One-Minute Book Reviews

October 22, 2013

Ex-Bronco Nate Jackson’s Football Memoir ‘Slow Getting Up’

Filed under: Memoirs,Nonfiction,Sports — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 1:28 pm
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An iconoclast recalls the physical and mental bruises he sustained in the NFL

Slow Getting Up: A Story of NFL Survival From the Bottom of the Pile. By Nate Jackson. Harper, 243 pp., $26.99.

By Janice Harayda

Nate Jackson recalls his injury-prone years in the NFL in a book that proves that a professional football player can use “contextualize” and “neophytic” in a sentence. He has not written his league’s answer to Andre Agassi’s Open, perhaps the best sports memoir of the past decade.

But unlike better-known players such as Brett Favre, Jackson has a sense of humor — by turns droll, self-mocking and sarcastic — that doesn’t spare his teams, the 49ers and the Broncos. He refers to every stadium as [Insert Corporate Logo Here] Field and notes that the NFL has required its drug-testers to watch players urinate, not just collect cups,  ever since a member of one of its rosters was caught at an airport with a prosthetic penis called the Whizzinator.

As entertaining as some of this is, you wonder why Jackson felt the need to explain things such as that a lot of masturbation goes on in the hotel rooms of football players traveling without their wives or girlfriends. Did he think no one would have suspected it?

Best line: No. 1:  “So much of offensive football is lying with your body, getting the defender to think you are going somewhere you aren’t. Tell a story with your movements: a bloody lie!” No. 2:  Jackson says he lost some of his idealism when the Broncos replaced quarterback Jake Plummer, whose success had made him believe “there was room for an iconoclast in the cloistered institution of big football,” with the rookie Jay Cutler: “But the good/bad thing about football is that it moves too quickly for your conscientious objections to keep pace. It pulls you along by sheer force.”

Worst line: No. 1: “But I’m not a pregame self-gratifier.” (Accompanied by a report on players who are.) No. 2: “If the wedge comes free to me and the R2, and all the other guys get blocked, then the R2 and I must eat up the wedge and spill the returner outside into the arms of the R1.”

About the author: Nate Jackson spent more than six seasons in the NFL, mostly as a tight end. He played for the San Francisco 49ers in 2002 and for the Denver Broncos from 2003–2008. Ann Killon interviewed him about Slow Getting Up for a San Francisco Chronicle article in which he discusses his brief use of Human Growth Hormone at the end of his career.

Published: September 2013

Jan is a novelist and award-winning critic and journalist who spent 11 years as the book editor of the Plain Dealer in Cleveland. You can follow @janiceharayda on Twitter by clicking on the “Follow” button at right.

© 2013 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

www.janiceharayda.com

January 30, 2009

‘There Is No Way to Measure the Destructive Effect of Sports Broadcasting on Ordinary American English’ (Quote of the Day / Edwin Newman)

Filed under: Quotes of the Day — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 1:36 am
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Part of the fun of watching the Super Bowl lies in the theater-of-the-absurd quality of so much the commentary. How often will we hear today that a team down by 21 points has to “move the football downfield” and “put some points on the board”? At least as often as we hear during the World Series that a team behind by five runs has to “put some wood on the ball” and “score some runs.”

When former athletes arrived, so did, "They came to play football."

It wasn’t always so, the former NBC newscaster Edwin Newman says in Strictly Speaking: Will America Be the Death of English? (Warner, 1975):

“There is no way to measure the destructive effect of sports broadcasting on ordinary American English, but it must be considerable. In the early days sports broadcasting was done, with occasional exceptions such as Clem McCarthy, by non-experts, announcers. Their knowledge of the sports they described varied, but their English was generally of a high order. If they could not tell you much about the inside of the game they were covering, at any rate what they did tell you you could understand.

“Then came the experts, which is to say the former athletes. They could tell you a great deal about the inside, but — again with some exceptions — not in a comprehensible way. They knew the terms the athletes themselves used, and for a while that added color to the broadcasts. But the inside terms were few, and the nonathlete announcers allowed themselves to be hemmed in by them – ‘He got good wood on that on,’ ‘He got the big jump,’ ‘He really challenged him on that one,’ ‘They’re high on him,’ ‘They came to play,’ ‘He’s really got the good hands,’ and ‘That has to be,’ as in ‘That has to be the best game Oakland has ever played.’

“The effect is deadening, on the enjoyment to be had from watching sports on television or reading about them, and, since sports make up so large a part of American life and do so much to set its tone, on the language we see and hear around us.”

© 2009 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.
www.janiceharayda.com

June 22, 2008

Mark Bowden Remembers ‘The Best Game Ever’ and the Birth of Sudden-Death Overtime in National Football League Championship Play

Filed under: Nonfiction,Sports — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 12:30 am
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To judge by the Amazon ratings for Black Hawk Down – a total of 672 reviews, not one less than four stars – I’m among the few who thought that Mark Bowden’s account of the bungled 1993 American military raid in Somalia was overrated. So although I’m in no rush to read Bowden’s new book about the first National Football League championship game decided in sudden-death overtime, I’d like to mention the most authoritative review of it that I’ve seen so far.

