The Stone Thrower
By Jael Ealey Richardson
Thomas Allen Publishers
256 pp; $24.95
The American football quarterback, Chuck Ealey led his University of Toledo Rockets to three undefeated seasons in college football, but he had misfortune to do so at a time when the National Football League looked askance at black quarterbacks. Because the NFL would not draft him, Ealey — like African-American quarterbacks Bernie Custis before him, and Warren Moon after — came to play for the Canadian Football League in 1972. It was Ealey’s best season: he led the Hamilton Tiger-Cats to a Grey Cup victory and was the game’s Most Valuable Player.
Ealey’s daughter, Jael Ealey Richardson, never got to see her father play football because she was born in 1980 — two years after her father sustained a lung injury and retired from the sport. In her memoir The Stone Thrower: A Daughter’s Lessons, a Father’s Life, Ealey Richardson could have taken the easy route by writing a praiseworthy tract meant to set her father up as a role model and hero. Ealey, the exquarterback, does come across as a devoted family man with a depth of vision and discipline that carried him far beyond the stadium lights. However, his daughter’s memoir is engaging because she situates his life in the context of the civil rights movement in the United States, and addresses issues of race in her own family as well as in homes, on the streets and in schools and campuses in the U.S. and Canada.
Ultimately, The Stone Thrower is as much a meditation on a daughter’s emerging sense of identity in Canada as it is a father-daughter memoir. The two threads are inextricably linked, one enriching the other.