The lowdown on how NFL teams obtain college players; by Whittingham, a novelist (State Street, 1991) and sportswriter (Saturday Afternoon, 1985, etc.). Meat—talented meat—has always been the indispensable athletic ingredient, and, Whittingham explains, each graduating college class is that year's prime source, via the draft. As the author follows the Chicago Bears through their draft, he clearly and accurately describes its elements—the scouts and scouting combines, the computerized evaluation of players, the role of intuition, the strategies that evolve, and the security precautions that resemble the protection of major industrial or military secrets. Whittingham also catches the wheel-and-deal mood of coaches and managers as they trade ``picks,'' try to read opponents' minds, and play computerized ``mock-draft'' war games based on what other teams are expected to do. Finally, the team must sign the player, and while, Whittingham says, this is very much a business, it's one in which the tone is set by the high testosterone levels, sometimes augmented, of participants on and off the field. Unpredictability is a constant, and when Notre Dame's #1 choice, Raguib ``Rocket'' Ismail, dodged the draft and shot off to Canada for $18 million last year, his move was not so unprecedented—holdouts are common, and a draft pick might decide not to turn pro at all. (Or a player might decide to play both football and baseball, as Bo Jackson did.) The vignettes are memorable: William ``Refrigerator'' Perry eating six chickens at a sitting and cutting a deal with McDonald's for each day's leftover hamburgers, or George Halas scooping Red Grange out of his undergraduate Illinois uniform for the Bears back in the 20's. Definitive work for couch-potato grid fans but—as it grinds through the endless details of the 1991 draft—too much of a good thing.
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