Friday, August 15, 2014

Beating Goliath, by Art Briles

Art Briles's career has been all about beating Goliath--and then becoming Goliath!  In his new book, Beating Goliath: My Story of Football and Faith, Coach Briles, with the able assistance of co-author Dan Yaeger, tells the story of his rise as a Texas high school football coach and as a nationally-recognized top college coach.

Briles and Yaeger cover much of the same territory as last year's book, Looking Up.  The casual football fan will be pleased to know the in Beating Goliath, Briles does not spend much time with game summaries and play-by-play.  Beating Goliath is a much more personal book.

Baylor fans have been ecstatic to see the new prominence Briles has brought to the Bears' football program, included four consecutive bowl games, ten-win seasons, a Heisman trophy winner, and Baylor's first Big 12 Championship.  Our expectations have been raised.  Five years ago, we were excited to be in a bowl game.  Now we'll be sorely disappointed if Baylor is not one of the final four teams in the college playoff.  That's the kind of impact Briles has wherever he goes.

When Coach Briles took over at Stephenville, the football program was in the dumps.  Four state championships later, he left for the college ranks.  When he took over at Houston, the football program was in the dumps.  After taking the Cougars to bowl games in four of his five seasons, he left for a power 5 conference job.  When he took over at Baylor, the football program was in the dumps.  Are you beginning to see a pattern?

Briles doesn't say much about his future at Baylor in Beating Goliath.  He does sing the praises of many college coaches who have successful careers in the NFL.  Briles's goal at Baylor is nothing short of taking the Bears to their first ever national championship.  He has the team and the fans believing that he can do it.  I can only speculate, but I believe that if he can accomplish that feat, he will be hungry for a greater challenge, maybe looking for a Superbowl ring.  I hope he will stick around for a few more conference championships, and that national championship trophy will sure look nice on Baylor's campus.

Beating Goliath is part of the inside story of Baylor's rising from the athletic ashes to become a national power.  We hear a lot from Briles himself, of course.  It's written in a conversational style that captures Briles's tone.  (If there's ever an audio version, Briles must record it, not some actor!).  I was a bit surprised not to hear more about Briles's faith.  I didn't expect it to be 50% football, 50% faith, but it ended up being more like a 95/5 split.  I suspect Briles is not someone who is comfortable with vocal, explicit expressions of his faith, but I don't know.  I simply didn't feel like the book opened much of a window into his personal spiritual life.

Baylor fans will thoroughly enjoy Beating Goliath.  College football fans in general can appreciate the man and what he's done for the game of football and for the programs he has coached, but this is a fan's book.  Coach Briles, as a life-long Baylor fan, I am grateful for your work at Baylor!  May we see you on the sidelines of McLane Stadium for many years to come!

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