A Player's Eye View of the N.F.L.
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 What goes into the ``X's'' and ``O's''--the art and the science--of football? That's the subject of King's workmanlike exploration of the intellectual and emotional makeup of those who play and coach the game. Through interviews with, and off-the-field observation of, quarterback Boomer Esiason, Dallas coach Jimmy Johnson, Buffalo defensive end Bruce Smith, Detroit running back Barry Sanders, and others, King (The Season After, 1989) presents an interesting--and not always flattering--psychological profile of the pro footballer. Esiason claims that brazen self-confidence and lust for power are necessary to the quarterback, player of the ``hardest position in American sports.'' Being the ``field general'' means being able to ``read'' a defense, to know where everyone is on the field (regardless of where they're supposed to be), and to make a rational decision--all in 1.5 seconds. It is, Esiason says, like trying to learn Chinese ``with people running at you trying to knock your ass off.'' Smith, the NFL's premier pass-rusher, states that ``pass-rushing is an art. It's also a car accident.'' King analyzes Smith's prowess on the field and finds speed, reflexes, intelligence, instinct, experience, and sheer aggression at play. Meanwhile, Sanders is ``the best runner in the game,'' with his pass-catching and blocking ability making him one of the great ``multidimensional backs'' to play the sport. King attributes the development and necessity of multitalented backs to rule changes that opened up the passing game. Moving on to coaching, King contends that Johnson, who climbed into the Cowboys' saddle in 1989, is obsessive and domineering--traits perhaps required to maintain control over muscular, egotistical, well-paid athletes. When a backup player goes down with a serious injury, Johnson merely shrugs: ``Is feeling sorry for [him] gonna help us win? No. And remember something: My whole life revolves around us winning.'' A bit uneven, but fun for those who love the game.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-671-74704-5
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 1993


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