I meant to post this last Friday but with StergerGate breaking, I wanted to register my outrage over Brett Favre’s penis in a timely fashion. Selection number two in Steelers Book Club was sent to me by the fine folks over at Wiley Publishing. The title is NFL Unplugged: The Brutal, Brilliant World of Professional Football by Anthony Gargano.
Did you watch the HBO series Hard Knocks? Do you like movies such as Any Given Sunday? If the nitty gritty behind the scenes world of the NFL is your cup of tea, then this is the book for you. Everything you always wanted to know but were afraid to ask is in this no-hold-barred expose of life in the NFL.
Gargano is a sports radio talk show host in Philadelphia. Even if you didn’t know that, you could figure it out from the way the book is written. His stories will be fascinating to any NFL fan as long as you are not bothered by profanity or excessive crudeness. Hey, these are football players we’re talking about. Like any talk show host, his style is to be completely over the top. But his position did allow him access to a number of professional athletes, most notably Bill Romanowski, Mark Schlereth, Kevin Long, Kyle Turley, John Gruden, Hugh Douglas, Jon Runyan, and Michael Strahan. These gentlemen (and others) pull no punches when telling war stories about the life of a professional football player.
It ain’t for the faint of heart.
Now, being a Pittsburgh Steelers fan, I’m sure you’re asking “What’s in it for me?” Well, there’s a surprising amount of coverage given to Steelers players and coaches. Gargano was at Super Bowl XLIII and provides an inside perspective of that game, particularly a memorable exchange between Ben Roethlisberger and Kurt Warner. He also talks at length about the greatest coach of the past thirty years, the legendary Bill Cowher.
One of the best sections is devoted to head injuries. You’ll be shocked to read about how prevalent they are and the extremely serious consequences they hold. Players seem to enjoy talking about their “battle scars” and some of the stories about their injuries and what they did to play through them will make make your skin crawl while also giving you a whole new appreciation for what these modern day gladiators put themselves through on a weekly basis.
After reading this book, an 18 game season will seem like a really really bad idea.
Speaking of injuries, the best chapter of the book recounts the story of Jerry Olsavsky. For newer Steeler fans, the legend of Jerry O is required reading. When I was at CMU in the mid-90s, my roommate had a Jerry O jersey and he wasn’t the only one as his blue-collar work ethic made him something of a cult hero. An undersized linebacker with average athletic ability but a ton of heart, Olsavsky battled the odds (and a catastrophic injury) to play nine years with the Black and Gold.
Everything in the book isn’t as serious, however. Gargano devotes plenty of space to the lighter side of football such as the hilarious trash talking that goes on in the trenches or some of the silly moments in the locker room which bond teammates together. If you ever wanted to know why the guys on ESPN refer to Mark Schlereth as “Stink,” you’ll find out here. For those who are interested in all the behind the scenes stuff which goes on every Sunday (and the Mondays through Saturdays in between) this fascinating book is a must read. The stories aren’t always pleasant and aren’t always nice but you’ll never be bored.
Wiley’s website has excerpts for you to read (pdf format) and you can order the book directly from them by clicking here. Or you can buy it off Amazon in either hardcover or for the tech geeks (like me!) order an e-book copy for your Kindle, iPad, or other e-reading device by clicking here.