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PAPER TIGER by Ted A. Kluck

PAPER TIGER

One Athlete’s Journey to the Underbelly of Pro Football

By Ted A. Kluck

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2007
ISBN: 978-1-59921-043-8
Publisher: Lyons Press

Sportswriter Kluck (Facing Tyson, 2006) offers a superficial chronicle of his experiences in pro football’s minor leagues.

After a two-year semi-pro career that ended with a broken collarbone in 2001, the author decided at the advanced age of 30 to attempt one last hurrah by signing on with a minor league team: the Battle Creek Crunch of the Great Lakes Indoor Football League. Unfortunately, Kluck proves less interested in the hidden facets of professional football’s lower rungs than in the sport’s more mundane aspects. He describes in detail boring bus rides to the games, violent collisions on the field and hours of pure athleticism in the weight room, which he finds tremendously rewarding. He never refers to disagreements or conflicts among players, never suggests that any of his teammates might use performance-enhancing drugs, rarely gives any glimpse into the nonprofessional lives of his teammates. An opportunity for drama arises when Battle Creek Crunch owner Mike Powell abandons his financial responsibilities and allows the league to take over his team. The author arranges a meeting with Powell, who lied to his players, refused to pay their salaries and even stopped paying into their insurance plan. Yet Kluck refrains from any kind of confrontation, meekly listening as Powell provides excuses for his conduct and never asking the hard questions readers expect from a journalist—or a disgruntled employee, for that matter. Knowing they will probably never be paid, the players slog on and make it to the playoffs despite a losing record. But their willingness to continue seems to reflect apathy more than competitive fire.

Readers hoping for a revealing insider’s account in the vein of George Plimpton’s Paper Lion will be disappointed.