I had high hopes for this book, especially as a perfect read for early August as the NFL season and training camps get rolling. A perfect way to get the football juices flowing just in time for the 2022 season. Instead I found a fun nostalgia trip that left me largely bored and happy to be finished with the book when I finally turned the last pages.
Being non fiction, there isn’t really much to say about characters, plot, or setting.
We’re taken on a behind the scenes, all access, journey with the Baltimore Ravens NFL football team for a full year in the mid 2000’s. It’s a very well written and researched look at all that we don’t normally see as a casual fan as we kick back with a cold beer and catch the game on Sunday.
If, like me, you are a life-long fan of the sport, this book is ALSO a great trip down memory lane as you get a healthy dose of players, coaches, and a season of football that you may have mostly forgotten by this point.
When this book came out, I’m sure it was to a fanfare of accolades, due in large part to the then unprecedented access Feinstein had to the team while writing this book. However, in today’s 24/7 social media fueled culture, it feels fairly standard for what we see pushed all day long from the juggernaut that is the NFL in 2022.
At the end of the day it’s a fun trip down memory lane for football fans sure to stoke the fires of nostalgia as you read. And while it is incredibly well written and researched, ultimately I found myself feeling fairly bored pretty early on and it quickly turned into a slog to get through it.
I can appreciate and respect the amount of access Feinstein had as he researched this project, it would have been truly amazing to read in say… 2008 or so. But right now it falls into that dead zone where it’s a great historical look at the Baltimore Ravens season, but it’s also not QUITE far enough back to feel truly historical.
I’d recommend this book for any super fans of the Baltimore Ravens or hardcore fans of the NFL. It’s very well written and a great look behind the scenes at the sport you know and love, plus the level of access he had is still truly impressive. Just beware that it reads like the longest edition of a Sports Illustrated Monday Morning Quarterback article that you’ve ever read and as such is probably best taken in small chunks… perhaps read it over the course of an entire NFL season?
Next Man Up: A Year Behind the Lines in Today’s NFL by John Feinstein gets 3 out of 5 stars.