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Collision Low Crossers: A Year Inside the Turbulent World of NFL Football Hardcover – November 19, 2013
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*Starred Review* Dawidoff, author of a fine biography of baseball catcher and international spy Moe Berg (The Catcher Was a Spy, 1994), here turns to the 2011 New York Jets, who gave him apparently unfettered access to virtually every aspect of the team’s day-to-day operations, from the February scouting “combine” of collegiate talent, through the May draft of college players, the torturous preseason of practices and games, and, finally, to the entire 16-game, regular season schedule and subsequent coaches’ postmortem. Head coach Rex Ryan and his staff receive the primary focus, and it’s hard not to be impressed by the all-consuming effort they put into coaxing superhuman performances out of their gifted but often mercurial players and also by how narrow the differences are that divide winners from losers in the unsparing, ferociously competitive NFL. The Jets, who’d come just one win shy of reaching the Super Bowl in both 2009 and 2010, lost their magic in 2011, falling to 8–8 and out of playoff contention, Dawidoff recording every excruciating moment of the team’s slide from inside the Jets’ facility. This is a superlative insider’s portrait of one NFL team (reminiscent of John Feinstein’s similar Next Man Up: A Year behind the Lines, 2005, about the Baltimore Ravens), and it’s accessible to casual fans and irresistible to NFL geeks. --Alan Moores
"An instant classic of the genre.... A triumph... of immersion and portraiture." -- The New York Times Book Review
"Dawidoff is a crack writer, saturating the book with the best of a year's worth of anecdotes and lacing it with the backgrounds of coaches and players with an intimacy that begs the question how he got all this sharp and often moving material.... Dawidoff has a sure hand with the nature of passion, the rancor and weeping joy that characterizes every season in the most popular sport in the country. Insightful, immediate sportswriting. Readers will feel every bit of the team's frustration and elation." -- Kirkus (starred review)
"This is a superlative insider's portrait of one NFL team (reminiscent of John Feinstein's similar Next Man Up: A Year behind the Lines (2005), about the Baltimore Ravens), and it's accessible to casual fans and irresistible to NFL geeks." -- Booklist (starred review)
"A riveting case study." -- New York Times Book Review, "Editor's Choice"
"Collision Low Crossers is a book that I would highly recommend not just for lovers of sports writing, but for lovers of intelligent writing that sheds new light on something so universal in the average American's life that the average American might never notice. This is a wonderful book by a talented writer I hope to read more from in the future." -- Seattle Post-Intelligencer
"May be the best book I've ever read about football." -- Mike Pesca, NPR's All Things Considered
"Entirely suspenseful, even when one knows how it will turn out.... Dawidoff has established a reputation as one of the best chroniclers of sports in American life.... A deeply nuanced look at an organization -- a business -- with characters who leap off the page." -- The Chicago Tribune, "Editor's Choice"
"An unusually smart and revealing (and often funny) look at the quirky subculture of pro football." -- Tom Perrotta
"Incredibly engaging and gripping.... What makes Collision Low Crossers a transcendental read is how thoughtful and thorough a guide Dawidoff becomes." -- Kirkus Reviews
"A rare behind-the-scenes look at what makes a football organization tick." -- The Washington Post
"Collision Low Crossers is the best book ever written about football and I'm in awe." -- Wright Thompson, Senior Writer, ESPN.com and ESPN The Magazine
"On every significant American subject there are only a handful of really good books, and Collision Low Crossers is one of the best books ever written about sports. Dawidoff takes you into a closed world of interesting men who are obsessed with how to perfect the art of football. The book is closely and boldly observed, frankly reported, ferociously written with both humor and humanity; it teems with wonderful lines, rich and vivid passages. The end result is what all coaches long for, the magical pleasure of watching a perfectly managed game that ends in a great victory." -- Thomas Powers, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Man Who Kept The Secrets and The Killing of Crazy Horse
"It is rare indeed that any writer can infiltrate any sports team so thoroughly as Nicholas Dawidoff has done in Collision Low Crossers. His access, though, is but the foundation of this sports tour du force, for his year in the belly of the New York Jets is so informed with insight and sensitivity alike that it reveals to us not just the season's secrets of one team, but the complicated attractions that trap men in football's mean clutches." -- Frank Deford, commentator, Morning Edition, and author of Over Time: My Life as a Sportswriter
"Nicholas Dawidoff shows us everything television doesn't. By the time I finished Collision Low Crossers, I realized that what happens on the field is only a tiny fraction of a football season-and hardly the most interesting. It was a huge pleasure to be led behind the scenes by a writer with such subtlety, wit, and style." -- Anne Fadiman, author of The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down and At Large and At Small
"I loved Collision Low Crossers--it's revealing, engrossing, extremely funny, and about as close as you can come to the NFL without getting a concussion. With expert reporting and an enviably light touch, Dawidoff shows the warm heart beating inside the most dangerous game." -- Chad Harbach, author of The Art of Fielding
"An exceptionally detailed description of how the coaches of an NFL team prepare for and survive a season that turns out to be a disappointment.... Full of intriguing, creatively chronicled little moments." -- Bill Littlefield, WBUR's "Only A Game"
"A startling, year-long, day-in-and-day-out tale of large men and obsessive, outsized personalities. Nicholas Dawidoff is a committed watcher and listener who takes Plimpton's participatory impulse and applies it in his own artful way, creating an entirely original - and thoroughly grand - portrait of an NFL team. Before Collision Low Crossers, it's now quite clear to me, I didn't really understand pro football at all." -- Ted Conover, author of Newjack: Guarding Sing Sing and Rolling Nowhere
"Unputdownable.... Whatever your interest, be it in sports, business, or even politics, Collision Low Crossers is a great read. You won't be disappointed." -- Forbes
"Insightful and funny, this is a must read for any sports fan." -- Susanne Jaffe, creative director, Thurber House, for The Columbus Dispatch
"A fascinating, incisive look at football, written in prose that soars like a perfect pass." -- Shelf Awareness, "The Best Books of 2013"
"A quality piece of embedded analytical journalism relayed with warmth and insight." -- Library Journal
"In the hands of a skillful observer such as Dawidoff, the volatile personalities and intricacies of running a professional football team become both accessible and understandable." -- The Virginia Quarterly
"Superb.... Excellent stuff.... Dawidoff is as good as they come." -- Newsday
Top customer reviews
Even better, the book is extremely well written and entertaining as well. It does a great job of not only providing thematic examples of what it’s like to be a coach in the NFL, but brining the personalities of the players and coaches to life as well.
