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Next Man Up: A Year Behind the Lines in Today's NFL Paperback – October 12, 2006

3.6 out of 5 stars 58 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Through 16 books in his genre-defining, year-in-the-life style, Feinstein avoided tackling pro football, feeling that the legendary lack of access granted the media by the NFL's powerful owners and general managers made his approach impossible. That changed when fortysomething Steve Bisciotti bought the Baltimore Ravens, and Feinstein was able to convince him, as well as Ravens coach Brian Billick and general manager Ossie Newsome, to do the unthinkable: allow a writer complete access to the team and its management throughout an entire season. The 2004 NFL season looked to be a good one for the Ravens, who had won the Super Bowl in 2001 and seemed primed to return to the top. It didn't turn out that way, which gives Feinstein's account an extra dimension of tension, on top of the fly-on-the-wall fascination of sitting in on coaches' strategy meetings and listening as decisions are made on who to start and who to cut. To most fans, who mainly see football players encased in helmets and pads, it's hard even to project the human side of their lives; Feinstein offers us this opportunity, showing the day-to-day rigors of the marginal player, hoping only to avoid being cut. The specter of injuries, an ominous inevitability in football, gets a human face, too, as the Ravens suffer debilitating blow after blow. Football has never seemed as personal as it does here, in one of Feinstein's most involving books. Best-sellerdom is a foregone conclusion. Bill Ott
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Back Bay Books; Reprint edition (October 12, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316013285
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316013284
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.5 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (58 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #680,483 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I was anxiously looking forward to this book as I have always been curious about what goes on with an NFL team away from the cameras. Unfortunately, this book came up way short of my expectations. I learned a lot about the Baltimore Ravens, but not much about the NFL. Any fan of the Ravens should steer clear because there is little in this book that they won't already know if they follow the team. There were a few exceptions, but for the most part this book gives no more detail than you would find if you followed the team through the local papers throughout the year.

A true look "behind the lines" would go into far greater depth about what life is like during the week. We often hear about players who come in early and stay late, but what does that mean? What happens during the film sessions? How do the coaches formulate a game plan? How is the game plan presented to the players? If players are at the complex all day Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, what is happening? Surely they aren't on the practice field that whole time. Are they in meetings? In the weight room? Working on individual techniques with position coaches? Studying film?

A classic example of a missed opportunity was Feinstein's discussion (p. 182) of the injury to starting center Mike Flynn and how the loss would affect the offensive line because, among other things, "it is the center who makes all the calls for the linemen, which makes him the quarterback of the group". Well, we often hear announcers talk about centers making calls on blocking assignments but none ever explains what that means. Here was a perfect opportunity to take a few sentences to clarify this concept. What are the calls? What do they mean? How do the other linemen hear them in the midst of the quarterback's signals?
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Format: Hardcover
The author spent a year with the Baltimore Ravens and the result is this book that describes in-depths the 2004 season with the NFL team. It's curious to note there is no mention of the Ravens visible on the front cover, the back cover or the inside flaps of the dust cover. Maybe this marketing ploy is to entice all readers interested in the NFL and not just Raven fans. In any case, this is a fantastic look inside a year of a NFL team, as well as a look at how NFL players go through the emotions of being cut, getting injured, going through real-life trials, relationships with coaches and owners, and the ups and downs of winning and losing on a weekly basis. Peppered throughout the book are mini-bios of several players and coaches, including the stars of the team as well as some players who were cut in training camp or who barely made the 53-man squad. These sections are most worthwhile to Ravens fans.

The devoted NFL fan will not find any startling newsflashes or issues regarding the game, but there are certainly several interesting tidbits and stories throughout the book, such as: the difference between the Raven's owner (Steve Bisciotti) and the Redskin's owner (Daniel Snyder); the Terrell Owens debacle - before the season and the game against the Eagles; the discussions that take place in the draft war room, specifically the GM Ozzie Newsome; the role of religion in the NFL; and many other issues. So this book may be more appealing to the casual fan than the fanatic.

To top it off, Feinstein's writing style is so smooth and so readable, it makes this book worthwhile and I recommend it to any sports fan - even those fans of the Steelers, the Bengals and the Browns!
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Format: Hardcover
This is the first Feinstein book I've read, although I have heard a lot about his past books. I am also a fairly knowledgeable football fan (not particularly a Raven fan, though), and in a large part because of that, I found this book to be shallow, superficial and trivial. For someone that is not a fan of the most heavily covered sport in the world Feinstein's tedious tome may be readable and illuminating. But I found this book to contain very little that a knowledgeable fan wouldn't know about, or couldn't find from other sources.

In any sucessful work of non-fiction, the author needs to distill the essence of real life people into the pages of a book. Feinstein does this by providing endless and monotonous, thumbnail biographies of all the characters that he runs into in his year with the Ravens. "So and so grew up in the Deep South/Inner City/Midwest/So-Cali, his father was a firefighter/Coast Guardsmen/Test Pilot, and from the time he could tie his shoes he wanted to play football." There are literaly endless pages of this drivel. A football team consists of 53 players on the active roster, which is down from 85 or so in pre-season training camps, the coaching, scouting and training staffs combined are 30 to 40 people and it seems like Feinstein has a 2 page mini-biography on each and every one of these people. After awhile you cringe when Feinstein's monlogue shifts to a player he hasn't said much about previously, because you just know he's going to roll into another little biography filled with trivial details about what the player's parents did, how many siblings he had, when he started playing football, what his SAT scores were, what he did in high school, where he went to college, how he got into the NFL, and on and on and on.
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