Monday, July 09, 2007

Book Review: When Pride Still Mattered

One thing I discovered on The Other Blog is that my book reviews normally are much more insightful when they're written right after, or only shortly after, I finish the book. Close enough that the book is fresh in my mind, yet not quite so fresh that I'm still gushing over it or depressed over reading it, and thus can bring some perspective. I read so many books that if I don't review it relatively soon, many of the details fade into the passage of time. Yet that, too, may be a commentary on a book.

When Pride Still Mattered: A Life of Vince Lombardi by David Maraniss is, as the subtitle makes clear, a biography of Vince Lombardi, legendary coach of the Packers. Maraniss was, and maybe still is, with The Washington Post, and, as with many other books by WaPo writers and other similarly accomplished journalists, the books they write are well-done and well-researched. Reading this book, you learn a lot more about Vince Lombardi. Of course, the curse of journalistic books is also present in spades. Everything a journalist writes is about the people involved. And so it is here. Maraniss does well with the people involved. But, ultimately, Lombardi was famous (1) because he was a remarkable leader of football players and (2) he was good at football. (1) comes across in spades in this book. (2) might as well not even exist. This is emphatically not a football book. Assuming you know the basics, like 4 downs to get a first down, touchdown = 6 points, and field goal = a kick, worth 3 points, you won't learn anything about football reading this book. Since that's why Lombardi is really famous, I therefore have to regard this book as an utter failure.

In fact, by doing such a good job on writing this book, Maraniss has actually done the public a disservice. There's a clear space available for book that properly evaluates Lombardi in the context of his football career. But, because Maraniss did such a good job, that book is less likely to be written, and the world of knowledge will be poorer for it. Go ahead and read this book, if it sounds like something you'd be interested in. If you do read it, though, remember there's this other book about football that probably won't ever exist because of it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I found myself having to skip chapters to try and get into this book. Finally gave up.