The main theme of the book is just how hard coaches work and what gruesomely long hours all coaches put into their profession. This is nearly a 24 hour a day job during the start of training camp through the end of the season, and there’s not much rest in-between either. Being a coach in the NFL is a major commitment and a sacrifice for not only the coaches but their families as well. They literally live football and often wind up sleeping in the facilities. From player evaluation, game planning for the next opponent, installing the game plan during the week, dealing with player injuries and personalities, it is simply an all-consuming job. You have to really love football to adopt this lifestyle.
Add to the long hours the pressure of winning is tremendous. The NFL is a win now league and losing teams generally have quick turnover of head coaches and their assistants. Winning is a tonic that brings joy, but short-lived, while losing it torturous.
Another significant theme of the book is the schism between the defensive and offensive sides of the balls, even between coaches. So much goes into the offensive and defensive game plans and installing them with the players that the coaches of these squads do not interact that often. Sometimes it can even get a little heated if one unit is performing significantly better than the other, which often happens with the Jets who have a great defense but at best a mediocre offense. That tension certainly existed for the Jets to some degree, and I have heard it existing on other teams as well. It is not entirely surprising that this schism exists on teams but it is intriguing.
A third theme, and I am sure this is where it probably varies more widely depending on the personality and approach of the head coach, is how much control or involved a head coach might exert on any specific aspect of game planning. The head coach is supposed to be a big picture game planner and let his coordinators do most of the intricate work on the game plan for their units. Rex, being a defensive coach, has his particularly defensive philosophy and might be more hands on there, but on the offensive side, while having a ground and pound approach, leaves more in the hands of the coordinator. Of course there are some coaches who essentially are their own offensive coordinator and call the plays. It is all a matter of what a head coach wants to take control of and what he is comfortable delegating. For the Jets, the offense did not perform so well, eventually lead to the ouster of Brian Schottenheimer, the offensive coordinator.
Another theme is just tension on the team generally between players. Again, this is probably something that exists at different degrees on other teams. For example, we know there was some tension between quarterback Mark Sanchez and receiver Santonio Holmes that eventually blew up into the public sphere, which is alluded to here. And older players trying to adapt to new roles is also an underlying theme.
Another interesting aspect of this book was simply reading about the personalities of the players. The intelligence and studious nature of Darrell Revis goes a long way in explaining why he is so great at his position, and the sometimes slovenly approach of an Antonio Cromartie explains why such a great athletic talent is sometimes so inconsistent. Having a serious minded winner like Revis can have a positive influence on those less inclined to be such students of the game and why they often bring not only talent but leadership and a positive example to the team as well. These types of players can be as valued by what they bring to the team off the field as by what they do on it.
Much is also made of how immature Mark Sanchez is and how frustrated the coaches were with his inconsistent play and turnovers. Again, it seems like the immaturity factor has a lot to do with the sloppy, inconsistent play and underperforming on the field.
Yet another major theme is the pain of losing. The rollercoaster ride of winning and losing and the difficultly of keeping coaches and players positive and not letting a string of losses knock the wheels completely off is an important function of the head coach and his staff. The Jets did not make the playoffs after the 2011 season and being used to winning that is hard to take. And it puts coaches’ jobs at jeopardy. And as we have seen since this book was written, as of 2015 all the coaches and the GMs are gone because they never turned the team back around.
Finally the General Manger’s role is discussed. Tannebaum is an interesting case. Of course he is responsible for player personnel and contract negotiations but he also has to work well with his coaches and scouts and be a problem solver during the season. All GMs are going to have their own philosophy’s and style and Tannebaum tried to fit in and help where help was needed during the season while dealing with player issues and personnel as they came up.
Overall I found this to be a well written and fascinating look at coaching in the NFL through the prism of the personalities and quirks of the New York Jets and recommend it to any serious NFL fan.
1) The sport is violent and the coaches were always looking for players who excelled at violence (I think I remember the author saying the coaches cheered the CB Jimmy Smith because they thought he used to be in a gang, but it turned out Jimmy was afraid of guns, which I am also).
2) They work insane hours during the season not knowing if they will last past the year which has to put winning above all else for them because they don't know if they have a job beyond tomorrow unless they have a team that performs on the football field. That a lot of coaches basically throw their whole personal lives/ marriages/ parenting out the window to try to get a winning team.
In the end thought a lot of players have checkered pasts or grew up in s***ty situations and football is how they deal with it. And for the majority part of it, a lot of players do a good job with it or at least on this Jets team.
For anyone who has dreamed of what a football life would look like, you should read this book. You can hate the Jets but still love this book. A must-have for sports/football junkies.
Most recent customer reviews
Dawiidoff gives you an intimate look at how these teams are actually run day-to-day for an entire season.Read more