except the good old U. S. of A. In discussing this issue with a friend, we both expressed surprise. Surprise not in the predictable riot The English disease in all its gory. This book does a wonderful job of reporting and commenting on the horror of soccer crowds. For me, this comes after a six month fascination with soccer violence. There is very little to explain why hooligans do what they do, but what interests me is that this is a problem that seems to effect most western "civilized" nations except the good old U. S. of A. In discussing this issue with a friend, we both expressed surprise. Surprise not in the predictable rioting of sports fans, but that nothing like this happens in the states. Sure, occasionally some cities and college campuses will take over a few blocks in drunken reveling in honor of a championship, but a weekly event across the nation? Dozens of violent encounters at each game? Oddly, not here. Buford is also an American, and so he brings this perspective to his book. If you know nothing about hooligans, than you will find it fascinating. If you are already familiar with the problem, as he is, then you are probably already sick of it. But like a car accident, you just can't look away. Buford does a particularly good job of retelling events that he has stuck himself in, without a camera, tape recorder, or even notebook for notes. The rioting scenes are very well written and still, to me, quite unimaginable.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Wheeler

    Note: This is a truncated review due to character limitations. For the full review, please see this link There are two kinds of violence in Among the Thugs. The first is the violence we, the reading and civilized public, are supposed to abhor: violence perpetrated by the football (soccer) hooligans. The second kind of violence is that perpetrated by the police forces against protesters of all stripes, including those football hooligans, American author Bill Buford all but outright states is an enti Note: This is a truncated review due to character limitations. For the full review, please see this link There are two kinds of violence in Among the Thugs. The first is the violence we, the reading and civilized public, are supposed to abhor: violence perpetrated by the football (soccer) hooligans. The second kind of violence is that perpetrated by the police forces against protesters of all stripes, including those football hooligans, American author Bill Buford all but outright states is an entirely acceptable form of violence perpetrated by state actors. Don’t get me wrong: Among The Thugs is an enjoyable read and the violence is certainly disturbing. Buford falters many times and a large portion of his falters are the sanctioning of state terror and violence. Although that argument can certainly be made, that the state is allowed to kill but we as individual non-state-sponsored actors are not, it is certainly a flimsy one. All around Buford excuses the action of state actors (police, stadium owners, the military, politicians) while condemning the actions of their non-state counterparts in similar situations. Buford also leaves the audience hanging, wondering what the outcome of at least one tragedy is. Specifically, the Hillsborough disaster in 1989 that killed 96. He also likes to judge, judge and judge. Buford: Free of sin The other major place Buford falters is in his judgment of the people he is following, the thugs as it were. I’m not writing about judgments of actions (they are abhorrent) but rather, personal choices that affect no one but the person who does them. I mean, he’s really judgy. Didn’t go to college? To Buford, you’re scum. (More on that latter. Buford is a classist.) Tattoos? The same. Club supporter? The same. You did go to college, but you’re a supporter, involved in the violence (much of which is directed at willing and wanting participants of other clubs)? Well, you’re scum whom Buford will spend many, many pages and a long time interviewing, trying to figure out why you’ve chosen to be scum. “The throng itself was something to behold. The flesh exposed was your standard, assembly line, gray weather English flesh . . . everybody had a tattoo. And not just a tattoo but many tattoos . . . It was also hard not to wonder about the person who would do this to his body . . . All around I saw meters and meters of skin that had been stained with these totemic pledges of permanence.” (Emphasis added) A few pages later, Buford assures the reader that he’s not judging. Please, allow me to be clear. In my reading, Buford is pulling a classic, “Look at the freak! Laugh at the freak!” routine. “Violence or no violence, mine was not an attractive moral position. It was, however, an easy one, and it consisted in this: not thinking. As I entered this experience, I made a paint of removing moral judgment, like a coat.” Later on, he writes about the things the Manchester United fans liked, this is presumably written without thought to the final chapters of the book, about these people actually being humans and actually liking other things. He makes a list of their likes. “That was the most important item: they liked themselves; them and their mates. The list of dislikes, I decided, was straightforward. It was (over and above Tottenham Hotspur) the following: the rest of the world.” Buford: Only the poor do evil things Well put together young man? Good job? Decently educated? Meet Steve. And DJ, further down. “In fact, for a while, I went out of my way to spend time with Steve, if only because, being articulate and intelligent, he was good company and because I always believed that he would be able to reveal something about why he, of all people, was attracted to violence of this kind.” Notice there how Buford baldly states that the want to be involved in this kind of group fighting and violence is seemingly not something the intelligent and articulate would want to be a part of? Next stop on his logic train is: Domestic violence neither happens to nor is it perpetrated by members of the educated middle-and-up classes because they’re just too good for that. Those who choose to kill outside and inside the heat of the moment, those who rape, those who lie, those who commit violence against their intimate partners and children (domestic violence) come from all demographics. Steve has an interesting argument, and one that I think holds water. The violence directed at others and property, in the context of the UK, is created by the inability of the hooligans to direct it at each other, i.e., the opposing clubs, who want to spar. Because the police are so efficient at preventing the violence between clubs, when it comes come out, the violence is done towards everything else. So too does the violence increase in severity, in the form of stabbings. “What made them particularly unusual was the way Steve presented them. He was rational and fluent and had given much thought to the problems he was discussing, although he had not thought about the implications of the thing – that this was socially deviant conduct of the highest order, involving injuries and maiming and the