Jonathan Yardley wrote of The Best Game Ever: Giants vs. Colts, 1958, and the Birth of the Modern NFL (Atlantic Monthly, 279 pp., $23) in the Washington Post:

“It’s considerably more than a play-by-play account, though Bowden does manage to build up a surprising amount of suspense. Both pro football and the United States were very different half a century ago, and Bowden understands that this game caught both the league and the nation at a moment of deep and lasting change. … Early in his career Bowden covered professional football for the Philadelphia Inquirer, an experience that serves him well here. His explanations of shifts in the teams’ offensive and defensive strategies are lucid, and he knows enough about the extreme physical and mental demands the game exacts to convey a strong sense of the players’ exhaustion and determination as the game ground toward its conclusion. He isn’t entirely immune to journalistic cliché and at times overwrites, but generally his prose is competent and clear.”

Yardley also says that while Bowden respects the 1958 Giants, “this is a Colt fan’s book.” To read his full review, click here before the Post packs it off an archive:
www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/story/2008/06/06/ST2008060602105.html. A slide show of the game that accompanies the review. The Atlantic Monthy Press site www.groveatlantic.com has additional information.

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.
www.janiceharayda.com

February 6, 2008

A Super Bowl Moment We’re Glad We Didn’t See on Sunday

Filed under: Memoirs — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 1:35 am
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Marv Albert has covered Super Bowls for NBC and Westwood One radio in a broadcasting career that has spanned four decades. He recalls some of the singular moments from those and other games in his memoir I’d Love to but I Have a Game: 27 Years Without a Life (Doubleday, 1990).

One such moment occurred when Richard Dent of the Chicago Bears received a new car from Sport magazine after he was named the most valuable player of Super Bowl XX. Albert handed him the keys, and the defensive end stepped up to the microphone and said, “I just want to thank the Sporting News for this brand-new car.”

“Other than that,” Albert writes, “it went perfectly.”

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

www.janiceharayda.com

November 28, 2007

2007 A-to-Z Holiday Gift List Coming Soon – Here Are Three of My Favorite Books From the 2006 List That You Can Still Find Easily

COMING SOON …

… the second annual One-Minute Book Reviews A-to-Z Holiday Gift List with books for everyone from an attorney to a Zen Buddhist. A few of my favorites from last year’s list:

What to give to …

A FOOTBALL FAN After a decade out of print, Jerry Kramer’s Instant Replay: The Green Bay Diary of Jerry Kramer (Doubleday, $21.95) returned last year in an edition with a foreword by Jonathan Yardley, the Pulitzer Prize–winning book critic. Give this one to football fans young enough to have missed it when it first came out in 1968 (and maybe also to baby boomers who’ve always regretted giving that first edition to Goodwill). Kramer, a former All-Pro Green Bay guard, wrote this modern classic with the late Dick Schaap, one of the best sportswriters of the 20th century. www.jerrykramer.com

A JANEITE Devout Jane Austen fans call themselves “Janeites.” But you don’t have to fall into that group to enjoy Josephine Ross’s Jane Austen’s Guide to Good Manners: Compliments, Charades & Horrible Blunders (Bloomsbury, $14.95), with charming watercolor illustrations by Henrietta Webb. Ross doesn’t try to extrapolate a set of 21st-century rules from the behavior of Elizabeth Bennet and others. Instead she offers a literary companion, masquerading as a Regency-era etiquette book, that explains the complex codes of behavior followed by Austen’s characters. www.bloomsburyusa.com

A KINDERGARTENER Mother Goose characters write letters to each other in Allan and Janet Ahlberg’s The Jolly Postman: Or Other People’s Letters (Little, Brown, $19.99, ages 4-8), which has a real letter tucked into in an envelope on every other page. This British import has been delighting children for two decades and has come out in a 20th anniversary edition. The books in “Jolly Postman” series are great gifts partly because children often can’t get them at libraries, which have trouble keeping them on shelves — the letters keep disappearing from their pockets. www.allanahlberg.com. A sequel, The Jolly Christmas Postman (Little,Brown, $17.99, ages 4-8), is shown at right.

Many other books on last year’s list still make good gifts. Click here to read the full list www.oneminutebookreviews.wordpress.com/2006/12/01/.

(c) 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

www.janiceharayda.com

October 21, 2007

Max McGee on Vince Lombardi (Quote of the Day)

Filed under: Quotes of the Day — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 5:38 pm
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Max McGee, the former Green Bay Packers receiver who died yesterday, remembers Vince Lombardi in Lombardi and Me: Players, Coaches, and Colleagues Talk About the Man and the Myth (Triumph, $14.95) by Paul Horning with Billy Reed:

“Vince wanted to embarrass you in front of all your teammates. He did me, because he knew that hurt me worse than anything …

“But Vince was about as smart as anybody who ever put on a coaching hat. One time before a big game, he told us that if anybody was caught sneaking out before the game it would cost him $5,000. And he looked at me and said, ‘McGee, let me tell you something — if you find somebody worth $5,000, let me me know — I want to go with you.’ That broke the tension. He could get you so wired before a game you almost couldn’t play …

“I announced that I was retiring after the first Super Bowl, and Vince came to me and said, ‘Maxie, I want you to come back next year. If a we get a young guy that we’re going to keep, I’ll keep you on as a coach.’ So the reason I came back is that I was going to be there one way or the other, either as a player or a coach.”

