In the NFL there is only one certainty: that every day, someone will have to be the Next Man Up. Football is an unrelentingly punishing sport, played and practiced at undiminished intensity, and it devours its players. Confronting injuries, trades, and the grim reality of competition, every NFL team prepares constantly for the likelihood--the certainty--that even franchise players can go down at any time. And someone new must be ready, trained, and primed to step in at the highest level.
Bestselling sportswriter John Feinstein persuaded one NFL team to lift the extraordinary secrecy that shrouds the sport and let him see how a team operates at the closest level. One team let him join every practice, every coaches' meeting, every players' gathering, every strategy debate. From the give-and-take of draft day, into the grinder of summer training camps, and from 100-degree practice games to the last game in frigid conditions, Feinstein reveals how a football team works--or fails to work--as no writer has done before.
Next Man Up unveils rituals (what a coach tells a player at the moment he cuts him); rules (the inanities of league-appointed "uniform Nazis"); conflicts (the scouts vs. the coaches, the general managers vs. the agents, the offense vs. the defense, the special teams coaches vs. everybody); money (how much a journeyman makes, and how his life differs from the multi-million-dollar-a-year star players)-every nuance of a team's life, from the owner's goals to the coach's day-to-day travails to the feeling of the sleet-soaked ball in the hands of a receiver on artificial turf.
The access John Feinstein enjoyed allows him to discuss with equal understanding the owner's management strategy, the coaches' and coordinators' plans for each new game, and how it all affects the players themselves. Anyone who loves football--any team, in any era--will savor the thousands of details revealed here for the first time, and the extraordinary drama that goes into following week after week, the most sensational sport in America.
According to the punchy start of this sprawling, in-depth account of the 2004 Baltimore Ravens' season, you can forget about all the other pretenders to the throne: pro football is (at least in and around cities that have a franchise) America's sport. Furthermore, Feinstein, bestselling author of A Good Walk Spoiled, persuasively argues that pro football is the most dramatic American sport, with its many deeply religious players, limited media access and comparatively low number of games, which are all then accorded life-or-death status. Given excellent access to the Ravens operation, Feinstein is, not surprisingly, very generous with his subjects, painting evenhanded portraits of the players (many of whom, like Jamal Lewis and Deion Sanders, have had plenty of bad press over the years) and even more neutral portrayals of management, especially coach Brian Billick. The runup to the first game of the young franchise's ninth season is so assiduously documented, the season itself is almost an afterthought, though the games are smartly and excitingly rendered. Feinstein wisely avoids the grandiloquent hyperbole often found in sportswriting; there are no references to deities or Greek heroes here. This hefty tome will surely keep football fans happy between games.
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Last Man Up
Last Man Up is a great book, showing a season inside a ravens season. It made you see the cuts, picks, calls and results of a football season.