destruction of property. I don’t think he understood the implications; I don’t think he would have acknowledged them as valid.” What Buford does not here acknowledge is valid is the hooligan’s point of view. He tries to claim that their behavior is “socially deviant conduct of the highest order,” even though it’s being practiced by willing participants of some scale. As much as I am loathe to make this comparison (and argument), I think it is worth considering: The hooligans (of differing clubs) are willing participants in, what was until the police stepped up their game, a violent but not usually life-threatening activity. Everyone, except for children not reined in by their parents, is a consenting adult consenting in the activity. What other “socially deviant conduct of the highest order” was only, within the past 40 years, deemed to be acceptable between consenting adults? In Belgium, euthanasia (or suicide) is totally legal if signed off on by three doctors, even for non-terminal things, like depression or schizophrenia or dementia. While in the US, this might be socially deviant behavior but in Belgium, it’s fine. Who is Buford to say this is socially deviant behavior, especially when so much of the population is engaging in it, when the behavior is made extreme by the authorities whom he so praises and lauds? Later on, he goes on about the physicality of the football matches, as a spectator. Packed in as sardines, no seats, moving as a crowd, running to the exists once the game is over. This he calls deviant, despite the fact that it’s how an entire country’s fans behave. And not a small country, either. No, I think Buford does not know what deviant means. This theme, at the top of this section, deals with Buford and his inability to understand violence outside of the context of the lower classes. (The way he sees the world and writes, it is truly a wonder he was raised in America, and not Great Brittan, with its diffusion of class.) Steve is not the only person who consents to this violence, who is educated and from an upper-class family. There’s DJ. “(I) couldn’t get away from the starkness of the conclusion I kept reaching: that there was no cause for the violence; no ‘reason’ for it at all. If anything there were ‘unreasons’: (sic) . . . . there was economic plenty and an untroubled, even complacent faith in a free market and nationalistic politics that was proud of both its comforts and its selfishness. “I couldn’t believe that what I saw was all there was. “This was where DJ came in. In the figure of DJ, I has the fundamental contradiction at its most concentrated.” DJ had education, intelligence, awareness of the world, money, initiative, strong, supportive, rich family, Buford writes. Here, again, we see Buford’s notion that if one is intelligent, or educated, or doesn’t come from a terrible family, he will not want to engage in violence. This conceit is grounded in the wrong conception of other societal ills, like domestic violence. As written above, things like domestic violence, or violence for that matter, do not know class boundaries, do not care about education or care about family support. The same goes for drugs. Or serial killers. (Jeffery Dahmer, John Wayne Gacy, BTK Killer). Or rapists. Societal ills are not concentrated by class or education. Let me repeat that: societal ills do not differentiate based on class, gender, race or education. They hit everybody, up and down the line. Buford’s conceit is just wrong, and I think, backwards. Kettle calling the pot a fascist Buford writes a lot about the National Front, the British fascist party, aka, white supremacists. To him, they are evil. A somewhat ridiculous evil, but an evil none the less. He never acknowledges the fascist behavior of the authorities that he signs off on, or that, when he rails against it, he later feels guilty about it. I am NOT condoning the National Front, rather, I am attempting to point out Buford’s hypocrisy in holding up fascist police actions as normal and acceptable in comparison to his condemnation of the actual fascist party. The scene that sums up what is wrong with what Buford puts forward comes near the end of the middle portion of the book. He’s at the front of the crowd and there is a dog handling police officer who has his attack dog by the collar with one hand and the dog’s chain in the other. The officer is whipping the crowd (they have not committed violence yet) in the face with the chain. Buford is one of the whipped people. The indignant white privileged American in Buford comes out. After being whipped in the face, specifically the jaw, Buford yells at him, asking what the officer thinks he’s doing, hitting people minding their own business. He demands the officers badge number, so he can report him for police brutality. He does this in his American accent. The officer walks away. “I have gone too far, I remember thinking. I have let myself become one of them. Here I am, being whipped by a policeman, arguing with him being urged on by the supporters behind me – by the supporters behind me? By the one thousand supporters behind me: here I am at the front of a crowd, among the people leading it.” Good ole’ American fascism at its best: feeling guilty about standing up to police brutality. Later on, or maybe before, we learn the police in this or another instant let loose the dogs on the crowd which had not done anything yet. Here in America, a police woman who let loose her dog (ordered by her sergeant) on a homeless man who was already subdued went to jail for a few years for violating that man’s civil rights. In a perfect world, I would like to think Buford would get upset about this kind of pre-emptive treatment by police of people who have not done anything wrong. Yet. Police brutality and rioting: OK with Buford, but with you? It is fascinating to watch, or rather read, as Buford condemns the populace for standing up to unjust, fascist regimes. Take the example of his explication of a photo from a Yugoslavian protest, of a well-dressed man dragging a tank captain out of a tank, the tank being used to break up the crowd. One of many American moments of crowd violence that appeared well before the publication does not appear: Kent State Massacres, or any police riot, for that matter. This is a troubling juxtaposition, considering Buford’s veneration of the police and military forces. Back to Buford’s explication of the Yugoslavia riot photo: “I note that they are mature adults – with handsome, attractive faces; one has a stylish haircut. I note the high calculation of their act – coming up behind the hatch and pulling out an armed man. It is bold, but thought out, the risks weighed. Studying this scene on the tank, in media res, I can infer the order of events that led to it: the crowd, having surrounded the tank found itself unable to commit the next act – an unequivocally criminal one, antisocial, lawless – and then one man, the man with the mustache, scaled the tank. He was not a leader, or at least not a leader in the sense that we believe crowds to be governed by leaders.” (Emphasis added) Buford describes how the authorities will consider