Monday, June 16, 2008

Football Genius by Tim Green

It's sometimes easy to get bogged down with the critical analysis of literature (or something to that effect), and miss that fact that a book is a gripping, engaging, cheer-for-the-kid-over-the-grown-ups story, despite a lack of praise for its literary worthiness.

And really, what are kids looking for anyway? Ever heard a fourth grade boy say, "I really appreciate the way the author developed..." Or, "I felt the juxtaposition of the setting and the..." Blah, blah, blah... You get the picture.

Troy and his mom live together in a simple home around the corner from a gated community in Atlanta where a number of Atlanta Falcons live, including linebacker Seth Halloway. Troy's mom, after earning her master's degree in night school, gets a job working in public relations for the Falcons. She gets football fanatic Troy on the sidelines for the opening game against the Cowboys where he promptly gets his mom fired.

It's an honest mistake! Troy knows what the other team is going to do. By watching the patterns and formations and tendencies he knows what teams are going to do. He can call plays before they happen. So he tries to tell the players and coaches, crosses security lines, and gets dragged out by security. Twice. And gets his mom fired.

But Seth Holloway notices what the kid did. After talking to him and seeing Troy demonstrate his skills, Seth sees what a help Troy could be for the team. A 12-year-old helping an NFL football team? (Considering the Falcons' recent history, football fans might think, "Eh, couldn't hurt.")

This book is football heavy, with real players mixed in with realistic characters, and play calling that's slightly simplified for younger readers. Troy calls Red Right, Thirty-one Dive Play Pass, Zebra Post, on one for his football team. Detailed, but not overly so. Real players are mentioned too - Terrell Owens, Drew Bledsoe, Michael Vick, Patrick Kerney, Randy Moss, and others - but while this adds to the realism, it could also detract for a kid who's a big football fan. Bledsoe is retired, Kearney is a Seahawk, and Vick is in prison. In the book Randy Moss plays for the Raiders. After Moss's season with the Patriots, does anyone even remember he played for the Raiders? Player movement in the NFL has quickly made this 2007 book outdated - at least the NFL references. And the book's only a year old!

But the book isn't dependant on the NFL. The story of an underdog kid with an amazing talent, a football player grasping at a last chance for a championship, a family dealing with an absent father, and a glimpse inside the life of an NFL team is more than enough to entertain readers.

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