It's been a few months since I've posted any book reviews and I apologize for that. I have quite a few stacked up, and it's about time I get back to it. I haven't taken the approach that I need to be the first to review a book, and I doubt I ever do because the fact is books have a much longer life than blog posts and they remain relevant for many years after the first publish date. Given that.... here's the first of many to come.
'Game Time: Inside College Football' is the second book I've reviewed by author Ted A Kluck. The other is 'Paper Tiger', Kluck's shot at participatory journalism as he attempts to play semipro football for the now defunct Battle Creek Crunch of the Great Lakes Indoor Football League.
'Game Time: Inside College Football' is a collection of 15 stories that cover quite a range of topics. The stories include interviews and first-hand accounts from the subjects. The stories are as follows:
- The Holy War: James Bell and Taylor University versus University of Saint Francis
- The Game of the Century: Charlie 'Mad Dog' Thornhill and Michigan State versus Notre Dame
- The Fortune Teller: Phil Steele
- The Turnaround: Brian Leonard, Greg Schiano, and the Rutgers Football Renaissance
- The Regenerator: Danny Wuerffel
- The Only All-Star Game That Matters: The Senior Bowl
- The Recruiter: Mark Hagen, Purdue University
- The Agent: J Harrison Henderson III
- The NFL Draft Guru: Todd McShay, ESPN
- The Walk-On: Max Pollock, LB, Michigan
- The Most Bizarre Recruitment in Recent History: Ronald Johnson and the University of Southern California
- The Big Brother: Dan Bazuin, Central Michigan, All-American
- The Free Agent: Herb Haygood, Michigan State
- The Winningest Quarterback in NCAA History: Cullen Finnerty, Grand Valley State University
- The Pro Day: Central Michigan University
There's something here for everyone. If you're a Phil Steele fan and you thought listening to him on EDSBS Live gave you a taste of how freakishly consumed he is by college football, then Kluck's story about him will confirm it and fill in more details. Danny Wuerffel's story is more about his work with inner city youth than it is about his football career. The agent and recruiter don't fit the caricatures most often painted by their stereotypes.
I like Kluck's writing. It's easy to read, conversational and frequently humorous. Unfortunately, overall the book is somewhat disjointed. The stories don't fit together particularly well to form a central theme, so at the beginning of the book you're left wondering where Kluck is headed. Some parts pull together nicely as you realize how closely intertwined the subjects are - the players, the agent, the NFL draft guru, and the pro day - and Kluck makes sure you're aware of how nutty the NFL draft process is.
Kluck has the problem in that he's not as well-known to college fans as Stewart Mandell, although you get a much closer look at the insanity of the Pro Day process than you will from Mandell's 'Bowls Polls and Tattered Souls'. It's a good, not great book. It may be because as Kluck writes in the forward "...maybe I don't have enough big names attached because big names sell books." It may be because all of the people in the book are generally decent, and Kluck's writing portrays them as real human beings instead of super heroes or villains. Even when he confronts the reader with the insanity of the NFL draft process - pointing out that 40 NFL scouts are gathered at Central Michigan's Pro Day to argue about an objective method of hand-timing the 40-yard dash - he doesn't condemn it as much as point out that's the way it is.
That's ultimately the problem with "Game Time: Inside College Football". There are no great super heroes and no horribly evil villains. It's lukewarm. Because of that, I'd recommend it if you can find it discounted. At full price, there needs to be more contrast - it's a tough world.