From a very early age football — especially professional football — was something that bound my family together. Many are the Sunday afternoons in small-town Louisiana where I remember my mother enthusiastically shouting her support or displeasure at the New Orleans Saints. More often than not it was displeasure, but the Saints were basically part of our extended family.
Those memories and the bond I still feel to this day with both of my parents — though they are now both deceased — each and every time I watch the black and gold strap it on and do battle on the gridiron…are very much reasons I found myself looking forward to reading Nicholas Dawidoff’s Collision Low Crossers: A Year Inside the Turbulent World of NFL Football when the opportunity was offered.
Dawidoff, a contributor to The New Yorker, New York Times Magazine and Rolling Stone was given a chance to immerse himself into the NFL’s New York Jets team for an entire year. He was given a security code, locker, desk in the scouting department and the opportunity to not just see but play his own part in the day to day life of a professional football team.
From the Combine to the NFL Draft, the seemingly endless practices and strategy meetings and game planning, to the games themselves and the soaring highs and lows that come with the consequences of all the intricate layers of planning having missed — or made — the mark, and most of all the fascinating and intensely real people who inhabit the game, Dawidoff is afforded a chance that few outsiders or fans of the game will ever receive.
As a fan of the game for reasons that have to do with the ties it keeps bound to my own family, Dawidoff’s description of how the New York Jets — from larger than life Coach Rex Ryan all the way down to the Wide Receiver drafted seemingly solely due to his being a childhood friend of Jet’s quarterback, Mark Sanchez — it is the characters and cast of this book that makes me both love NFL football just a little bit more and, unexpectedly, respect and instantly become a fan for the Jets franchise itself.
The Jets come across as more like a dysfunctional family than a group of men paid to play one of the roughest and most dangerous games ever conceived of as entertainment. Rex Ryan, I think, comes across in this book as the central “father figure” who keeps it all together. He is an amazing character and way more intelligent and involved than the soundbite snippets I’d seen of him on various sports networks. Dawidoff’s words paint this man into relief in ways I’m not sure Ryan himself would have been able to do if given a solid year to do.
He does that not just to the one man but to all of the men that make up the New York Jets. I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed this book or how much respect I have for its author. Collision Low Crossers: A Year Inside the Turbulent World of NFL Football is a book that I would highly recommend not just for lovers of sports writing, but for lovers of intelligent writing that sheds new light on something so universal in the average American’s life that the average American might never notice.
This is a wonderful book by a talented writer I hope to read more from in the future.