Lyons Press sent me a pre-release of Ted Kluck's Paper Tiger before the start of the 2007 season. I started it, and it remained at the bottom of my book pile for a while. It's nothing new for me, my latest iPod is buried in there some where, despite my best attempts to find it. Maybe it's my lack of organization or maybe I'm just losing my memory due to my advanced age. :)
Ted Kluck's "Paper Tiger" is named in honor of George Plimpton's "Paper Lion". In the mid-60's, Plimpton became one of the first journalists to engage in "participatory journalism" when he wrote about spending a month with the Detroit Lions, participating in their practices and trying to make the team. Kluck is a freelance writer whose work includes ESPN.com, the books "Facing Tyson" and "Inside College Football" from Lyons Press.
'Paper Tiger' is Kluck's shot at participatory journalism as he tries one more try at playing semipro football at age 30 for the Battle Creek Crunch of the Great Lakes Indoor Football League. Kluck stays with the team for the full 2006 season, but loses his job as a long snapper after the second game. He plays only sparingly and watches as the team members aren't paid, scramble for equipment, wonder where the owner is, deal with 12 hour bus rides and deal with the vagaries of playing for now-defunct team.
Cornhusker fans may ask themselves why Eric Crouch is still trying to make it in football, recently becoming the #2 draft in the new AAFL. Kluck seeks the same answer as he questions his own sanity several times (as he should). Kluck is very honest in his writing, including his reasons for wanting to try playing semipro football, how bad he feels after games, and in how he deals with his wife and family.
I empathized with Kluck's story. I never played football in college (and certainly not semi-pro or anything close to it), but there is only one reason I would ever wish to be sixteen again, and that would be to dawn the pads and try again. It sure as hell wouldn't be for all other crap involved with being sixteen. Anyway, as the closing of the book approaches, it's clear that this is Kluck's last harrah, which gives Paper Tiger a certain sadness.
It's not the typical college football book that I typically review, but it's certainly interesting. Great book for an airport or if you happen to be one of those guys who wonders what it's like for others who just can't give up on a dream.