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- Publié sur Amazon.com
This is the first Feinstein book I've read, although I have heard a lot about his past books. I am also a fairly knowledgeable football fan (not particularly a Raven fan, though), and in a large part because of that, I found this book to be shallow, superficial and trivial. For someone that is not a fan of the most heavily covered sport in the world Feinstein's tedious tome may be readable and illuminating. But I found this book to contain very little that a knowledgeable fan wouldn't know about, or couldn't find from other sources.
In any sucessful work of non-fiction, the author needs to distill the essence of real life people into the pages of a book. Feinstein does this by providing endless and monotonous, thumbnail biographies of all the characters that he runs into in his year with the Ravens. "So and so grew up in the Deep South/Inner City/Midwest/So-Cali, his father was a firefighter/Coast Guardsmen/Test Pilot, and from the time he could tie his shoes he wanted to play football." There are literaly endless pages of this drivel. A football team consists of 53 players on the active roster, which is down from 85 or so in pre-season training camps, the coaching, scouting and training staffs combined are 30 to 40 people and it seems like Feinstein has a 2 page mini-biography on each and every one of these people. After awhile you cringe when Feinstein's monlogue shifts to a player he hasn't said much about previously, because you just know he's going to roll into another little biography filled with trivial details about what the player's parents did, how many siblings he had, when he started playing football, what his SAT scores were, what he did in high school, where he went to college, how he got into the NFL, and on and on and on.
There is very little in this book in the way of technical details. Things like how game plans are developed, how adjustments are made during the game, how practices are structured, and the intense preparation during the week for upcoming games. Feinstein, to his credit did focus a fair amount of effort, on how personnel decisions are made. But this is one of the most compelling issues on any football team, and Feinstein's coverage of it just left me wanting more, it just wasn't detailed enough. For example, the Ravens lose their punter for three games in the middle of the season, they bring in 10 players for a mid-season tryout. Feinstein launches into a 2 page biography of the guy that wins the tryout, but doesn't talk about any of the others, what the tryout was like, how the decision was made to pick the one guy, what the details of his contract were, what issues he had trying to fit in with the rest of the team. But thanks to Feinstein, I now know what the guy's parents did, where he went to college and which NFL team first signed him and how many teams he's been cut from. Also at the end of the season no effort is made by the Ravens to re-sign some of their best defensive players, notably Ed Hartwell and Gary Baxter, yet they re-negotiated Chris McAllister's contract during the season, why? We don't know, I get the impression Feinstein probably doesn't either.
The title of the book, Next Man Up, refers to the injury rate in the NFL which is extreme, virtually everyone gets hurt. But Feinstein goes in to very little detail about how teams and the players deal with it. The Ravens Pro-Bowl Left Offensive Tackle, Jonathon Ogden, gets hurt and has to be replaced for several games. Feinstein mentions this, but there was so much more he could have done. How did Ogden get hurt? What did he have to do to heal? How did the other members of the offensive line deal with his absence in practice? In games? How did the Ravens game plan change? How sucessful, ultimately, were the Ravens in replacing the cornerstone of their line over those games?
There is so much more that Feinstein could have covered in this book. He had virtually nothing about the player/agent/team triangle and how contracts werer negotiated. Nothing on the logistics of an NFL team traveling to play a road game. He mentioned that the Ravens chartered a train to go to Philly and New York. Really? What was that like? I don't know, Feinstein just mentioned it. What was the air travel like? What kind of hotels did the team stay in? What was it like? How did the players/coaches/staff deal with the travel? What do players do on the road? He talked a little about the pre-game meeting with the networks and the weekly media conference calls with the opponent's media, but other than that had very little to say about the relationship between the players, media and team. NFL teams also put tremendous pressure on their players to do charitable work in the community, no discussion of that at all. Brian Billick, the head coach of the Ravens, has a reputation as an innovator, especially with the use of computers. How does he use them? Are playbooks now all oncomputers? Do players carry around laptops rather than binders? If you are interested in stuff like that, you will still be clueless after reading Feinstein's book.
Rather than an true inside look at a football team, Feinstein's book reads more like the team's yearly media guide, notable more for it's endless biographies of the players and staff than any illuminating details of the team. Sadly a disappointing book.