A crime novel from longtime former Newark Star-Ledger sportswriter Klein (the paperback Blindside) that’s, at best, a split decision. Big scrappy New York football-star-to-be Ed Buck, signed to the Chicago Bears, gets permanently sidelined when his knee is ruined in a game against the Green Bay Packers. He turns to sportswriting for New York dailies but maintains a close friendship with Bears star quarterback Adam Benson. Years later, on the eve of a game against the Giants, Benson knocks back a few vodkas and tells Buck that he’s been losing games because he and his sexpot wife Sherri have been receiving death threats from a mysterious mobster. After Buck promises to keep the news to himself, Benson vows to beat the Giants the next day. And so he does, playing so cleverly that even Giants fans cheer, until he’s tackled in a pile-up and leaves the field on a stretcher. After the Bears win, the team’s doctor announces that Benson has died of a heart attack. Buck, of course, is skeptical. He takes a leave from his job and gets fiancÇe Leigh and NYPD Lieutenant Joe Keegan to help him investigate. Before the trio can start to gather clues, Klein introduces the fat, sneering sports-fixer Billy DeSalvo and his mobster henchman Rico Scalzi. Not only did DeSalvo order Benson’s death, he was Sherri’s de facto pimp before he manipulated her into marrying the ballplayer. Sherri, a cocaine addict, dreams of being a movie star but decides to confess her many, many sins to Buck and company after learning that Keegan wants an autopsy on her late husband. Sherri’s betrayal angers mob underboss Anthony Assante and boss of bosses Arthur McDonald, an 86-year-old Italian pretending to be Irish, who start a blackmail and killing spree to cover their tracks. Some embarrassingly trite Godfather-ly fumbles but enough insider stuff about the shadier side of pro football to score even so.