the mustached man as responsible. Then: “He is merely the first to cross an important boundary of behavior, a tactic boundary that, recognized by everyone there, separates one kind of conduct from another. He is prepared to commit this ‘threshold’ act – an act which, created by the crowd, would have been impossible without the crowd, even though the crowd itself is not prepared to follow: yet.” (Author’s emphasis) Buford goes on to write that there cannot be many times in one’s life when the structures of a civilized life, shelter, routine, responsibility, the sense of right and wrong, disappear into this crowd violence. Buford is, unequivocally, defending the use of the military personnel and weapons of war to quell protest by citizens in the military’s own country. Take a minute to think about, say, the Occupy Wallstreet protesters, across the country. You may not have agreed with them, but what should they do, and what should you do, had the government chosen to roll out the .50-caliber machine guns, the armored personnel carriers, the tanks and other weapons of war against the people, in this instance lawfully, protesting the actions of their government. Buford’s opining about the lawlessness of people protesting things like brutality leads to the acceptance and further violence. A perfect example, the cop who thought it was OK to use pepper spray on non-violent sitting protesters at a California public university, part of the Occupy Wallstreet protests. How would you feel to see a tank riding down your street, presumably prepared to start firing its cannon into your town, in response to protests? In Buford’s opinion, the government has not broken the social compact it has with the governed when it brings out the weapons of war to end street demonstrations. In his opinion, this is still consistent with civilization. Please think about Buford’s position here. He claims the crowd is not acting in a civilized manner, although he takes no actual position on the crowd’s rationality. I will instead write that the crowd was, contrary to Buford’s implied logic, acting in an entirely rational manner and in fact, likely, in a civilized matter. The people were responding to a military invasion with the only means available to them: their craft. Buford should be held up as a shining example of the logic of a fascist. The police are always right. Might makes right. Etc. Etc. Police riots: In 1968, police officers rioted against protesters at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. From the Federal Judicial Center’s summary of the Walker Report, following the riot. To be clear, 1968 was far from the first police riot. ”The nature of the response was unrestrained and indiscriminate police violence on many occasions, particularly at night. That violence was made all the more shocking by the fact that it was often inflicted upon persons who had broken no law, disobeyed no order, made no threat.” What this description leaves out is the simple legal and physical power difference between police and the public. Hitting or threatening to hit a cop is a much greater crime than being hit by a member of the public (battery on a peace officer vs battery) and the cop has the right to hit you. You don’t have the right to hit the cop. In federal law, the difference is so stark that just landing a glancing blow on a federal cop could mean 10 years in federal prison. It should be noted that Buford does not write, either, about things like the Watts riots. In those, just like in the Yugoslavia example, people are revolting against oppression. Consenting thugs and people revolting against oppression are two very different things and should not be conflated in a glib way. The next example of Buford’s “Let’s go fascist police!” comes at the end of the book in what is a police/military riot. Buford ends his adventures in Sardinia, where Manchester United, the most feared of all the teams, is to play the Danes, who are made out to be bloodthirsty like their ancestors but appear not to be. Long story short, the rioters get some good rioting in, followed by a counter-riot by the military/police. Specifically, it is a police riot. So, the police/military are able to regroup and rally. And when they do, they riot. Buford is at the receiving end of this violence, savagely beat in his kidneys and other organs by one officer, then two, then more. And they don’t stop. The police become the thugs that Buford so denigrates, but Buford does not think of them as thugs. “The two policeman were soon joined by a colleague . . . I concluded after examining the bruising, was not the shoulders as such; he was trying to get to the collarbone. He, too, was trying to move me around with his free hand, so he could get a clear view of his target; it was the snap-crackle-pop sound that he was after, the one the collarbone makes when it breaks in half.” Please engage with me in a thought experiment. Your friend is being beaten as described above, except this is on an American street. What would you do? They’re police, so, you run away? But, if they’re thugs, you, a law-abiding American, go for your lawfully concealed-or-unconcealed pistol and threaten to shoot, right? The police are acting like thugs, but are afforded special privileges, privileges Buford has no problems with. Another man was beat until his thighbone broke. “I thought it must be difficult to beat up someone with such force that it breaks the thighbone into several parts.” The bigger point to be made is that Buford, through his writing, helps to further the idea that this behavior by police is acceptable, and especially acceptable when the victims or their violence are “thugs,” an especially dangerous idea in 2015, when “thug” can be construed as code for a young black man. Observations of the group dynamic On a positive note, Buford does well describing the dynamics of the group situation and the dynamics of a group situation that involves boys. He describes how, were they to turn on you, they would turn on you in a pack. So too does the pack mentality govern the actions of the adults. Once someone chooses to cross a line, everyone collectively chooses to agree to step over the line, or holds back. The more fluid, or the more involved the event (or rioting) already is, the easier it is for the individual to step over that next line, and to have the group follow. Conclusion While Buford does a good job describing the violence of self-selecting crowds of consenting adults (and juveniles) to fight other crowds of self-selecting adults and juveniles, he condones police brutality and police riots. He also conflates two separate types of crowd violence: that of the self-selecting crowd and the that of the people rising up against conditions in their community. The latter group is not thugs. They are people revolting against the situation the government has placed them in. They have grievances, and the grievances has extended beyond the breaking point. Buford also seems to pretend that the educated or upper classes are someone immune from societal ills. This is patently false.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Nishanth

