A veteran football player seeks to overcome the odds and lead his team to a championship.
In his first novel for adults, Bentley (No More Hiccups!, 1995, etc.) takes readers through a season with the Buffalo Blizzard, a pro football team down on its luck. The protagonist, Jack Driftwood, a 17-year veteran linebacker, hopes to end his career in glory by propelling the team to the Mega Bowl. Play-by-play accounts of regular and postseason games alternate with chapters delving into Driftwood’s personal and business affairs. He meets Gerry Wainscott, gorgeous daughter of the team’s elderly owner, Gerald Wainscott III, and becomes her lover. But the Blizzard’s general manager, Donald Fegel, desires her too, and hates Driftwood anyway. Scheming to kick this “renegade linebacker” off the team, Fegel bribes a male nurse, aka the Pissman, to doctor results of a random urine test. Enraged at the skullduggery, Driftwood attacks Fegel but is subdued by security guards and sent to a mental hospital for observation. But it turns out Fegel has been skimming money from the construction funds for the Blizzard’s new stadium and an adjoining Native American casino. Driftwood’s wacky friends, including an overweight Buffalo cop, a Seneca tribe member, a restaurant owner from Mexico, and a few shady local underworld types, unite, seeking to expose Fegel, do in his associates, and break Driftwood out of the hospital. Bentley, a former NFL player, shows an insider’s knowledge and love of the game, and gives vivid descriptions of brutal play on and off the field and the quirky, foulmouthed characters in Driftwood’s life. The dialogue is sharp and the wit often acute, but Bentley makes some rookie mistakes. Spell-check hasn’t fixed all his missteps with spelling and word use, such as “teaming” for “teeming.” And the clichés come fast and furious, but seldom with the sharpness that’s needed: “She smoked like a chimney, cussed like a sailor, and drank like a fish but was as healthy as a horse.” Despite all of its humor and big doses of testosterone, violence, and physical and emotional pain, the tale can occasionally become strangely mawkish, as in a Gipper-esque appearance in the locker room by the Blizzard’s sickly owner.
Although not Super Bowl material, this novel is nevertheless a winner: a fun, breezy read that even lukewarm football fans might cheer.