Lombardi and Me, reviewed on Nov. 28 www.oneminutebookreviews.wordpress.com/2006/11/28/, was published in 2006 and has just been released in paperback www.triumphbooks.com.

(c) 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

www.janiceharayda.com

February 4, 2007

A Football Book That Deserves a Super Bowl Ring

Filed under: Memoirs,Sports — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 1:26 am
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The return of one of the great sports books of all time

How can you keep the thrill of pro football alive after the Super Bowl ends? Read the new edition of Instant Reply: The Green Bay Diary of Jerry Kramer (Doubleday, 2006), by Jerry Kramer with Dick Schaap, with a foreword by Jonathan Yardley. This unsurpassed account of the Packers’ 1967 season takes you inside the locker-room and onto the playing field with Coach Vince Lombardi and such titans of the sport as Bart Starr and Ray Nitschke. Kramer gives his take on the book at www.jerrykramer.com, his Web site. A great Valentine’s Day gift for a football fan, this modern classic proves that Frank Gifford was wrong when he said — we may hope, in jest — that “there’s no place in sports for intelligence.”

(c) 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

November 28, 2006

Paul Hornung and Friends Remember Vince Lombardi

As if we didn’t know it, players and others tell us that he believed in winning

Lombardi and Me: Players, Coaches and Colleagues Talk About the Man and the Myth. By Paul Hornung with Billy Reed. Triumph, 161 pp., $24.95.

This book tells you little about Vince Lombardi that hasn’t been said – and said better – elsewhere. This, of course, is like saying that a book tells you little about Jesus that hasn’t been said better in the Gospels. As the journalist Dave Maraniss reminds us in his contribution to Lombardi and Me, Lombardi was the rare coach who transcended his time and sport.

“During his nine-year tenure with the Green Bay Packers (1959–1967), he did more than build and maintain one of the most colorful and efficient dynasties in the history of the National Football League,” former sports editor Billy Reed writes in the preface. “He became a folk hero, a cultural icon, a symbol of excellence and discipline and all those qualities that define greatness.”

What made him tick? Paul Hornung, the legendary halfback and onetime playboy who was suspended for a season for betting on games, tries to pin it down in this slim collection of interviews with former teammates and others. He has assembled an all-star cast, including such players as Bart Starr, Sam Huff, Jerry Kramer, Sonny Jurgensen, Willie Davis, and Max McGee.

But the men’s comments are often contradictory. Lombardi believed in treating players humanely but refused to let them drink water during practice, even in 90-degree heat, on the premise that dehydration was a sign of “being out of shape.” He believed winning but, while coaching the Washington Redskins, chewed out Jurgensen for throwing a first-and-goal touchdown pass from the four-yard line when the team was behind. “You’ve got to get everyone on the team involved in scoring a touchdown,” he said. “We want the line to be happy. We want the backs to be happy … You can [throw for a touchdown] on the third down, but don’t ever do it on first down again. We want everybody to be involved, not just you and the receiver.” This is interesting but begs the question: Which was more important — winning or keeping the defense happy?

So Lombardi and Me has limited value for anyone seeking a definitive analysis of the man behind mystique. It will no doubt appeal to some hard-core Packers fans and school and other coaches. But its oversized font — at least 16-point, by my guess — may be the biggest draw. Packers fans and school coaches aside, this book may have appeal most to people old enough to remember watching Lombardi lead his team to victory in Super Bowls I and II on a rabbit-eared television set. That large font is as easy on aging eyes as a game-winning Hail Mary pass with three seconds on the clock.

Best line: A quote from Jurgensen: “The coaches today want to choreograph everything. They call plays and don’t give the quarterback an opportunity to think through games the way we did. They’re mechanics now. They’re made it a coaches’ game instead of a players’ game. That’s too bad. A quarterback in the huddle has a better feel for the game than a coach on the sidelines.”

Worst line: Paul Hornung on Frank Gifford, whom Lombardi coached at the Giants: “I used to kid him about being Mr. Kathy Lee Gifford.” You’re a card, Paul.

Recommended if … you’re the sort of Packers fan who would schedule your own wedding around Green Bay games.

Published: September 2006.

Consider reading instead: Instant Replay: The Green Bay Diary of Jerry Kramer (Doubleday, 2006), by Jerry Kramer and Dick Schaap, just reissued after a decade out of print in an edition with a foreword by Jonathan Yardley. The revelations in Kramer’s classic diary of the Packers’ 1967 season may seem tame in the age of the Balco steroids scandal. But Instant Replay is the real thing, a trailblazer among inside-the-locker-room chronicles and still one of the best books ever written about professional football.

Posted by Janice Harayda

© 2006 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

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