Friday Book Whimsy: Slow Getting Up

Before I start my book review, I want to say that I am pushing back discussion for the Ethereal Reader book Monument Men for two weeks. Discussion will begin Friday, April 18 instead of Friday, April 4.

searchI am somewhat hesitant to post a book review of Slow Getting Up: A Story of NFL Survival from the Bottom of the Pile, by Nate Jackson. I am going to tell you how much I enjoyed the book overall, but then I’m going to add a GREAT BIG GIANT CAVEAT when it comes to recommending it.

I’m not even sure how this book came to my attention. It might have been available as a $2.99 Nook book from Barnes and Noble. It wasn’t anything I had ever heard of, but being a football fan in general and a Denver Broncos fan specifically, I became intrigued when I read the synopsis.

Jackson was a Denver Bronco for most of his career, though he started out with the 49ers. He was a Bronco from 2002 until 2008 following an injury and the arrival of Coach Josh McDaniels. He started out as a wide receiver but soon became a tight end at the request of Coach Mike Shanahan. I have to admit to you right off the back that I have no memory of his career with the Broncos. After reading the book, I’m not sure I should be concerned about that fact as he was, for the most part, a back-up player and seemingly injured more than he wasn’t.

I will tell you why I liked the book, and then will give you my caveat.

I love football, and know maybe a bit more about it than many women. Still, I don’t know a lot of the intricacies. I know the rules (for the most part), I understand most penalties (though I don’t always see them), and I know the difference between offense, defense, and special teams. I enjoy watching games — and not just Broncos games but any NFL games.

A number of years ago, following the movie, I read The Blind Side, by Michael Lewis. I LOVED that book (and that book I would recommend with no caveats attached). What I especially liked about that book – in addition to the lovely story about the people who make Michael Oher a part of their family – was learning about the strategies around football. That comes across in the book much more significantly than in the movie. I really enjoyed that book.

Slow Getting Up is about football from a player’s perspective. And I think it’s significant that it isn’t a particularly great player, but someone who makes it into the NFL but has to fight to stay there year after year. The game from Jackson’s viewpoint is much different than it is from mine, or, say Peyton Manning’s.

For one thing, Jackson spends much of his career playing hurt. He makes it perfectly clear that many, if not most, players play hurt much of the time because football is a business, after all. And a violent business. Jackson doesn’t whine about this or present it as unfair. It’s just a reality of the game.

He talks a great deal about how moving from team to team impacts players. No need to make close friends because they may be gone tomorrow – either cut, traded, or injured. Again, Jackson doesn’t wah wah about this, just explains it to his readers.

He doesn’t pull any punches, that’s for sure. It is clear who he liked and respected, both as players and as coaches. No tip-toeing around it – he has great respect for Coach Shanahan but not much for Coach McDaniels, for instance. Jake Plummer was a solid, straight-forward, talented quarterback; Jay Cutler was a whining baby who was too full of himself. These are not my opinions, but Jackson’s.

As a long-time Denver fan, it was fun for me to read his thoughts on Denver fans and their plusses and minuses. I think he nailed it.

The life of a NFL player is beyond belief. Players are held by the public in such high regard, and it’s often undeserved. Women throw themselves at football players. Free drinks, free food, free drugs.

So here is my caveat. Jackson is writing from a player’s perspective. I’m pretty sure he assumes the majority of his readers will be men. His writing is, frankly, raunchy at times to put it mildly. I have no doubt that the stories he tells are accurate; still, they are also startlingly disturbing. As a woman, it made me squirm to read about the way many women are regarded by the men in this book.

So: I learned a lot about football (not the game but the business and the players’ mindsets). I liked Jackson’s writing style – very blog-like and readable. You don’t have to be a Bronco’s fan to enjoy the book. He just happens to have played for the Broncos, but his thoughts would hold true for any team. And I liked that, in the end, what made him keep at it despite injury after injury is that he liked playing football.

But: His writing can be uncomfortably raunchy. (Do men really enjoy porn that much? Don’t answer that.)

Overall, I would recommend the book to my son, but would suggest my mother-in-law not read it.

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