NFL veteran and sportscaster Wiley holds forth on the world.
You might not guess it by looking at him, but the author was bullied as a kid. The opening episode of his memoir finds him in South Central Los Angeles in 1982, when he was 7, dealing with a rough moment over a game of tetherball—less innocent than it sounds, perhaps, given the fierce war between Crips and Bloods and the general fear of the place and time. He discovered a favored coping mechanism early on: “I’d turn on my heel and run like hell. Lucky for me, I was fast as shit, even at a really young age, so it almost always worked.” It didn’t always work, of course, but he went on to earn a scholarship to Columbia University, where a kid who was living not long before on food stamps (“almost shelter-level poor”) was suddenly a star on campus and taking a greater part in shaping his own fate. “The more time I spent among the scholarly wolves,” he writes meaningfully, “the more I learned how not to be a sheep.” When he joined the Buffalo Bills, Wiley learned more, especially how to manage the money and celebrity that came with being a tough defensive end on a marquee team. A few years of playing and a few teams later, and the author was better-known and wealthier still, but he was also realizing that he didn’t enjoy hitting and getting hit as much as he used to—and that the fistfuls of painkillers he was taking weren’t doing much good. “It was like the car engine was dead,” he writes, “I couldn’t even gun the engine, you know?” His wife-to-be helped him clean out his medicine cabinet and his life, he writes, even as he wrestled with the damage wrought by his years on the gridiron (“Pedialyte will always be my best friend”).
An effective sports memoir, inspiring, good-natured, and sometimes rueful.