    The power of crowd, the Lad culture and football.The author gives his experiences of the football scene in England during the 80s. Glad the situations are much better and safer for everyone.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Eric_W

    Bill Buford, an American export to Britain, began an exploration of sports violence after he had the misfortune to take a train that was being systematically destroyed by hundreds of Liverpool soccer team supporters - the police seemingly unable to control the riot, indeed as afraid as the other passengers. There is a particularly savage image of a drunk "supporter," as Buford calls the hooligans, throwing lighted matches on the shoes of a well-to-do businessman riding in first-class, perhaps ho Bill Buford, an American export to Britain, began an exploration of sports violence after he had the misfortune to take a train that was being systematically destroyed by hundreds of Liverpool soccer team supporters - the police seemingly unable to control the riot, indeed as afraid as the other passengers. There is a particularly savage image of a drunk "supporter," as Buford calls the hooligans, throwing lighted matches on the shoes of a well-to-do businessman riding in first-class, perhaps hoping to set the man's pants on fire, the man trying to ignore the barbaric gesture. To Buford, this act became symbolic of the revolt of the unemployed and uneducated against class distinctions: sports fans "determined to break or destroy the things that were in their way." Buford's English friends were not surprised; this was normal behavior for the "lads." What did surprise them was that Buford had never been to a soccer match. So they took him. It was quite an event: spectators urinating on one another, fighting, manhandling the police, wrestling for their seats. Buford decided to investigate "them." Some of the behavior Buford attributes to the design of English football (soccer). The spectators become crowds. There are not enough seats for all; most stand to watch and are pressed together in a remarkable intimacy during the game. When they leave, the observers must exit through narrow gates and are forced to herd together in a fashion Buford could only describe as a stampede. Indeed, they are fenced in (often with chain linked fences topped with several rows of barbed wire curved ill towards the spectators) during the match in conditions much like a stockyard. Buford recalls one match: "the single toilet facility overflowing, and my feet slapping around in the urine that came pouring down the concrete steps of the terrace, the crush so great that I had to clinch my toes to keep my shoes from being pulled off, horrified by the prospect of my woolen socks soaking up this cascading pungent liquid still warm and steaming in the cold air. The conditions are appalling, but essential: it is understood that anything more civilized would diffuse the experience." Unfortunately, the type of fan that enjoys this experience is also one that the British National Front, the neo-Nazi party, believes is most responsive to its race-baiting, jingoistic, xenophobic literature and propaganda, and they do their very best to enlist cadres of football fans into groups that revel in violence and class hatred. The truly scary revelation of this book is Buford's discovery of how easily he became part of the crowd and began to act just like them. Crowds are mindless. Crowds are primitive, barbaric. childish, fickle, unpredictable, capricious, dirty. and vicious. Crowds kill. They killed Jesus and Socrates. They murdered at the Bastille, in Mississippi, and in front of the Wmter Palace. People in crowds are typically those who have "abandoned intelligence. discrimination, judgment. " They are "unable to think for themselves, are vulnerable to agitators, outside influences, infiltrators, communists, fascists, racists, nationalists, phalangists, and spies." Why have people adopted this manner of behavior? Is it biological, innate to our species, or does it result from environmental conditions, overcrowding and poverty? Buford theorizes that the English working class has essentially disappeared, that most jobs are "service" or white collar. "This bored, empty, decadent generation consists of nothing more than what it ap~s to be. It is a lad culture without mystery, so deadened that it uses violence to wake itself up. It pricks itself so that it has feeling, bums its flesh so that it has smell."

  9. 4 out of 5

    Nathaniel

    At its finer moments, “Among the Thugs” conveys a powerful and contagious desire for violence. Maybe this is easier to do than I realize—many Hollywood films fill me with bloodlust and I’ve got enough disdain for hooligans to think they deserve one another—but Buford walks a fine line. He’s keenly aware that he could write a jaw-breaking work of pure sadistic voyeurism; but he largely refrains from doing so. He dips into the mayhem enough to establish his credibility and by highlighting instance At its finer moments, “Among the Thugs” conveys a powerful and contagious desire for violence. Maybe this is easier to do than I realize—many Hollywood films fill me with bloodlust and I’ve got enough disdain for hooligans to think they deserve one another—but Buford walks a fine line. He’s keenly aware that he could write a jaw-breaking work of pure sadistic voyeurism; but he largely refrains from doing so. He dips into the mayhem enough to establish his credibility and by highlighting instances with totally innocent victims or prolonged, lopsided beatings, he ensures that his readers can’t romanticize or dismiss the violence. But, more often than not, Buford turns soberingly away from the spectacles that he spends dozens of pages deftly working up to. For instance, after a long and gripping description of two rival firms chasing one another around Fulham in an effort to find an area with no police presence that they could use to knock one another senseless, he writes, “I will not describe the violence because what I want to depict is this precise moment in its complete sensual intensity—before chronology allows the moment to evolve into its consequence.” A few paragraphs later he writes (and it really feels like he’s rubbing it in your face that he won’t tell you what happened), “Crowd violence was their drug. What was it like for me? An experience of absolute completeness.” Here is Buford’s niche: “Crowd theory tells us why . . . but crowd theory rarely tells us what: what happens when it goes off, what the terror is like, what it feels like to participate in it, to be its creator.” It’s a bold and eccentric task to set oneself as an independent journalist; but Buford seems to pull it off. “Among the Thugs” is written from a rare and imbedded perspective; it spills over with pathetic and villainous drunks and it made me unusually sympathetic to law enforcement professionals all over Europe. Because it stuck in my mind, I leave you with this sentence, “For Neil the evening represented a chance to prove himself, and, if things went wrong, then his career as a fascist would advance no further.”

  10. 5 out of 5

    Geoff Smith

    I read this after Justin from the Point Blank podcast recommended it. It's pretty good. The descriptions of the people and the violence are spot on. Also the links to nationalism and racism and right wing political groups. It gives you an insight into the underbelly of the new, media savvy, free-speech right, and where they came from. Buford though fails to find any true political conviction in the violence of the crowd, and settles on a sort of mass abnegation. It's a good book, a bit repetitive I read this after Justin from the Point Blank podcast recommended it. It's pretty good. The descriptions of the people and the violence are spot on. Also the links to nationalism and racism and right wing political groups. It gives you an insight into the underbelly of the new, media savvy, free-speech right, and where they came from. Buford though fails to find any true political conviction in the violence of the crowd, and settles on a sort of mass abnegation. It's a good book, a bit repetitive perhaps, lacking a central cast, lacking cohesion possibly. But I think that these foibles here, are all part of Buford's ultimately depressing message.

