Another Review at MyShelf.Com

Next Man Up
A Year Behind the Lines in Today's NFL

by John Feinstein

      John Feinstein knows his stuff.

For years, Feinstein has used sports as a framework to tell a story worth telling. College basketball, the PGA Tour, the Army-Navy rivalry - he's taken what we see on the outside and digs all the way in to show us what we've been missing. His stories regularly transcend the games he focuses on.

His newest effort, Next Man Up - A Year Behind the Lines in Today's NFL, is no different. Feinstein spent an entire year with the Baltimore Ravens organization, getting unlimited access to the team from the beginning of the season until the end. In absorbing, compelling detail, Feinstein shows us the ins and outs of an NFL franchise - until now, maybe the most secretive of all professional sports entities.

Beginning with the Ravens owner and the team's coaches, Feinstein methodically works his way through all of the personalities involved with the team, showing them as real people instead of just names and faces we see on television and in newspapers. One of the best examples is when he details backup lineman Ethan Brooks. From the outside, most football observers saw an overachieving athlete hoping to find a role on the team. Feinstein, however, reaches a little further and describes how three years earlier, Brooks lost his wife to cancer and how that tragic loss has shaped Brooks' life and career. It is nuance like that that gives Feinstein's books an extra layer of complexity and depth and Next Man Up excels because of Feinstein's attention to those details.

Feinstein also elaborates on the daily pressures that owners, coaches and players face in the NFL. By detailing each game and the lead-up to each contest, we feel like we are standing on the practice field, in the locker room and on the sidelines as tough decision after tough decision is made. Feinstein puts it all together in a smooth, engaging read.

Superbly written by a man who is a natural born storyteller, Next Man Up by John Feinstein is a winner.

The Book

Little, Brown and Company/Time Warner
October, 2005
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The Reviewer

Jeff Shelby
Reviewed 2005
NOTE:Reviewer Jeff Shelby is the author of Killer Swell.
© 2005