From Publishers Weekly
In a plodding portrayal that is reverent to a fault, Grant, a writer for ESPN, chronicles the challenges and triumphs of Tyrone Willingham's first year at the helm of the nation's most storied college football team: the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Grant highlights the significance and pressure on Willingham as the school's first black coach in any sport, and he does provide the requisite behind-the-scenes glimpses of the program that are sure to pique the interest of any Irish fan. Indeed, one of the most engrossing incidents features Willingham derisively breaking down tape of his former team, Stanford, and clearly laying the blame at the feet of its new coach. But the writing itself is formulaic and dull. Aside from painful extended metaphors like describing Willingham and the team as a jazz combo, Grant occasionally strays from his otherwise distant, professional tone with awkward dips into slang that he seems to think sports talk demands. He refers to Touchdown Jesus, a mosaic on the university library, as having a "certain bling-bling"; he describes an opposing receiver as getting "truly Heisman on their asses"; and at one point he bizarrely refers to Willingham as "the most popular Negro in America." In addition, Grant is so adoring of Willingham that the coach hardly comes across as human. Grant played football for him at Stanford, and a first-person player's perspective would have been revealing. The book has enough details and anecdotes to keep a rabid Notre Dame fan turning pages, but it will hardly be of interest to a wider audience or leave much of a mark in the realm of sports literature.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
The football team at Notre Dame, once among the best in the country, has had a rough couple of decades. After slipping lower and lower in the standings, the team was badly in need of a boost. Enter Tyrone Willingham, the school's first black football coach. Against heavy odds and the preconceptions of a lot of people, Willingham led the team to 10 victories in 2002 and an appearance in a major bowl game. If the Fighting Irish haven't quite been restored to their Rockne-era glory, they have certainly made remarkable strides in just one season. Written by a sportswriter and former footballer who played under Willingham in the late 1980s, this account follows the Irish through the 2002 season. The game-by-game reports are standard sports fare, but the portrait of Willingham is more memorable. Grant captures the excitement of college football through the lens of a man whose love of the game, whose sheer exuberance in the face of often-daunting odds, brought an entire team, if not an entire school, back to life. David PittCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved