“Raiders Night” by Robert Lipsyte

06 Feb


For older teens (due to the themes and language here), "Raiders Night" is a great book about the underside of high school athletics. Matt Rydek is the senior co-captain of the Nearmont High Raiders football team. He's also a member of the "Back Pack," a group of football players who lift weights and shoot steroids at a local gym. The story begins at the very end of the summer, just as the Raiders are about to leave for a five-day mini camp.

Matt is, quite frankly, a mess. He's the team's star player — in fact, one of the best in the area — but his entire life has become about football. Matt's dad is a former player and current caterer who pays for his son's steroids, pesters him constantly, harasses officials, obsessively compiles lists of scouts and colleges, and generally puts a world of pressure on the teen. Matt is cheating on one girlfriend and ignoring another. He pops the painkiller Vicodin like it's candy, hides a flask in his duffle bag, and occasionally walks (and drives) in a complete stupor. While he's clearly falling apart carrying the weight of his teammates', community's, and father's expectations, Matt is actually a pretty good kid. He's just often too overwhelmed to challenge those around him.

During "Raiders Pride Night" at the preseason mini camp, Matt's co-captain, the loud, abusive, and completely underhanded Ramp, takes a freshman hazing prank way too far. Chris, the transfer student who is the victim of the prank, goes from being a flashy, confident player to a shell of himself; he misses practices, stays home from school, and avoids his teammates. Matt soon realizes that the team's coaches, boosters, and even some of the parents know about the hazing, but all choose to ignore it so the team can continue to thrive. Matt is faced with a choice: betray his teammates and reveal the truth, or keep quiet and watch a young man self-destruct.

As I said in the opening, this is a gripping book about the negative effects of all the hoopla surrounding high school sports. There is tons of sports action here, both in the Raider practices and games, that football fans will surely love. Matt is also a very real teenager, a believable combination of "big man on campus" and decent guy. Author Lipsyte weaves many issues throughout the story (drug and alcohol abuse, casual sex, parental demands, sexual abuse, etc.), but none of them overwhelm the story. This is ultimately a compelling story about one teenage athlete's attempt to do the right thing. "Raiders Night" is strongly recommended for high school age readers.


Posted by on February 6, 2007 in Uncategorized


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8 responses to ““Raiders Night” by Robert Lipsyte

  1. Anonymous

    March 26, 2007 at 8:55 pm

    Probably the best sports book i have ever read. Keeps you on your toes trying to guess what bad thing will happen to Matt Rydek. Confusing at times because of all the slang and bad language but you can figure out from the context what they’re talking about. Overall a great book.

    • mel1317

      March 30, 2007 at 7:56 pm

      That’s great praise, saying it’s the best sports book you’ve ever read. I really liked how the reader could get right inside Matt’s mind and see just how conflicted he was. Definitely a great book.

      I haven’t read these, but we’ve recently purchased two other football-themed books that you might want to try — Knights of the Hill Country and Crackback.

      Thanks for your comment!

  2. Anonymous

    October 24, 2007 at 5:38 pm

    read this book!!!

    cool book i read it all

    • mel1317

      October 30, 2007 at 4:27 pm

      Re: read this book!!!

      Ok, it’s not exactly the same type of sport, but it is the same author. Does that count? Oh, you’re wondering what I’m talking about? Only that Robert Lipsyte, author of the fantastic “Raiders Night,” has a new book out on NASCAR racing. It’s called “Yellow Flag,” and it’s been getting good reviews. It might be worth a look. Thanks for the comment!

  3. Anonymous

    November 30, 2008 at 11:18 pm

    This book was very interesting and I did not want to put it down. I think young athletes can relate to some of the same pressures and it lets them know that it is very common.

  4. Anonymous

    December 22, 2009 at 7:26 pm

    Read the Book!!!

    This has to be one of my favorite books! I enjoyed every second of it. It is very close to real life, and the slang words that were used, were perfect. An the story kept you guessing which is what i loved. One of the best sports books of all time!!!

    • mel1317

      January 8, 2010 at 9:04 pm

      Re: Read the Book!!!

      I totally forgot about reading this book — in my defense, it was a few years ago. But as soon as I read your comment and looked back over my review, I remembered just how much I loved it. I agree, it felt very real to me as well. Thanks for sharing your opinion. I hope there are lots of other great sports books waiting out there for you, too!

  5. mel1317

    January 4, 2012 at 9:39 pm

    Lol! Thanks for sharing your view. Sometimes a less than satisfying ending can ruin a whole book. I feel your pain. 🙂


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