Posted: Thursday July 6, 2006 12:04PM; Updated: Thursday July 6, 2006 8:22PM
Yes, I liked Paper Lion too, but then Plimpton started doing all those Paper Lion spinoffs and he lost me. Let's talk about football fiction, what little there is of it. Two books stand out, End Zone by Don DeLillo, which really isn't a football book, per se, but a metaphor for something deeper and darker, and Saturday's Hero by Millard Lampbell. The latter has some whiskers on it. I read it when I was just about to enter college. Then I saw the movie, and I'll bet there aren't more than eight or nine people in northern New Jersey who can identify the supporting cast ... Mercer Barnes, Al Baldock, Wilbur Robertson, Battleship Bill Martin, the Pucci Brothers, Mario DaRe (whose brother, Aldo Ray, became a star from that film) and so forth. How I know dis? They were all members of the USC Trojans of 1949-50, whom we played against, and no, a young DB named Slick Gifford was not in the film. Oh oh, my ship is straying way out to sea.
Do you want my recommendation for favorite sports fiction of all time, even though it's not football? You don't? Sorry, you're gonna get it anyway. It's The Professional, a fight novel by W.C. Heinz. Strange that he could write such a tough, hard-bitten book as that and then achieve fame with such a fawning piece of puff as Vince Lombardi, Run to Daylight.
Thanks for your kind words, which are much appreciated. I don't like the Eagles' offense and I get the feeling they're on a downer right now.
To John W. of Red Bank, N.J.:When you've just come through with an observation that's right on the money, thus putting you in line for our E-mailer of the Week award, you're required to supply a last name, so I can give you full recognition. He's our award winner for expressing succinctly what I've merely been musing about: "Is it just me or does it seem like the Giants are amassing a roster full of prima donnas and head cases?" He cites TE Jeremy Shockey, WR Plaxico Burress and now LB LaVar Arrington. Yes, absolutely. Me-first guys. Brooders. All terrific athletes and coaches' nightmares. Can you win with a collection like that? I guess so. The Raiders did once upon a time, but John Madden was a unique coach who didn't much care what anybody did off the field. Once you start playing the old discipline game, though, and "My way or the highway," and people look around the locker room and see a collection of, well, prima donnas, the equation tends to break down.
In answer to your question, John, lots of players have been run off one team and onto success with another. Sometimes it's just a matter of maturing.
Mike of Casselberry, Fla., draws a parallel between the Colts and the Falcons and Oilers run-'n'-shoot teams that lost in the playoffs. Nope, I don't see it. Indy is a one-back team that uses two tight ends. It never goes four-wide in true run-'n'-shoot style.
From Steve of NYC: After my lukewarm initial feeling about Eli Manning, do I now feel that he could become an elite QB? There's something missing. He's capable of making great throws. He can rally the team around him. Maybe it's consistency I feel is missing, but he's still very young. I don't know. I'm probably being unfair, but I get the feeling that he'll always have trouble playing up to a certain level and maintaining it.
A tough one from Mohammed from the Bronx. Will Marv Levy make a good GM up in Buffalo? What was my biggest knock on him as a head coach? Last one first. My biggest knock was that he had trouble, at times, keeping everyone pulling in the same direction. Remember the Bickering Bills? As far as the GM prediction, I'll know more a month from now, after I've visited their training camp and had a chance to sit down with him. Being an old fart myself, I hate to say that Marv's age worries me. But how can you ignore it?