REVIEW – It’s a place most football players find themselves in multiple times during an average day at the “office.” There’s plenty of name calling, crotch grabbing, eye-socket jabbing and “oh-crap-I-wish-I-wore-a-cup-today” down there squeezing.
It’s the pile. It’s pretty ugly. And Michael Strahan wants to tell every sweaty detail.
Strahan, a defensive end for the New York Giants, along with Fox NFL reporter Jay Glazer, leaves nothing out of his new book, Inside the Helmet: Life as a Sunday Afternoon Warrior. Strahan’s professional career began in 1993 when the Giants selected him in the second round of the NFL Draft.
At 36, Strahan is in his 15th season with the Giants and holds the NFL record for most sacks in a season, coming in at 22.5 in 2001. He’s one of the Giants’ and the NFL’s most visible and talented players.
He’s good. And if his stats alone don’t tell you that, he will in the book. Several times.
Strahan laces every raw story with a brash “I’ll tell it like it is” attitude, from Vicodin addiction to his ex-wife’s unflattering tendencies. He calls out players for unsportsmanlike attitudes and actions. He recalls stories of teaching rookies their place. He leaves no one safe in his or her personal or professional lives. Far from safe is anyone who dares cross the Giant.
Teammate Scott Gragg learned this quickly – as soon as he recovered from the helmet-thrashing Strahan dished him during a brawl at practice. Strahan at least admits his ignorance in the situation, though he seems to glow faintly in taking down such a massive player.
Hearing what is shot back and forth on the field is a chance fans rarely get. A whole chapter is devoted to trash-talking, on and off the field. Strahan brings up a valid point when saying trash-talking is completely necessary. Without it, a player with a separated shoulder wouldn’t be able to rely on adrenaline alone. Something needs to push these guys over that last edge, or else football would resemble something more like water buffaloes frolicking around on turf and playing catch. Call the insults immature, but anyone who’s ever played sports knows their movational powers.
Just don’t talk about his momma. Bad news.
Chapter 14 details his Monday through Sunday workweek by the minute. If this was a ploy for sympathy, it fell pretty flat. Twenty weeks out of the year, Strahan can be found at meetings, studying playbooks, running drills and plays, watching practice and game films and hearing how he and his other teammates screwed up and managed to lose that week.
Well, it’s a job. A nicely compensating one at that. There are parts to loathe and celebrate. And lucky for Strahan, if the boring parts outweigh the good ones, at least he pocketed millions for putting up with it.
It is advisable to skip chapters 12 and 14 entirely unless the reader has the desire to a.) sleep immediately, or b.) become a Division I football coach tomorrow. Most readers won’t miss the dozens of plays and “I’ll bet you can’t learn this” stance. The majority of the other chapters are interesting, with Strahan dropping names like Tiki Barber and Peyton Manning and explaining locker room pranks like “The Blue Dot Man” and the “Icy Hot.”
Though much of the book reads like a “this one time in the locker room” story contest, with words in all caps, exclamation points and enough expletives to assert his manhood, Strahan doesn’t shy from points like the need for shots and pills to make it through practices or games. Strahan’s take on current issues like steroid use, financial catch-22s and the politics of coaching brings credibility to the book that tales of broken bones cannot.
In Inside the Helmet, the self-proclaimed “gap-toothed freak” lets 14 seasons of Giants football and NFL antics all hang out.
Brianna Barry can be reached at email@example.com.