An insightful memoir of an unlikely NFL career.
Jackson is likely a much better athlete than nearly all of his readers, but in the National Football League, he was just average—and he knows as much. Every season, he fought simply to make the team, which he did. The author successfully navigated the nearly unimaginable leap from a tiny Division III college to a six-year career as a wide receiver and tight end with the San Francisco 49ers and Denver Broncos, with ill-fated training-camp experiences before and after his tenure in the Rockies and a season playing for NFL Europe in Germany. Jackson has an original voice, honed as a writer for a number of newspapers, magazines and websites, perhaps most frequently with Deadspin. The author is wry and smart and has a love-hate relationship with the sport that gave him so much but also took a great deal from him. Jackson’s career was peppered with injuries: muscles torn from the bone, dislocations and sprains and the concomitant shots, pills and therapy sessions that would allow him to go back to the field. Jackson’s greatest strength is his self-awareness. Every time one of his stories seems to be veering toward stereotypical athlete bluster, he takes an ironic swerve, usually making himself the butt of his own acerbic wit. That wit also manifests itself in a cynical approach to a host of issues ranging from tired sports-as-war metaphors to stadium naming rights. Ultimately, the injuries and the toll of the incredibly violent game got the best of him. Readers are the beneficiaries.
Jackson was never a household name, but his memoir is better than any ghostwritten self-homage from a superstar.