  11. 4 out of 5

    J

    As was the case with Heat, Buford is overly conversational (really never a reason to put "I must admit" in writing) and in need of a friend with a red pen. "I didn't need to be told, I was told" might be clever, but it is not reader-friendly writing. It would have been interesting to read this book in its time, since the Hillsborough disaster changed so much, and for that matter a follow up, even a brief one (in the New Yorker?) would be compelling. Still, although I know it was part of the plan As was the case with Heat, Buford is overly conversational (really never a reason to put "I must admit" in writing) and in need of a friend with a red pen. "I didn't need to be told, I was told" might be clever, but it is not reader-friendly writing. It would have been interesting to read this book in its time, since the Hillsborough disaster changed so much, and for that matter a follow up, even a brief one (in the New Yorker?) would be compelling. Still, although I know it was part of the plan to convey the chaos in the writing, I would generally have found it better to have read a story from an observer's POV, rather than a participant's. Too many times Buford told us he didn't know the outcome of something. I know that is how it is in real life, but is that how it is in nonfiction? Still, that is the approach he chose and it has its merits. Another writer might have done a different thing.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Peter Derk

    It takes something willing to go pretty far to call it one of the most intense reads I've ever had. Among The Thugs makes it in there, easy. The premise is Buford, an American living in the UK, starts following football/soccer. In the late 80's and early 90's, this was not an easy thing to do. This was a violent, crowd-ruled thing. In one short chapter, Buford talks to a police captain who can't believe that in the States, at a football game, people show up shortly before the game (as opposed to r It takes something willing to go pretty far to call it one of the most intense reads I've ever had. Among The Thugs makes it in there, easy. The premise is Buford, an American living in the UK, starts following football/soccer. In the late 80's and early 90's, this was not an easy thing to do. This was a violent, crowd-ruled thing. In one short chapter, Buford talks to a police captain who can't believe that in the States, at a football game, people show up shortly before the game (as opposed to rolling into town days before to drink and destroy), they head to assigned seats (as opposed to barb-wired, fenced-in pens), they yell and cheer for their teams (rather than doing gorilla imitations when a black person handles the ball), and then they file out to their vehicles (as opposed to crushing their way to the exit, which has resulted in injury and death more than a handful of times) and go home (as opposed to seeking out rival supporters for a good ol'fashioned beating). A stabbing at a football game would be unbelievably rare in the States, and in fact, it's a lot more likely that a player will get a concussion on the field than it is that a player will get one in the stands. A riot directed towards a hosting city would be unusual. There are not cohesive units composed of supporters that roam the streets looking for rivals to beat up, and who, if other supporters can't be found, will settle for some hapless locals. The police are not there, always, with dogs, horses, and full riot gear. This police captain had to sit back and wonder about how this worked. This book is a great example of someone writing about, and let's be honest, participating in, something awful, an unreal amount of violence, and creating something really great. The characters are not good people. The violence is so over-the-top. Buford avoids getting voyeuristic. I don't think this is a book where we're meant to revel in the violence. Buford walks this line where he can tell us about the violence, talk about the appeal, and it doesn't feel like he's trying to convince us to get involved or that it's not so bad. Buford's point is best made about halfway through the book. He adds in all these ideas about crowds, all these great thinkers and how they talked about crowds. And he tells us that all these great thinkers were thinking about crowds from the outside, applying what they saw as outsiders to something they didn't understand one bit. Among The Thugs is a great and terrible book. It's totally relevant, and as long as people engage in crowd behavior, it will remain so. It was lucky that Buford's time as a soccer hooligan matched up with some of the peaks of the violence, and also that it ended around the same time that the folks involved seem to be fading away and a lot of the violence was dying down. Every once in a while I happen into reading a book that I would call "important." I don't read a lot of "important" books because...I think when an "important" book is attractive to me, it's usually because I think it's going to agree with how I feel about shit. Reading someone who feels the same way I do can be comforting at times, but it's not the best use of reading time. And sometimes it's hard to look at a book online and tell whether a book is both a good read and "important." I've read a lot of "important" stuff that makes good points and is headed the right direction, but the writing just doesn't do it for me. This book checks the boxes. It's "important," it presents something I don't fully agree with or understand, and the writing is damn fine.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Ernie Dixon

