Review of The Mannings

This book about the Manning family is execrably written, so much so that I frankly wanted to quit reading the book because it was horribly annoying. There are way too many times the author imputes emotions to individuals when he has no idea what the person was actually feeling. Worse, he constantly makes juvenile analogies that are trite to the point of making the reader cringe. It is a very amateurish writing style and a rather amateurish book.

While this is an advanced reading copy, two other items that were irritating is in one chapter Archie’s father is 5 foot 6, and in the next he’s 5 foot 7. In most instances it’s his father’s words, “just be a nice guy,” that drove Archie and his nice guy charm and demeanor, one that was not fake or a put on. But in one instances this is attributed to his mother. These are trivial in terms of the overall narrative, but noticeable and distracting nonetheless.

With that said the book did have some redeeming qualities which, overall, made it barely worth reading. First, I never fully understood the level of fame that Archie Manning had throughout the South, especially in his home state of Mississippi and adopted state of Louisiana. He was nearly a household name after his college stint at Ole Miss as its starting quarterback. Second, the book does an excellent job of describing how Archie’s stern but beloved father and his suicide drove Archie to want to excel on the field and in life, and later how it drove him to spend as much time as he could with is sons and tell them how much he loved them. Archie’s background and family history in a small Mississippi town to become regionally famous paints a clear picture of how Archie handled himself when in the pros, a very good quarterback playing for a horrible team. He kept his head up and marched on.

The book also does a good job of telling the story of Cooper Manning and how, while not a great athlete, would have very likely had a solid college career as a receiver at Ole Miss and how his discovery of a spinal condition that forced him to quit football drove his younger brother Peyton to strive to greatness and professional football to fulfill Cooper’s unfulfilled dreams.

Peyton’s personality has a hard worker, studier and leader comes through strongly in the book as well. His vast knowledge of football, football history, and studying the playbook are legendary. The contrast with the demure Eli Manning is very interesting. Much has been made of Eli’s laid back demeanor, shyness, and some would argue lack of leadership. But it turns out that Eli has been shy and laidback since he was a child. And he never studied football, at least its history, like Peyton did. But he has been successful in his own way nonetheless.

The insights into the personalities of the Archie, Peyton, Eli, and Cooper, along with their family history are very interesting and shed a lot of light on this famous football family.

I do have a few more complaints about the book, however. This book seems to be more about Archie Manning than this two football playing sons. Peyton Manning gets a lot more airtime in detailing his recruitment to the University of Tennessee and his years in college and the pros than Eli. Eli, in some respects, especially his college and professional career, seem almost an afterthought.

Two controversial issues that did not get enough detail or interpretation include the sexual assault allegations about Peyton Manning when he was at Tennessee, and the “forced” trade of Eli Manning from the San Diego Chargers to the New York Giants when he was drafted number one overall by the Chargers.

In the first instance the author does, again, a very amateurish job reporting the incident. He basically takes some things he heard in the media and throws them in the book to check off the box. And some of what is stated in the book is disputed in other media outlets. It’s a really sloppy job of reporting the event.

And very little is detailed about all the behind the scenes actions that lead to Eli being traded from the Chargers to the Giants after he was drafted, with Archie and Eli essentially saying he would not play for the Chargers. Odd given the Chargers were not that bad of a team at the time. There is a big gap in the book on this issue.

The book concludes with Peyton’s ultimate retirement after Super Bowl 50 and does decent job of describing the proud Manning family and the difficulty but inevitability of Peyton’s decision.

While this book has some redeeming qualities, that it’s poorly written and structured makes it a bit frustrating. The Manning’s deserved a better chronicler of their journey.

http://amzn.to/2b7eGZY

 

 

Tom Coughlin’s Memoir of the New York Giants 2006 Super Bowl Season

Tom Coughlin’s memoir of the New York Giants 2006 season and win over the undefeated New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII could have been a lot more than it is.  Like the public persona of the coach, it lacks a bit of personality and inside information that football fans are looking for.  I did find it worthwhile reading, anyway.

This book functions as a mini autobiography of Coughlin’s coaching career and the high pressure and long hours it requires to be a successful coach in the National Football League.  One of the better features of the book is learning about his coaching pedigree and his discussion of how he had to loosen up a little bit with the New York Giants, who as most recall, were seemingly in near mutiny of Coughlin’s old school rules and discipline.

