SARASOTA, Fla. - The Sarasota County Library system has chosen "Muck City" by Bryan Mealer, as the 2014 "One Book - One Community".
During February, high schools, colleges, community groups, and reading circles will read the book. And there will be discussions through out the month at the 9 branches of the Sarasota Library.
"Muck City" is about Belle Glade, Florida. Only two and a half hours from Sarasota, but one of the worst poverty-stricken areas in the country. It's called "Muck City" because it's still covered by the muck that was once used to grow Sugar Cane.
As the Sugar Cane industry became industrialized, and stopped using human labor, the unemployment rate in Belle Glade rose to 40%. And the Sheriff says at least 40% of the males over 18 there have felony records. Some migrant families survive by catching rain water.
But in the midst of this extreme poverty, Belle Glade has turned out more NFL players than any football program in the country. 30 since 1985. There were 5 players from Belle Glade in the 2013 Superbowl.
Bryan Mealer says the secret is desperation. Playing football is the main pastime in Belle Glade. There's no movie theater, no mall, no video arcade. And there's no other way out of the terrible living conditions.
The players are known for their speed, and many of those who aren't good enough to play in the NFL still get college scholarships.
In his book, Mealer describes how the extremely successful program began. The coach couldn't start football practice in the late fall because all his players were migrant workers, working in fields in the north. So he had an idea.
One year he signed all his players up to work for the same pickle field in Pennsylvania. He went along, and held football conditioning and training between the rows in the pickle fields before work and after work. The players, young and full of energy, loved it. And they came back home and won a championship.
You can buy "Muck City" at local book stores, or check it out at the library. It can also be checked out on e books at the library.