Saturday, February 21, 2009

Book Review: Boys Will Be Boys

I believe I've mentioned before my bad habit of borrowing books from the library, then waiting until after I've returned them to the library to write a review. So it is again, at least with these first three five book reviews I have to do. The first of those books is Boys Will Be Boys: The Glory Days and Party Nights of the Dallas Cowboys Dynasty by Jeff Pearlman. Pearlman, a former SI scribe most famous for his John Rocker hit piece expose had previously tread with The Bad Guys Won about the ultimate representation of evil in the history of American sport, the 1986 New York Mets (/bitter Astro fan). As with those 86 Mets, there's are interesting stories associated with the Cowboy teams of the early to mid-90's that are the subject of Pearlman's books.

The problem is, though, that Pearlman's book doesn't really trod any new ground if you know what happened. Landry was an iconic coach, but was having trouble with adapting to recent NFL developments, and Bum Bright very likely would've fired him even if there hadn't been a sale. Jerry Jones hears about the opportunity to buy the Cowboys, and does, and hires his old Arkansas roommate Jimmy Johnson. Master manipulator and skilled talent evaluator Johnson builds an iconic team and keeps a combustible mix of personalities directed toward the same goal, more or less, enough to win some big games. Jones and Johnson, both successful guys with big egos, clash repeatedly, and eventually go their own way. Jones hires Switzer-Pearlman is charitable here, portraying Switzer as a valuable hire and good break for a tightly-wound team from the harsher Johnson (also known as the Great Cycle of Coaching Stories), when a more honest account is probably Jones hiring Switzer to show NFL experience and coaching dedication and skill is overrated. Some of Pearlman's anecdotes betray his story, like how Switzer viewed the week of Super Bowl XXX as one of the best excuses ever for an enormous party, and he and his entourage ran up a liquor tab of $100,000 that week. The dynasty eventually ended, thanks to the lack of influx of new talent to replace departed old talent, but Pearlman's narrative doesn't cover those years in any detail.

I also must note that Pearlman is not a very good writer. This is the part where I really wish I had a copy of the book, so I could give some excerpts of some awfully clunky and purple prose. The salacious details are also stated rather than described or shown, so unless the fact that Michael Irvin would sleep with a lot of women (not just 1 or 2 or even 3) and was creative in terms of what they would do is in and of itself absolutely fascinating to you, the salacious details aren't really that salacious-a guide to partying like a Dallas Cowboy, this is not.

So, who should read this book? If the above review doesn't make it clear, I'm significantly less of a fan of the book than most of the Amazon commentariat, which seems to lean toward both Cowboys fans and people who aren't serious football observers (which is fine, but not me). If you're a Cowboy fan interested in a dose of nostalgia about some interesting teams, by all means feel free to read Pearlman's teams. It may be a useful reminder of some of the details, though you may not learn much from reading it. For fans of other teams? Jimmy Johnson is a fascinating guy, and I'd love to read a good bio of him. Perhaps I'll check out this book he "co-wrote" at some point. Not really seeing much of a reason to read this book, though-if you want to learn more about the Cowboys, ESPN did an OTL, I think, piece a couple years ago on the decline and fall of the Cowboys that covered the most important part of Pearlman's story, and in a more palatable way.

UPDATE (2/21/09 2334 CT): Uh, I forgot just how many books behind I was. Ouch.

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