Saturday, May 21, 2011

Book 38: Next Man Up

The Next Man Up by John Feinstein is one of those great indepth looks into football. It was a nostalgic book for me and I highly enjoyed that even though it wasn’t a team that I follow at the obsessive level I follow the Philadelphia Eagles and the rest of the NFC East teams.

So the cover of the book is both ingenious and very deceptive all at the same time. The cover of the book neglects to mention this book is about the Baltimore Ravens. It just says it’s a behind the scene looks at a football team during one season. I thought great. So that totally pulled me in. By not naming a team, he also was able to pull in the football fan rather then the biased fan.

Now the first thought of the book after realizing this book was about the Ravens was about my dad. He would have mocked me for reading about the Ravens and quickly follow that up with a request to borrow the book when I’m done. He would have mocked the topic since it’s the Ravens and he was a Browns fan. But more then that, he was a football fan. He did something I haven’t seen many other parents raise their kids, he raised us on football with a slight Browns bias but he wanted his girls to like the sport and pick their own team when they were ready (which is why his daughters are Steelers and Eagles fans). He would have loved the inside look at a team regardless of which team it was but with it being a team he knew pretty well, he would have enjoyed. He knew the Ravens for two reasons: 1 Know thy enemy and 2 he lived in Baltimore for years and would go to several games a year.

The book provided a good look at a team. How it dealt with loses, players attitudes, injuries and etc. There are some things that I felt like I knew already. The Philadelphia Media is relentless and some of the things weren’t evolutionary.

But it was fun to see the Baltimore side to the TO debacle of the trade/free agency sign with Philadelphia. I knew all the facts and the whole problem. But you didn’t get to see Newson’s or Billick’s response up in Philly. We were just happy to have Terrell Owens for that season. That love was short lived on both sides.

But one of the things I really liked was seeing a different side to Ray Lewis. I didn’t realize he was so spiritual. I always see him as the play maker, the it guy on the field, and the guy who was involved in a murder investigation/lied to the police. So to see that other side to him. Plus I thought it was great how he helped to bring in Deion Sanders.

Plus the look at the team was great. This was a team that was riding so high with great hopes for a SuperBowl and you saw how at the end of the season. Problems happened, as did injuries and loses. So they ended up mathematically eliminated. No one know that would be the outcome to the season when Feinstein decided to profile this team. He just knew they were a local team (DC based), they had high hopes and were media friendly.

I laughed so hard with Matt Stover’s one reaction to a fight that happened. He said that the use of the term Motherfucker was used by Brown in that situation was used more then once and probably less than a hundred times. Now for so many athletes and their fans, that could explain the use of swearing during a game. But it was a laughable to see that range in print.

You could tell that Feinstein’s time at the Washington Post had led to a Redskins bias. So there was extra focus on the Skin’s moves, the issues by Synder with personnel. There were times when there was a focus on the Eagles too but it was more this is a team to beat. But that was in part due to the TO thing and well the Eagles were a dominate NFC team and they were matched up that year (2004). But I was susprised there was less focus on the Steelers and the Colts. I would have thought they would have more chapter focuses but editing didn’t’ turn out that way. You could tell things were cut since well it’s a long season and highlighting some weeks still lead to a 500 page plus book.

All in all I recommend this book for any football fan. I already told my one friend who is a Raven’s fan that he had to add this book to his reading list. It’s just a good book.

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