Based on Nicholas Dawidoff's reporting, I think American football is, paradoxically, as difficult to understand as it is easy to enjoy watching. In Collision Low Crossers: Inside the Turbulent World of NFL Football, Dawidoff writes about a year he spent deeply embedded in the New York Jets organization. From before the draft until after the final game of the season, he practiced with them, travelled with them, ate with them, interviewed their players and coaches, stood on the sidelines and sat in the coaches' box with them, and even called a play in a game.
The Jets gave Dawidoff full access to the team and their facilities. I'm not sure anyone who is not an actual player, coach, trainer, owner, or team employee could have ever had so a close-up look at a football season. One of the major themes of Collision Low Crossers is the complexity of the game. The hours spent reviewing and analyzing film, breaking down plays, creating new plays, and creating the related spreadsheets and predictive programs makes the whole thing sound mind-boggling. There's a lot more to calling a football game than run or pass and whether to go for it on fourth down.
With that complexity, the demands on the coaching staff and their support team are tremendous. Putting in countless hours, coaches, especially after an unsuccessful season "lost their sleep, they lost their pleasures, the lost their homes, . . . and they lost their marriages." The rewards are great when they win, but really every season there's only one winner, and all the rest are losers. And in a new season, all bets are off.
For New York Jets fans Collision Low Crossers is required reading. Dawidoff spent the 2011 season with the Jets. Fans will enjoy all the back stories, and, even though the season was a disappointment, it was great reading as it all played out. Football fans in general, even if not fans of the Jets, will still enjoy the insights and stories. Much of what Dawidoff observed is certainly common across the NFL. If a reader is not a football fan, well, you probably won't want to pick this up.
Dawidoff's writing delves deeply into the hearts of the characters, the heart of the organization, and the heart of the game. Coaches and players were transparent with him on many occasions. They accepted him as one of their own, giving him a true insider's perspective. I may not understand the game any more than before, but I do enjoy watching it, even more so after reading Collision Low Crossers.
Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the complimentary electronic review copy!