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The Throwback Special: A Novel by Chris…
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The Throwback Special: A Novel

by Chris Bachelder

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Showing 1-5 of 10 (next | show all)
This was a Tournament of Books pick, and I really enjoyed it! I don't tend to stray toward sports books, but this was really more about the relationships and quirks/idiosyncrasies of men who gather to relive a sports-based tradition every year. It is a quick read/listen .. I also gave it to my husband to read, and he also read it quickly. There are 20 men in the book (not to mention the other side characters), and at first, it seems a little difficult to keep them straight (here, the audio version probably helped a little, with the different voices), but after a while, the more "main" characters shine through and you realize you don't really need to focus on the specifics of the others..
( )
  avanders | Aug 8, 2017 |
This book has one of the most unique premises ever. It is about a group of men who meet at a hotel every year to reenact a famous football play in which quarterback Joe Theismann suffered a terrible broken leg on Monday Night Football. This play lives in infamy. The have a lottery to choose which of the twenty two player's roles they will play. They have all the jerseys and equipment. On the surface this seems like a strange topic for a book but is so well written that it was a National Book Award finalist. There are all sorts of side stories that captivated my attention. Loved the book. ( )
  muddyboy | Jul 3, 2017 |
I'm not going to lie. When I read the premise of this book, I balked. I love me some college football, but pro-sports of any kind just don't appeal to me. Then I read a couple of friends' reviews, and it's part of this year's ToB (my March Madness), so I decided to give it a chance. I'm so glad I did. This was a pleasant, quick, fun read with some amazing insights into the middle-aged male brain (having never been a middle-aged male, I'm just going to assume that these insights are accurate).

My generation most likely does not remember the play, but in 1985, in a Giants-Redskins game, Joe Theismann's career came to an end when his leg came in contact with Lawrence Taylor's thigh and promptly broke into multiple pieces. Do yourself a favor and DON'T Youtube the video (I did, and I'm really regretting that impulse). Anyway, the novel tells the story of a group of 22 men who get together once a year to remake the play, each man portraying a different character each year.

In unique fashion, Bachelder has managed to create not just 1 or 2 great characters, as is typical for literary fiction, but 22 individuals, some of which get more "screen time" than others. My favorites are Charles, the psychologist (yeah that's not surprising); Derek, the only non-White member of the group; and Fat Michael, the only member of the group who has the physique and stamina to actually be a football player. Each man brings a set of concerns, fears, and bits of personality, some of which stand out more than others.

There are moments that are touching, hilarious, and even thought-provoking, not an easy feat for a 224-page book with 22 characters. A couple of my favorite nuggets:

"If your defiance reveals vulnerability, not strength, it's really not very effective defiance."

"A sidewalk revealed no history, no desire. It yielded few traces of its use. A sidewalk was prescriptive, dogmatic. A path, though, was the expression, the record, of something vital and communal. An individual, no matter how determined, could not create a dirt path. The path expressed and served the aspirations of many. It represented a kind of bottom-up history - no matter what anyone thought people might do, this was what people had done, what they did, they walked here, the dirt now so compact it did not turn to mud in the rain."

And this is precisely what the book represents, the idea that the sum of the whole is greater than it's individual parts. These 22 men, with their individual parts, come together year after year to do something that they believe is greater than themselves (yes, it's a bit melodramatic, but go with it).

So, even if you aren't a sports book fan, you will find something to enjoy in this pleasant read. And, I'll be honest, I even enjoyed the sports parts. Just don't watch the video... ( )
  joyhclark | Mar 20, 2017 |
Read this book after it made the short list for Tournament of Books (Rooster) 2017 playoff. Published 2016, the story is about a bunch of older men who get together once a year to reenact the Throwback Special, a play in which Joe Theisman suffers a career ending compound fracture November 18, 1985. The author is Chris Bachelder, born in Minnesota and teaching in Ohio and this is not his first book. It is the first book I've read by this author. It's a bit of history of Monday night football and can be a walk down memory lane for football fans. It is an interesting tale of these 22 men who we get to know for this brief weekend and it covers male friendship and masculinity with humor and mostly good taste. Its not just about this one football game, it's more about each of these guys as they come together for this weekend. Some of the social aspects covered include fatherhood, work/business, the one man who is black deals with the issues of the possibility of a black man playing the role of black person (Lawrence Taylor), another who is thinking about his dad telling him that "people notice a job done well but in Robert's experience that had not been true, what people notice was tardiness, failure and moth damage." and Jeff's inner dialogue about marriage and that marriage is really about having someone in your life to watch you, to witness your life." And Charles who is thinks about things ending while they are starting.

So the essence of the book is a story of men's inner life and somewhat also the external life men share with each other or of men's ways of relating. The characters were interesting. The reader is slowly introduced to the 22 guys as they arrive but various pieces are added as you go along but never a complete picture of any one character. I found this to be very effective character development. I think the author meant us to get these bits and pieces of each man's thoughts and life and for the reader to fill in the blanks. It was readable. The story was in sections with chapters within the sections; As far as cover and book, it was not anything more than a green cover with the title and author name trying to give the feeling of movement. I felt that the author did achieve what he set out to tell in this story. It is an act of communion. They eat together, share rooms. The weather is rainy and uninviting. It is quest of a sorts, a voyage and return and even rebirth. I thought the book was well written, the author used a creative way to tell a story about masculinity and men's lives. ( )
  Kristelh | Jan 17, 2017 |
Could be spoilers.
I am not sure I enjoyed this as much as I expected. There are so many characters! It was hard to keep them straight. But it was enjoyable enough.
  franoscar | Nov 1, 2016 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0393249468, Hardcover)

From “a real force in American fiction” (Sam Lipsyte), a startlingly original novel about the psyche of the American Male.

The Throwback Special is the story of twenty-two ordinary guys who gather each fall to reenact what ESPN has called “the most shocking play in NFL history”: the November 1985 play in which Joe Theismann of the Washington Redskins had his leg horribly broken by Lawrence Taylor of the New York Giants on Monday Night Football. (The play was known by the Redskins as “the Throwback Special.”) Over the course of a weekend we follow the men as they choose roles; spend a long night of the soul revealing their secret hopes, fears, and passions as they prepare for the game; and finally enact their strange and yet oh-so-American ritual for what may be the last time. With his trademark “microfine sense of humor and tragic sense of history” (Michael Chabon), Chris Bachelder fills his moving and very funny tale with pitch-perfect observations about manhood, marriage, and middle age.

(retrieved from Amazon Tue, 18 Aug 2015 00:55:50 -0400)

The Throwback Special is the story of twenty-two ordinary guys who gather each fall to reenact what ESPN has called the most shocking play in NFL history: the November 1985 play in which Joe Theismann of the Washington Redskins had his leg horribly broken by Lawrence Taylor of the New York Giants on Monday Night Football. (The play was known by the Redskins as the Throwback Special.) Over the course of a weekend we follow the men as they choose roles; spend a long night of the soul revealing their secret hopes, fears, and passions as they prepare for the game; and finally enact their strange and yet oh-so-American ritual for what may be the last time. With his trademark microfine sense of humor and tragic sense of history (Michael Chabon), Chris Bachelder s moving and very funny tale is filled with pitch-perfect observations about manhood, marriage, and middle age.… (more)

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