Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Book Review: Next Man Up

Little Brown & Company
October 2005
487 pages

Bill Simmons harped on this book for being boring and repetitive. I disagree. Some stuff is repeated ad naseum, and the book feels hurried at the end, but all in all Next Man Up is a solid read. I wouldn't call it boring so much as normal. The book isn't exciting, but I don't think it should have to be. If the goal is to show you the day-to-day activities of a NFL team through sixteen weeks, then you should be expecting the routine. That is exactly what you get here. The Ravens aren't exactly the most exciting choice of a team to cover, but they have enough characters (Ray Lewis, Deion Sanders, Brian Billick, Orlando Brown) and have had enough controversy (Ray Lewis and Jamal Lewis' criminal cases, the Terrell Owens fiasco) to keep the book interesting. Furthermore, the NFL is very unhelpful when it comes to allowing the media to see things it doesn't want the public to see (ESPN's Playmakers comes to mind), and the Ravens were the only team willing to give Feinstein full access.

My only regret was that there wasn't enough trash talk about T.O. throughout the book. I thought there would be more, especially after Feinstein covers this incident:

What I learned about the NFL from John Feinstein:

• Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder is an a$$hole.
• The NFL controls exactly how many commercials are run every quarter.
• Many NFL quarterbacks were also kickers in high-school.
• Ray and Jamal Lewis were much less guilty than I thought.
• It is a miracle that Baltimore even won 9 games in 2004, considering the injuries they had.
• Joey Porter has always been crazy.
• Jonathan Ogden is cheap.
• Deion Sanders is a very intelligent football player.
• Each NFL team has a coach whose job it is to make sure that players are kept backed away from the sidelines during a game, as well as ensuring that they meet the uniform requirements of the NFL.
• The NFL has on-staff personal at every game to ensure that players are meeting the insane uniform requirements.
• Ravens defensive coordinator Mike Nolan decided, after he got the head coaching job with the 49ers in 2005, that he wanted to wear a suit for every game, in honour of his father (former NFL coach Dick Nolan). The NFL would not allow him to do so, because a suit would not have an NFL logo on it. I did not make this up.

This, apparently, is no longer allowed

This, however, is greatly encouraged

Would I recommend buying this book? Not in hardcover, unless you are a Ravens nut. Wait for the paperback, or take it out from the library like I did. It provides good insight into the life of the NFL, but it won't be a book you pick up and read over and over again.


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