    The most incredible thing about this book is the character studies. Mick, Harry, Roy, etc. Learning about these people lends individual characteristics to the faceless crowd that Buford finds himself slowly orbiting. These are normal, working people who seem to leave the confines of civilized behavior on a weekly basis as if they were just stepping out for air. Their alcohol-fueled ragers are both unbelievable and at the same time rendered mundane by their transition into writing. Out here in th The most incredible thing about this book is the character studies. Mick, Harry, Roy, etc. Learning about these people lends individual characteristics to the faceless crowd that Buford finds himself slowly orbiting. These are normal, working people who seem to leave the confines of civilized behavior on a weekly basis as if they were just stepping out for air. Their alcohol-fueled ragers are both unbelievable and at the same time rendered mundane by their transition into writing. Out here in the "normal" world, drinking 8 liters of wine in the morning, attending white power discos, and throwing bricks through windshields all seem outlandish. By the end of the book, however, you are also unperturbed by a night out with the lads glassing folks on the street because you have already read it 30 times. I think it gives insight into how these people also end up viewing violence as something ordinary. Buford's writing and philosophical musings are just OK, but the subject matter and the willingness he showed in placing himself in these situations are what makes this such a great read.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    I originally read Among the Thugs last year, but with a (potentially) lengthy amount of hospital time looming, I decided to return to it, just because it was such a page-turner. Thankfully the hospital visit turned out to only be out-patient surgery (and also thankfully, the surgery went as well as could be hoped). Be this as it were, I still managed to rampage through this book. As my girlfriend will testify, I spend too much time reading about soccer/football (debatable) and other sports (prob I originally read Among the Thugs last year, but with a (potentially) lengthy amount of hospital time looming, I decided to return to it, just because it was such a page-turner. Thankfully the hospital visit turned out to only be out-patient surgery (and also thankfully, the surgery went as well as could be hoped). Be this as it were, I still managed to rampage through this book. As my girlfriend will testify, I spend too much time reading about soccer/football (debatable) and other sports (probably true). This time period in English football still fascinates the hell out of me however. While others have broached the topic, Buford comes from an American perspective, which in the 1980s meant little understanding of football. Reading his account of the rampant hooliganism ever-present in Britain during the ’70s and ’80s from the perspective of an uninformed football fan allowed the author to address the issue with less prejudice. It helped me, despite my knowledge (albeit somewhat limited) of the history of English football, to broach the phenomenon of the English soccer hooligan. It is difficult to explain the cultural and societal impact of football in England to someone from the United States. The States are too spread out, its professional teams too far apart to develop the connection these clubs have with the communities they are in. At work the other day, while watching City play United in the Manchester derby, I tried to explain to a co-worker why there was so much enmity between the two teams. A history of success on the red side of the industrial city and jealousy and spite from the blue half is part of it, but it comes down to how the fans self-identity. A better example would perhaps be the rivalry between West Ham and Millwall. Both these squads were formed in the late Nineteenth Century by shipyard workers, from rival companies. As these workers competed on the football pitch, they also competed for jobs. It’s as if the Yankees and Mets, Cubs and White Sox, Dodgers and Angels intensified their rivalry already due to proximity by adding a shared history dating back to the late 1800s where they competed for jobs and contracts complete with riots, strikes and picket lines. Even if baseball clubs shared a similar history to football clubs, professional teams in the United States are still too spread out over a landmass larger than the EU compared to the island-bound UK. The late Sir Bobby Robson perhaps said it best: “What is a club in any case? Not the buildings or the directors or the people who are paid to represent it. It’s not the television contracts, get-out clauses, marketing departments or executive boxes. It’s the noise, the passion, the feeling of belonging, the pride in your city. It’s a small boy clambering up stadium steps for the very first time, gripping his father’s hand, gawping at that hallowed stretch of turf beneath him and, without being able to do a thing about it, falling in love.” The direct and strong ties between the community and its football club(s), in addition to the recession faced by the UK in the 1970s and ’80s made the hooliganism, if not an inevitability, than a very possible outcome. The strength of Buford’s chronicle of about five years inside the world of the “Firms” (the chosen nomenclature for the hooligans for respective clubs) lies in his ability to discern crowd theory and the inherent weaknesses in argument made by sociologist decades before. He disagrees with the findings of Edmund Burke, Gustave LeBon, Hippolyte Taine and Freud, arguing their vantage points on crowds was too far removed from the heart of the action. He looks at the progression of the crowd, in its various guises: “Every crowd has a threshold; all crowds are initially held in place by boundaries of some kind. There are rules that say: this much, but no more. A march has a route and a destination. A picket line is precisely itself: an arrangement of points that cannot be crossed. A political rally: there is the politician, the rally’s event, at its center. A parade, a protest, a procession: there is the police escort, the sidewalk, the street, the overwhelming fact of the surrounding property. The crowd can be here, but not here. There is form in an experience that tends towards abandon. I have described the relentless physicalness of the terraces and how the concentrate the spectator experience: that of existing so intensely in the present that it is possible for an individual, briefly, to cease being an individual, to disappear into the power of numbers - the strength of them, the emotion of belonging to them. And yet again: it is formlessness in a contrivance of form.” In this, the hooligans found their method of rebellion, their statement against the inequity of a (sometimes) working class life. By surrounding themselves with like-minded fellows, equally prepared to make a statement with force, the crowd overcomes the individual and a person who acts as pleasant as anyone in his everyday life can become a battle-hardened criminal in the midst of the crowd. This is the success of Buford’s book; he, through an exploration of hooligan-culture in the 1980s, helps find why random mobs have shaped the destiny of the world throughout the century. As a leaderless crowd becomes directed toward a common purpose, the leaderlessness of the crowd becomes unimportant because all the members of the group lose their identity. Anyone can be a leader and anyone can be a follower, a soldier. The only thing that matters is the willingness to take charge, perhaps a true meritocracy. Status does not matter in the crowd, your profession or salary falls to the wayside. All that matters, especially in the crowds Buford describes in Among the Thugs, is whether or not one is committed enough to stand for his or her beliefs when called upon.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

    The grittier version of Fever Pitch . That was on the terraces. This is in the streets around the stadium. Most of all, it's about the crowd as its own being that subsumes individuals. I just missed the worst of English football violence. But I've been among those crowds on matchday and there is something electric about them. And not always the buzzy-feel-good electric. Sometimes it's the high voltage type that could overheat. Bill Buford captures that feeling and, a little chillingly, sometimes The grittier version of Fever Pitch . That was on the terraces. This is in the streets around the stadium. Most of all, it's about the crowd as its own being that subsumes individuals. I just missed the worst of English football violence. But I've been among those crowds on matchday and there is something electric about them. And not always the buzzy-feel-good electric. Sometimes it's the high voltage type that could overheat. Bill Buford captures that feeling and, a little chillingly, sometimes makes it enticing.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Brian

    When it "goes off," this book is a breathless, astonishing thing, not merely because of the shocking violence depicted but because the author has (self-destructively? morally ambiguously?) observed it with such intimacy. Beautiful writing about the least beautiful parts of human nature, this rises to the uppermost echelon of writing on violence - and, indeed, nonfiction writ large - that I've ever read. In a thin category with (and a likely inspiration for) the excellent Maximum City by Suketu M When it "goes off," this book is a breathless, astonishing thing, not merely because of the shocking violence depicted but because the author has (self-destructively? morally ambiguously?) observed it with such intimacy. Beautiful writing about the least beautiful parts of human nature, this rises to the uppermost echelon of writing on violence - and, indeed, nonfiction writ large - that I've ever read. In a thin category with (and a likely inspiration for) the excellent Maximum City by Suketu Mehta, but even more daring.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Kate

    the entire thing reads like some future dystopian nightmare where hooligans have gained enough power to run amok and cause massive violence, but this all actually happened in the 80s. so if you wanna call yourself a futbol fan...you have to read this and square with the sport's pretty gross history.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Kyle Youngblood

    Great commentary and first hand accounts of hooligan culture in the early 90s.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Phil Rose

    Just fascinating. I had PTSD or several days afterwards.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Vince Tuss

