Self-serving career retrospective from one of the NFL’s all-time leading rushers and all-around nice guys.
Bettis’s life is a checklist of quintessential sports fairy-tale elements: dangerous childhood in a poor Detroit neighborhood; drug deals and bad influences; hardworking, supportive parents who instilled values; scholarship to prestigious university (Notre Dame); illustrious and potentially hall-of-fame career in the NFL; storybook ending after winning the Super Bowl in his last game—in his hometown of Detroit, no less. It’s beyond question that “the Bus,” an immensely popular player as a result of his talent, charm and tireless philanthropy, has a tale to tell. Too often, however, what could have been an enlightening, inspiring look inside professional football by an intelligent man who overcame overwhelming obstacles becomes a rote recitation of game statistics accented by a discordant measure of braggadocio. Bettis chronicles nearly every good game he ever played and offers justifications for some of the bad ones, ranging from the numerous painful injuries he suffered throughout his career to a lack of talented teammates. ESPN writer Wojciechowski (Cubs Nation: 162 Games, 162 Stories, 1 Addiction, 2005, etc.) valiantly tries to inject some life into each chapter via descriptive introductions and interviews with friends, and the duo does manage to provide some genuinely touching moments, particularly when highlighting the unswerving loyalty the Bus inspired in teammates like Hines Ward and Ben Roethlisberger. The book works best when Bettis discusses his relationships with his family and other players or riffs on random topics ranging from his love of bowling to his condemnation of Notre Dame for its relatively quick firing of black head coach Tyrone Willingham. When it loses itself in the congratulatory minutiae of its subject’s accomplishments, however, readers are likely to start heading for the exits.
A must-read for fans, but fails to capture the true essence of Bettis’s charisma.