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Next Man Up: A Year Behind The Lines In Today's NFL (2006)

Next Man Up: A Year Behind the Lines in Today's NFL (2006)
3.9 of 5 Votes: 3
0316013285 (ISBN13: 9780316013284)
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Next Man Up: A Year Behind The Lines ...
Next Man Up: A Year Behind The Lines In Today's NFL (2006)

About book: Had this book been just a chronologically ordered account of an NFL season with enough additional detail to fill in the blank spots - which it is -- I would have called it very good. But unfortunately, it is rife with pettiness and minor factual and grammatical mistakes, enough so that, just when you're really starting to enjoy the read, it all comes crashing down.For example, take these offenses, from Chapter 16 alone:-- Feinstein first says "The arrival of the Monday Night football crew in town was greeted with slightly less enthusiasm than the Beatles' arrival in New York in 1964," which clearly implies a significant reception. A few sentences later, he states, "the arrival of the MNF crew in town is greeted with more of a whimper than a bang." Pick one, please.-- Feinstein credits announcer Al Michaels with "massive ego" and says Michaels "didn't even show up for ABC's pregame [stet:] production meeting." We learn, a few sentences later, that Michaels wasn't physically there; he was participating by phone."Didn't even show up" implies Michaels had no involvement in the meeting, which clearly he did; Feinstein doesn't explain further, so for all we know, Michaels was sitting by someone's death bed, or may simply have had an important family engagement to attend. Again, this may seem like picking nits, but the point is, the accusations he levels on Michaels are petty (especially since Michaels doesn't get a chance to defend himself), and Feinstein himself admits his statements about Michaels aren't true.-- Feinstein takes some cracks at then-FCC Chairman Michael Powell, "a job he clearly had been given on pure merit, having nothing to do with the fact that his father was secretary of state." Later in the book, Feistein has no problem with nepotism when new offensive coordinator Jim Fassel's son is hired as a defensive coaching assistant by the Ravens.-- Feinstein complains about ABC's requests to find Powell a luxury box. He states that Powell refused in-stadium tickets as "Powell did not want to sit among the great unwashed in the stands." A couple sentences later, he notes that press box tickets were turned down, as well, because "Powell had Secret Service protection and at least one agent had to be with him."If the press box couldn't be made secure to the Secret Service's liking, how likely is it the stands could be made so? And how is that Powell's fault? Additionally, it's not unlikely that politicians and VIPs have visited a Ravens home game before, what with Washington, D.C. less than an hour away. Why doesn't Feinstein question how the Ravens could be so disorganized as to have no leeway to entertain dignitaries, especially when they are hosting Monday Night Football?-- Even after badmouthing Powell because of his actions following the "wardrobe malfunction" of Super Bowl XXXVIII, which hardly rises to the level of criminality, Feinstein has no problem noting, without comment, that Jamal Lewis, who was guilty of intentionally facilitating a cocaine deal between an undercover agent and some of his friends, was going to plea bargain that matter. He also notes that plea bargain would happen only after the team and the NFL brokered a two-game suspension following a clandestine, "we-never-met" meeting -- which Feinstein describes without passing judgment.There are other examples I could point to -- elsewhere, Feinstein says Ravens quarterback Kyle Boller was named NFC player of the week, but the Ravens are in the AFC (actually, given the way Boller played in his 2004 stint [70.9 QB rating:], maybe the NFC thought he played for them, or maybe they were just thanking him for being the worst quarterback in the rival conference); Feinstein repeats often the fantasy that Ray Lewis did not plea bargain his obstruction of justice charge (Lewis just suddenly decided to cooperate fully with police, after initially lying to them, Feinstein would have us believe), and so forth.Which is symptomatic of the entire book: It takes a decidedly pro-Ravens stand. No one -- coaches, players, office or support people -- is criticized in any manner. Any statement or action that might be considered in any negative light is immediately conditioned or explained.Considering the venom Feinstein has for everyone else, it's surprising (or is it?) that he does not make judgments of any sort about the Ravens' personnel or actions.

I should have read this last year when I was first trying to like football. Feinstein does a good job of impressing upon the reader what a phenomenon football is and selling the first. Unfortunately he can't sustain the excitement over a whole season's worth of events. I don't think this is a fault of the author but rather a limitation of the "cover one year of NFL games" format - as a person who documented a season's worth of NFL games I can tell you that it is difficult to keep it interesting! Feinstein is a talented sportswriter, no doubt, but the story quickly becomes formulaic:* The Ravens play a game* The players recover from the win/loss and the coach discusses strategy with them* A few of the team members mentioned in passing will have an in-depth examination of their backstory* An insider issue comes up and is also examined* The Ravens play a gameI enjoyed learning some NFL history and seeing a glimpse of what goes on behind the scenes, but the monotony wore on me. A shorter version that covered only four games would have been ideal but that seems like a really awkward format. What is the best way to write about football?
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Sportswriter Feinstein gets permission to follow the Baltimore Ravens for a season with access to all parts of the franchise. The book is about the 2005 season older than I realized when I bought it. Still there is a lot of information about the waiver wire, how contracts are negotiated and all the egos and attitudes that comprise a pro football team. The centre of the focus is coach Brian Billick who comes off as bright and personable which makes me wonder why we don't see more evidence of these now that he's a tv commentator. Like all embedded reporting there is inevitable bias here. Feinstein plumps rather too easily for the Ravens view of the legal trouble two of their stars, Jamal Lewis and Ray Lewis, were in. A pretty consuming read overall.
2 1/2 stars. Pretty entertaining and readable if you are into football. I enjoyed how he spent the entire year with the team and shared all the highs and lows of the Baltimore Ravens disappointing 2004 season. There were many times I felt like the book could have been shorter and tighter and more enjoyable if Feinstein would have gotten off that soapbox he likes to climb up on. There were a few moments in the book that felt like they were added just so that Feinstein could take the opportunity to tell the reader what he really thinks about a person. Al Michaels, Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder (who he really dislikes), Bill Parcells and many others are all given a good bit of razzing before the book is completed and it really didn't seem necessary. Could have saved 100 pages.
The book covers the 2005 season so its a little dated but the names are very familiar. I didn't particularly like Feinstein's writing. There are definitely better authors covering sports but he does a decent job. The access he had for the book allowed him to write about relationships between coaches, players and the front office that I had not read about previously. This was a good post season read and I think it would also be good any time for hard core football fans. I can't see it appealing at all to non-fans though.
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