Author Bryan Mealer is used to covering hardships. His books include All Things Must Fight Life, a report on war in the Democratic Republic of Congo and The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, his story on famine in Malawi co-authored by Malawian inventor William Kamkwamba. In his latest endeavor, Mealer studied poverty not in a foreign nation, but rather in South Florida. Mealer's Muck City: Winning and Losing in Football's Forgotten Town follows the 2010 season of the national powerhouse Glades Central Raiders, as they battle for a state championship. The high school, located in Belle Glade, Fla., has sent about 30 players to the NFL, including Santonio Holmes and Fred Taylor. Despite the athletic success, Belle Glade is also among the most impoverished, crime-filled and academically underachieving cities in the nation. Mealer uses football as a guide to tell the story of one of the United States' most misunderstood cities.
ThePostGame: How did the idea to cover the Glades Central football team originate?
BRYAN MEALER: I heard about them just reading about football. After Santonio Holmes made that game winning catch in the Super Bowl, they were talking about where he's from. In ESPN the Magazine, they did this story about these guys chasing rabbits. That's the most famous story in Belle Glade. Belle Glade is situated right in the sugar cane fields in the Everglades. Each year, even to this day, before they harvest that sugar cane, the farmers light the fields on fire. It burns out undergrowth and chases out gators and wild pigs and rabbits–thousands and thousands of rabbits. These kids who've lived in Belle Glade and Pahokee and these small towns, for generations, they wait in the cane breaks and when the farmers light these fires, it pushes the rabbits out. When they hit those cane breaks, the guys chase them down and kill them. The legend is, that's what makes them so fast. I heard that story and it was just fascinating.