    I wish I would have read this when I first came across it in 1994, but I am glad to have done it now. Along with the senselessness of the English lad football fan, I found a cogent analysis of the Brexit vote. Published in 1990. How little changes.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Chad Statler

    Bill Buford has done for English soccer hooligans what Hunter S. Thompson did for the Hells Angels. Buford's style is clearly gonzo. He immerses himself into the world and culture of various football firms and their supporters in England. There he observes the violence, drinking, parochialism, and nationalism of some of these supporters. One scene I thought was interesting was when Buford speaking with a police chief about football violence and the chief seemed incredulous that in the US football Bill Buford has done for English soccer hooligans what Hunter S. Thompson did for the Hells Angels. Buford's style is clearly gonzo. He immerses himself into the world and culture of various football firms and their supporters in England. There he observes the violence, drinking, parochialism, and nationalism of some of these supporters. One scene I thought was interesting was when Buford speaking with a police chief about football violence and the chief seemed incredulous that in the US football games are held regularly with little to no violence. He also seemed amazed that scores fewer police are needed to control the crowds and that (generally speaking) everybody who comes to a game has a paid ticket. The book is most interesting where he talks about the Manchester United fans, who he initially fell in with and followed around for some time. About half way through the book seems to meander and lose its way with a chapter on the white power movement and the National Front and then a more sociological chapter on crowd violence and mob theory. The National Front chapter seems like a detour and though their newspapers published reports on football violence and who has the most racist fans the chapter never seems to be successfully tied to the whole. The chapter on mob violence though serves as an analytical tool for the remaining portion of the book. Buford explores how large gatherings can turn into mobs and explode into violence. The violence that proceeded the England v. Holland game in Sardinia seems to fit his theory nicely. Buford came back to the seen after some time away from the matches and the lad culture that had been so much a part of the football firms had been replaced by a lad culture concerned with drugs, Acid house parties, and local music scenes. Perhaps this change in emphasis along with the seating design changes enacted after the Hillborough tragedy may have done as much to tamp down the violence at football matches. If Thompson needed to be jumped by Hells Angels to have the perfect ending for his book then Buford found his own way to perhaps unintentionally outdo Thompson. For anybody interested in football and hooliganism they should take some time and read this book.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Alejo

    I don't know if all of it is factually true, but it was a great reading and gives pointers for further research.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Moira Burke

    "Ira Glass recommended this biography of soccer hooligans—erm, football supporters—in England in the 1980s. Buford is an editor for Granta, and so the book reads more like a lengthy New Yorker profile, rather than A Clockwork Orange. Thus, the violence is palatable because it's sheathed in a discussion of group psychology. It's fascinating how men with decent paying jobs revel in freeloading (in fact, being \on the jib\"" while traveling to playoffs implies that the fans not only don't spend mon "Ira Glass recommended this biography of soccer hooligans—erm, football supporters—in England in the 1980s. Buford is an editor for Granta, and so the book reads more like a lengthy New Yorker profile, rather than A Clockwork Orange. Thus, the violence is palatable because it's sheathed in a discussion of group psychology. It's fascinating how men with decent paying jobs revel in freeloading (in fact, being \on the jib\"" while traveling to playoffs implies that the fans not only don't spend money but make a profit by petty theft and mugging. The acts committed by these men in the name of good-natured fan antics are atrocious, stomach clenching, and the kind of thing you hope children never learn about. Drunken, mindless murders and beatings so frequent that Manchester United actually banned its fans from games in the late eighties. Good passage:I found myself looking into a particularly ugly mouth. I can't recall how I arrived before this mouth—zigzagging across the square—but once in its presence I couldn't take my eyes off it. In it, there were many gaps, the raw rim of the gums showing where once there must have been teeth. Of the teeth still intact, many were chipped or split; none was straight: tappearedared to have grown up at odd, unconventional angles or (more likely) redirected by a powerful physical influence at some point in their career. All of them were highly colored—deep brown or caked with yellow, or, like a pea soup, mushy green and vegetable soft with decay. This was a mouth that had suffered many slings and arrows along with the occasional thrashing and several hundredweight of tobacco and Cadbury's milk chocolate. This was a mouth through which a great deal of life had passed at, it would appear, an uncompromising speed."""

  24. 5 out of 5

    Shannon Windham

    In the book department, this has been a pretty great year. I have not read that many books but the ones that I did get from cover to cover were all really exceptional books (with the exception of one). This however, is not that exception. Among the Thugs will be a book that wont let me forget it. It kept be gasping for air page by page from the alley chases and bar brawls, laughing out loud from the brilliantly timed interjections of humor, and shrieking to avoid reading another word of its grot In the book department, this has been a pretty great year. I have not read that many books but the ones that I did get from cover to cover were all really exceptional books (with the exception of one). This however, is not that exception. Among the Thugs will be a book that wont let me forget it. It kept be gasping for air page by page from the alley chases and bar brawls, laughing out loud from the brilliantly timed interjections of humor, and shrieking to avoid reading another word of its grotesque reality. If ever a book could haunt me, this would be the one. a book based on the aspect of emotion derived purely by a cultural enigma. Its not about Football or "English" Hooligans but about a society striving to stubbornly survive its barbaric history and prideful traditions; to feel alive by any cost in life; its desperate need to be heard; and the terrifically scary transition of ego to power of the congregation. When I finished the last word of the last page, I had a strong desire to start from page one and read it all over again, but mentally I am not sure I would be prepared for it, knowing what is contained within each chapter.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Margaret