And while Coughlin does a good job with the above, his recounting of the season and the Giants team is often devoid of personality and inside information about how the team overcame some of the squabbling and questions about leadership to go on their improbable run to a Super Bowl victory.  He certainly plays lip service to the quiet leadership skills of the oft criticized Eli Manning and his rocky but repaired relationship with older players like Michael Strahan, but it more reportorial than emotional engaging.

There also is little about football strategy and X’s and O’s in this book, which is fine as I didn’t expect much.  But for an avid football fan like myself that always adds a great deal to a book about football.

Despite these drawbacks, I am sure New York Giants fans will enjoy this look back at the season from Coughlin’s perspective.  I would not, however, recommend this to the casual football fan.

A Team to Believe In: Our Journey to the Super Bowl Championship

Tiki Barber on Tiki Barber (and the New York Giants)

tikibookTiki: My Life in the Game and Beyond by Tiki Barber with Gil Reavill

Review by C. Douglas Baker

I’ve always had a lot of admiration for Tiki Barber. Most of those reading this review probably already know who Tiki Barber is, but he played for the New York Giants as a tailback from 1997 to 2006, ending his career with over 10,000 yards rushing and 5,000 yards receiving.

Only two other running backs have accomplished that feat (Marshall Faulk and Marcus Allen). He retired at the end of the 2006 season, at the age of 31 at the top of his game.

I’m not a New York Giants fan, but as football fan you have to appreciate the way he played on the field. He wasn’t the biggest back, but he was an electric one and the last five years of his career he was one of the top backs in the league. He is also clearly a very bright and articulate fellow, retiring to go into a broadcasting career that isn’t just some ex-jock talking sports.

In this book Tiki takes the opportunity to talk about his life experiences. He grew up in a single parent household in Roanoke, Virginia with his twin brother Ronde Barber, who is an outstanding cornerback for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Growing up with a hard working mother raising two sons, and having an alter ego in an identical twin, clearly shaped his outlook on life and kept him grounded. He also talks very briefly about his career at the University of Virginia, a school he and his brother chose more for its location and academics than they did (obviously) for its football prowess.

The bulk of the book, however, is about Tiki’s career with the New York Giants. There really isn’t a lot of nitty-gritty X’s and O’s discussion in the book, or interesting anecdotes about crazy player antics, strategies, or the inside story of the New York Giants.

This book is more about his perseverance going from what many considered to be an undersized back on special teams and third downs, to an every down back and one of the best to ever play the game.

The last part of the book focuses more on the last few years of his career with really a new regime, a new disciplinarian head coach in Tom Coughlin, a new quarterback in Eli Manning, along with new offensive players, Plaxico Burress (WR) and Jeremy Shockey (TE).

Anyone who has closely followed football knows of what appears to be a little bit of turmoil and dissention on the Giants team. A team with prominent players complaining about the head coach and his disciplinarian ways.  Of course, there is the media, or at least some in the media, were somewhat harsh on Tiki announcing his retirement during his last season, saying it was selfish and a distraction for the team.

Tiki himself was part of the problem, saying after one playoff game, the team was “out coached” and making other allusions to his dislike of the way the team was handled under Coughlin. Tiki rationalizes this a bit in the book.

Certainly players can say what they want, but regardless of what Tiki says, that players aren’t paying attention to this and it’s not a distraction, I don’t find that very believable. Anytime you have prominent players undermining the head coach he loses respect and it will get into the mindset of the team. 

Maybe Tiki is right. He says he retired, at least in part, because Coughlin made him lose his desire to play and he wanted to pursue other things in his life. But all that swirling attention around the coach certainly couldn’t have helped the team mentally.

Overall I found this book interesting, but nothing particularly inspiring or insightful. It is Tiki’s story and that, in and of itself, is interesting enough for me.

For those looking for a tell all, inside story of the Giants or pro football, this is not the book for you. For those looking for X’s and O’s and strategy, this is not the book for you either. For those looking for a snapshot into the thoughts and life of a great NFL player, this is your ticket.

Tiki: My Life in the Game and Beyond