A self-congratulatory commercial for the NFL and the NFL Network disguised as an insider examination of America’s most popular sport.
Best known as a former ESPN SportsCenter stalwart, Eisen has been the face of the NFL Network since it launched in 2003. The first channel to focus on a single sport 24/7/365, the Network isn’t included in your typical basic cable package, thus it’s not included in your typical football fan’s life. This wouldn’t matter if it were an inherently interesting entity or if Eisen were more of an investigative reporter. But here he comes off as another wide-eyed fan. Only Eisen, for example, would tag as “classic” a meandering blab-fest featuring the CBS studio crew of Jim Nantz, Deion Sanders and Dan Marino. It’s one of many direct transcriptions of TV interviews that fail to translate to the page. The book’s best section is a collection of reprinted emails that Eisen received from players answering the question, “Do you have a ritual or superstition before every game?” Indianapolis Colts receiver Reggie Wayne waxes poetic about his unshakeable desire for pregame soup, while Cleveland Browns defensive back Gary Baxter craves Lay’s potato chips. If Eisen had followed this route throughout and focused more on the players as people—and less on the Network and mind-numbing NFL minutia—he might have had something special. As it’s presented, though, the book is a self-indulgent, mildly informative trip through the bowels of the NFL and cable television.
Who’d have thought it was possible to make professional football boring?