I was pretty happy to receive a review copy of the above book for review. If there are two things you should know about me, I love football and I love reading. So this was the perfect match.
The book promised to expose the under-belly of the corporate manipulative NFL with takes on racism, homophobia, domestic abuse, alcohol problems and drug use. Unfortunately for me, it fell flat on its face.
"Racism does exist in the NFL. We just handle it better than everyone else in the country, that's all."
The author is a 4 year offensive lineman in the NFL, a career back-up with a serious hatred towards the NFL. He reveals such things as some coaches are too arrogant to change their game-plan when its going wrong. That starters get preferential treatment over backups. That starters don't really care about the pre-season. That some players hold racist beliefs and homophobic feelings. That teams sign players who have just been released by their next opponent to gain information and an advantage.
"That's why I always laugh whenever people act so outraged about the Patriots and whatever their latest "scandal" is. The Pats are no different than anyone else in the League. They worship winning so much they'll do anything for it.. The only mistake they make is that they get caught."
After reading this book, it would be hard not to consider him a bitter foul-mouthed insecure individual who has no direction. It's obvious to me that he has a superiority complex, he pretends or actually deludes himself into believing he is better than the rest, but all along he's really just a bitter man on the outside looking in, with a strong desire to join the club that he taunts so much.
"To a lot of fans, we're not human beings, we're commodities, entertainment. Their own private gladiators.
They send us hate mail, they troll us on Twitter, sometimes they even applaud when a player from an opposing team gets injured. They feel entitled to it, just because they buy a ticket to a game or watch us play on TV. And the NFL doesn't do anything to stop that mentalityâif anything, they encourage it."
In truth, this book reveals very little. The reason for the pseudonym is based on his disdain for the starters, who he openly calls out at several points in the book. He challenges the reader to discover his identity (which can be traced back to his superiority complex) and although I think I have, it doesn't give the story any more edge. It promised so much, but delivered so little.
The story unravels from being a backup to being an emergency starter. Just as a note, his bitterness seems to regress as soon as he becomes a starter, or as soon as he really matters. At first he doesn't care about winning, and then at the end he needs to get into the game, to make a difference, dreaming of personal glory, and in that simple transformation, the story loses its way.
"There's a reason the League I work for is so popular, so powerful. It's an expert at manipulating people. Players, fans, coaches, even me."
He doesn't hate the NFL as he exclaims. He hates that he went from being in a top college program to a back-up in the NFL, that he is no longer "needed" or at points "wanted". He doesn't like that one of the coaches doesn't know his name when he arrives at camp for the first time, or that the owner waited until he had a good game to come and congratulate him. He's a mouthy, brash and uncoachable player who does more damage to his own career than anyone.
He talks about the brash star receiver who got dropped because he asked for too much money. The vet who wanted to spend more time with his kids and the special teams unit that goofs off more than any other. He touches on the NFL's effort to give each team sensitivity training and how it failed.
"It's no secret there's a ton of homophobia in this business. I mean, you've got a sport full of southern conservative hillbillies, black dudes who devour rap culture and players from both races who call themselves born-again Christians. Then you pay all these guys a shitload of cash to act like hyper-masculine warriors, all while wearing tights and showering together. Are we surprised there's some sexual insecurity?"
If you love football, you'll still enjoy this book. However with the author so intent on protecting his identity, you have to believe that some of the incidents are a figment of his imagination. If all the stories were true, his teammates would be able to point him out in a heartbeat, and I can't imagine he wants that after spending 250+ pages criticizing them.
Unfortunately a lot of the "explosive inside stories" are not explosive at all. It's a tame attempt to reveal the manipulation of the NFL, where in fact it just reveals the insecurity of the author. Fans aren't stupid, we know some players drink, some players do drugs. We know that the starters don't care about the pre-season and there is bound to be incidents of racism and homophobia in the locker room. We know that teams use players to get information on their next opponent and that a 2nd or 3rd stringer can lose his job at the drop of a hat. We also know that for those risks, players get compensated to an extent that most of us can only dream about.
Pick this book up if you need a straight-forward read about the life of a career back-up in the NFL. Give it a miss if you really want "explosive inside stories".
"So next time you're watching your favorite team and you can't figure out why the fuck your coach isn't making a blatantly obvious change to his game plan that any idiot could see, there's a good chance it's not because he's stupid. He's just too damn arrogant."
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Johnny Anonymous is a four-year offensive lineman for the NFL. Under another pseudonym, he’s also a contributor for the comedy powerhouse Funny or Die.
ABOUT THE BOOK NFL CONFIDENTIAL: True Confessions from The Gutter of Football
Hardcover ISBN: 9780062422415/ Price: $26.99
Ebook ISBN: 9780062422422/ Price: $13.99