2004-01-23 / Community

‘Bleachers’ May Be The Best Sports Book Ever

New Grisham Novella A Paean To Male Bonding
A Wave Review By Howard Schwach
‘Bleachers’ May Be The Best Sports Book Ever

'Bleachers' May Be The Best Sports Book Ever
New Grisham Novella A Paean To Male Bonding

A Wave Review
By Howard Schwach

I have been getting tired of John Grisham's novels, so when I saw his latest in a Lido Beach bookstore, I paid it little attention.

I believed that it had little to offer, both literally and figuratively. At 163 pages, it hardly qualifies as a novel - more like a novella, I thought.

In any case, I was hungry for something to read during the cold snap we have been suffering through, so I picked it up to read the dust jacket.

I was immediately hooked.

High school all American football players in a small town in the Midwest fifteen years after their gridiron triumphs. A dying coach. A secret the team has kept all these years. A group of ex-jocks sitting in the bleachers, waiting for the lights to be dimmed, a signal that the beloved/hated coach has finally died. Unrequited love. What more could a reader ask for?

And, Grisham delivers.

Without hardly realizing it, the reader is put among the now-30-somethings reliving the glory of their youth. It is a good place to be, especially for somebody who once graced a high school athletic field, somebody who once walked the walk and talked the talk. For others, the setting might seem merely exotic and interesting. For those who lived it, the setting is intense.

Neely Crenshaw is drawn to his home town, Messina, the home of the famous Messing Spartans. It has been fifteen years since he was last home. At that time, his uniform number was retired by the team and his coach, Eddie Rake.

As "Rake's Boys" sit in the bleachers, waiting for him to die, they relive old glories and try to decide whether they loved or hated the dying man.

But Neely is also back to see an old love, one who he left angry and embarrassed when he went off to college with the class trollop.

Highly-recruited, Neely plays college ball and is up for a Heisman Trophy when his knee is blown by an illegal hit.

It ends his football career and sends him wandering through the world, a has-been at 18.

The book is a real page-turner. You won't put it down until it's over and Neely has revealed the secret of a team that won the state championship without the coaches being present for the game.

"Bleachers" is a short book, but one worth taking on during a cold winter's evening.

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