An NFL Official's Life in the Trenches
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Interesting perspectives on Lions, Panthers, Rams, Colts, and other pro football creatures from the zebra’s view. Brown’s halting climb toward NFL officialdom is told by Eisenstock (a journalist who has written for the Los Angeles Times Magazine and Referee). The book follows a spectacularly bad year for officials, but at least the infamous Lions-Steelers coin-toss gaffe is explained as Jerome Bettis first softly saying “Heads,” then yelling “Tails.” Brown’s story only confirms how easy it is to ruin a drive, game, or season on a bad call, given the speed, brutality, and emotions (profanity included) of football’s linebacker wars in the “meat grinder.” In one pass play, when “Rocket” Ismail is “using the umpire as a pick,” the six-foot-five, 250-pound Brown “lowers his shoulder and levels him.” No blind, fat, stereotypic nerd in stripes, Brown gives notice that the meat grinder is his house. He contends with the fury of players, coaches, and media pundits and many attempts to curry favor with the inner fan that he must suppress. Half the narrative is Brown’s rocky way up from a Texas ghetto to college, the pros, and officiating Pop Warner. This rule enforcer began as a rule breaker, tossed from one of his three colleges for beating up a bigot. (Racism is justifiably a major theme here.) Brown had just brief stints with the pros; his better NFL encounters have been as an umpire. The book ends with a lame roundtable of men in black and white. In bounds, although nothing to dance the “Dirty Bird” to. The fan discovers the many tedious duties of NFL officials, who are not “just dropped off at the stadium each week and handed a striped shirt.”

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-312-24658-7
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 2000


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