Friday, October 24, 2008

Book Review: The Maisel Report

Given how terrible The Paolantonio Report was, it was with trepidation I elected to read the college football counterpart thereto, Ivan Maisel's The Maisel Report: College Football's Most Overrated & Underrated Players, Coaches, Teams, and Traditions (both takeoffs, apparently, of The Stark Truth, which I haven't read). It's definitely made in the same model as Paolantonio's book, but, befitting Maisel's status as perhaps the preeminent national college football reporter as opposed to Paolantonio being a talking head studio host, substantially better. Maisel's opinions are generally reasonably thought-out and well-considered, and there's nothing as aggressively dumb as Paolantonio's argument as to why the 1985 Chicago Bears are overrated I outlined in my review of that book.

That is, until you get to Maisel's listing of underrated and overrated players. The most egregious example of the phenomenon is Georgia Tech. Georgia Tech's most underrated player is Clint Castleberry, who played for one year in 1942. Bobby Dodd dubbed him in his (Dodd's) autobiography a future multiple All-American and best RB in Tech history. Now, though, he's lost to the sands of time, a theme common to many of Maisel's underrated players. The Yellow Jackets' "most overrated" player, though, is Reggie Ball. Yes, the very same Reggie Ball widely known as the worst four year starter in college football history. It's difficult for me to see Ball as possibly overrated, and Maisel makes no argument to the contrary, only that Ball wasn't very good. Penn State's most overrated player is another good example of the same-Anthony Morelli. He was, in a great triumph of optimism over reality, the great hope of PSU fans, that is, until he started actually playing, when Nittany Lion fans quickly realized he wasn't actually any good, a fact now recognized by all and sundry. The underrated people are in some cases a useful reminder or introduction to previously notable players, but overall the section is clearly the weakest of the book.

So, is it worth a read? Like many ESPN projects, it's a little gimmicky-argumentative books like these are a little dumb, don't do much to provoke good conversation, and are too related to a sports radio-type dumb environment for my purposes, even if, like this one, they're generally well done. I'm glad I didn't spend any money on it, but it didn't take me long to read and wasn't an egregious waste of my time.

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