Books by Garry Niver

Released: June 30, 1992

A detailed and thoughtful look inside the great San Francisco 49ers teams of the 80's, by their premier running back. Craig would have us believe that his career has been ``strictly business,'' but there's more here than that. What comes through most strongly is the remarkable distance between offensive and defensive psychology in today's football. Where defensive back Ronnie Lott (Total Impact, 1991) admittedly takes professional pleasure in causing pain, Craig—writing with the help of Niver of the San Mateo, California, Times—conveys a kind of Zen patience. That he will routinely suffer pain is understood (his description of being speared in the neck after a play, complete with loss of memory, is gritty and brutal), but he doesn't dwell on it. Overshadowing his personal reality is a clear comprehension of a greater machinery without which he has no chance of success. Craig senses the 49ers as a closely woven entity; he knows that he is dependent on the total functioning of the team. Though linchpin of a ground game, Craig accepts being overshadowed by photogenic quarterback Joe Montana and his various receivers. It doesn't bother him that he isn't quite the toast of the town—as a cornerstone of the 49er dynasty, he experiences a fulfillment few athletes ever know, one that comes through in this kind of elegy for a magic decade. Craig's hard-nosed analysis of his talented young backup, Terence Flagler, is telling; Flagler doesn't ``get it'' and ultimately fails in his career. Released by the Niners after a crucial dropped ball, Craig goes to the Oakland Raiders (for whom he still plays), but he harbors no grudges. The seasons, the plays, the ups and downs are all here, but what makes this book live is Craig's sense of brotherhood with his team: It's a good antidote to me-first jock literature. (Eight pages of b&w photographs—not seen.) Read full book review >