    Surprise! I really loved this book. Bill Buford, the (American-born) editor of Granta, is a clearly a great bloke. Willing to mix it up, get loathed and rat-arsed, with thugs and hooligans to find out more about the psychology of crowd violence. And how interesting is that? It isn't individual sadism, but group-think gone off. He writes beautifully. His observations are funny, witty, scary, and I think accurate. Soccer thugs apparently like England, The Queen, violence, the Falkland Islands, Mar Surprise! I really loved this book. Bill Buford, the (American-born) editor of Granta, is a clearly a great bloke. Willing to mix it up, get loathed and rat-arsed, with thugs and hooligans to find out more about the psychology of crowd violence. And how interesting is that? It isn't individual sadism, but group-think gone off. He writes beautifully. His observations are funny, witty, scary, and I think accurate. Soccer thugs apparently like England, The Queen, violence, the Falkland Islands, Margaret Thatcher, violence, lager in two-liter bottles, sausages, violence, and being abroad. Dislikes? The rest of the world. And to think I went to a FA cup final in 1980, just at the height of the violent era - was spat on, peed on, squashed and excoriated. And survived. How can this be touching? Read his description of watching the police video of the Hillsdale disaster. Read this book. You'll be gripped, and amazed.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Alvin

    An absolutely stunning work of reportage. Buford immerses himself in the scary, stupid, and bewildering world of soccer hooligans - a task that involves attending a National Front (ie. fascist) disco, consuming vast quantities of greasy pub food with warm lager, and rioting. The vividly drawn characters are dysfunctional and often despicable, but Buford is a fair witness, finding things to like about them as well as detest. He's a witty and sharp writer, keeps the investigation moving, and only An absolutely stunning work of reportage. Buford immerses himself in the scary, stupid, and bewildering world of soccer hooligans - a task that involves attending a National Front (ie. fascist) disco, consuming vast quantities of greasy pub food with warm lager, and rioting. The vividly drawn characters are dysfunctional and often despicable, but Buford is a fair witness, finding things to like about them as well as detest. He's a witty and sharp writer, keeps the investigation moving, and only occasionally indulges in the inevitable musings of the obsessive (why am I spending nearly a decade of my life around these people?). There's a stellar analysis of crowd dynamics and the disconcerting conclusion that soccer hooligans are addicts of a sort and that crowd violence is simply their drug of choice. As to why this particular addiction is so widespread, he makes no conjectures, which is perhaps the book's only failing. Overall, though, this is an amazing, amazing work.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Colleen

    Just in time for the World Cup. I always wondered what drove these guys to go crazy and trash the cities they went to soccer games in. Buford, an American, meets up with a few of them in bars near the stadiums. He's in Manchester, the most unruly of the fan clubs live there. He's actually a sociologist who doesn't understand British sports. Americans just go to football games and drink beer and cheer. These guys like to beat each other up. He explores why and what they do. Most of them have dece Just in time for the World Cup. I always wondered what drove these guys to go crazy and trash the cities they went to soccer games in. Buford, an American, meets up with a few of them in bars near the stadiums. He's in Manchester, the most unruly of the fan clubs live there. He's actually a sociologist who doesn't understand British sports. Americans just go to football games and drink beer and cheer. These guys like to beat each other up. He explores why and what they do. Most of them have decent blue collar jobs and do all their drinking and fighting on the weekend. Buford is the imbedded journalist reporting on when the crowd turns dangerous and how it's organized (it's not an accident when the fighting starts). Very revealing. A must for watching the World Cup. And you wonder why there are all those fences around the stadiums.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Peter Knox

    Loved the gonzo style immersion journalism into the holy world of soccer hooliganism. Really well written and funny. What Hunter S. Thompson did for 1960s motorcycle gangs, Bill Buford here does for 1980s English soccer fan culture and it's well worth reading if that interests you as it did me. A New Yorker writer, Buford is the straight man to the crazy brutal violent world around him and he tells how he got sucked in only to emerge lucky to keep his life. Lots of wonderful story telling around Loved the gonzo style immersion journalism into the holy world of soccer hooliganism. Really well written and funny. What Hunter S. Thompson did for 1960s motorcycle gangs, Bill Buford here does for 1980s English soccer fan culture and it's well worth reading if that interests you as it did me. A New Yorker writer, Buford is the straight man to the crazy brutal violent world around him and he tells how he got sucked in only to emerge lucky to keep his life. Lots of wonderful story telling around the many matches he attended and fans he tries to understand and sociology he theorizes about throughout. I got to know and experience this world, firsthand, through Buford's words and suggest you do the same.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Amie

    Only Bill Buford could take subject matter so disturbing and write about it in a way that is both sensitive and compelling. Considering I have virtually no knowledge or interest in sports in general and football (soccer) in particular and am generally squeamish about violence, the fact I found this book such a great read is impressive. Buford offers up several theories for why these "hooligans" who are by and large normal law abiding citizens by day commit unspeakable acts of violence in the nam Only Bill Buford could take subject matter so disturbing and write about it in a way that is both sensitive and compelling. Considering I have virtually no knowledge or interest in sports in general and football (soccer) in particular and am generally squeamish about violence, the fact I found this book such a great read is impressive. Buford offers up several theories for why these "hooligans" who are by and large normal law abiding citizens by day commit unspeakable acts of violence in the name of supporting their team, but no real conclusions are drawn. That in itself is even more disturbing. I loved this book and while I found portions of it difficult to read, I found myself needing to talk about it with anyone who would listen.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Thebookmistress

    The book is very well written and fascinating in parts. It suffers because it is really two books, an up-close and personal account of soccer hooliganism and an examination of crowds and crowd violence. The two rarely mesh into one narrative. The book also suffers because, after years of spending time with the hooligans, Buford has gotten sick and tired of them, understandably. But since he's no longer interested in the topic, it's hard for the readers to stay involved. The book is definitely wo The book is very well written and fascinating in parts. It suffers because it is really two books, an up-close and personal account of soccer hooliganism and an examination of crowds and crowd violence. The two rarely mesh into one narrative. The book also suffers because, after years of spending time with the hooligans, Buford has gotten sick and tired of them, understandably. But since he's no longer interested in the topic, it's hard for the readers to stay involved. The book is definitely worth reading. And I appreciated some excellent turns of phrase in there. I'm just disappointed it didn't live up to its potential.

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