Walkthrough: Enter the Elam-verse
by Mike Tanier
Let me empty my spam mailbox before I start Walkthrough:
Request for urgent business relationship
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To Whom It May Concern:
In the ninth generation after the reign of the frost gnomes, when the sparrow prince cleaved his soul to the diamond-pure heart of the Maiden of the Moors, a celestial race came forth from the heavens and bore fruit. They were the Nephalim, and they consorted with earthly women and fathered a race of giants and gunslinger quarterbacks. The descendants of the giants are still among us, and they have the power to transmute metals and see within the hearts of men, and also to fire blitz and hold dominion over non-flowering plants. When challenged by these descendants of the celestials, do not make eye contact, lest they replace your soul with that of a pit demon, and also know that the world will end on December 21, 2012, when the frost gnomes run out of timeouts and can no longer challenge the Mayan overlords.
Book Review: Monday Night Jihad
Riley Covington is a driven, passionate man. He's an expert marksman who can fly an airplane, prays roughly five times per day, and isn't afraid to resort to violence to solve a problem. He's the kind of hero America's enemies just cannot relate to, and in Monday Night Jihad, Jason Elam and Steve Yohn's wry deconstruction of the potboiler formula, Covington is on a one-man quest to stop a tight-end-turned-mad-bomber. Covington is aided on this one-man quest by a host of federal agents, quirky code breakers, gorgeous Iranian snipers, and heroic hot chocolate vendors.
On the surface, Jihad is a sanitized sub-Clancy quality techno-thriller, filled with stock characters and giant plot holes. But Elam and Yohn are clever writers who toy with our expectations of structure, storytelling, and grammar, creating a kind of un-novel that is every bit as deep as it is entertaining.
Jihad begins in 1991, when a young Iraqi boy named Hakeem sees his family killed by American bombs during Operation Desert Storm. Twelve years later, Riley Covington serves a tour in Afghanistan, putting aside his football career so he can fulfill his military obligation. While leading a squadron of thinly-characterized military archetypes, Riley sustains a serious injury. Once healed, Riley is given the chance to forfeit the remainder of his obligation so he can serve as a recruiting tool while playing professional football. Riley reluctantly accepts.
A few seasons later, Riley is a star linebacker for the Colorado Mustangs. His best friend on the team is Sal Ricci, an Italian-born tight end who came to the PFL after starring in an Italian minor league. Ricci is a bit of a mystery man, but he and Riley seem oblivious to an impending threat as several terrorists slip across the Canadian border armed with a plan to hit American capitalism where it will hurt the most: Minneapolis.
On Page 32, Elam-Yohn tip off careful readers about their intentions for the rest of the book. Sal and Riley talk trash during practice, with Sal teasing Riley after beating him for a short catch. A few reps later, Riley steps in front of Sal and intercepts a pass. "How do you say 'payback' in Italian?" he asks.
Most educated humans would answer vendetta, but Elam-Yohn let the remark drop. It's their first act of conscious deconstruction as they begin to undercut our expectations of the contemporary thriller. They create intentionally silly dialogue that seems to insult the reader's intelligence while rewarding deeper analysts who appreciate the sardonic irony.
The authors provide a similar hint when Robert Taylor, the Mustangs publicity director who has dozens of lines of early dialogue but then disappears, balks at a television producer's request for an interview with Riley. His response:
"'Sure thing. How about I get you the pope while I'm at it? Or maybe you want a shot at the O-line?' Taylor knew it would probably be a whole lot easier to set up an interview with the head of the Catholic Church than with the Mustangs' offensive line, who were notoriously closemouthed during the season."
Note the brilliant triple duty this paragraph serves. First, it provides the pope cliché, which tells readers to expect the unexpected, which is to say the completely expected. Second, Elam-Yohn explain the joke, helpfully reminding readers who the pope is. Finally, they add a completely irrelevant observation about real football, reminding fans that Elam was a Broncos player and therefore can offer inside details about the offensive line that casual fans have known for decades.
Ricci begins to act suspicious as a group of central-casting terrorists orchestrate a plan to blow up the Mall of America. The plan is mostly thwarted (a bomb detonates in a parking lot) by Scott Ross, Riley's former second-in-command turned Yoohoo-swilling government hacker and code-breaker. Ricci reacts oddly to the news, and Riley begins to wonder about his swarthy friend with a mysterious past. Elam-Yohn then reintroduce Hakeem, now a terrorist called The Cheetah, who is in deep cover in America, living a life of fame and privilege while commanding a large, well-organized terrorist cell. By page 50, even preteen readers have guessed that Sal is The Cheetah, but Elam-Yohn, flaunting the obviousness and ridiculousness of the twist, withhold the true reveal until page 255, after exhausting every possible plot contrivance (including a fake death) to make readers think they are being clumsily thrown off the scent.
Eventually, Ricci and his terrorist cell blow up the Mustangs stadium during a Monday Night Football game. Ricci smuggles exploding footballs into the stadium with the team equipment, then distributes them to his comrades while pretending to sign souvenir balls. Thousands are killed by the blasts, including the Baltimore team's running back, who dies in Riley's arms just after getting tackled. Ricci fakes his own death and escapes, further enraging Riley, who hasn't caught on that Ricci is the plot's mastermind. Riley returns home contemplating American-style vigilante justice, but he gets a better offer when Ross recruits him to join an elite anti-terrorist team traveling to Italy to investigate the mysterious Cheetah. Riley accepts, and Ross re-assembles his old unit, who we've barely met, with one new addition: Khadi, a beautiful Iranian-American sniper-interpreter destined to teach Riley a few important lessons about love and Islam.
It's important for me to mention that the last paragraph contained no jokes. It was an actual plot synopsis.
The rest of the novel plays out like an elaborate game of learning-disabled cat and narcoleptic mouse, as Riley, Ross, and Khadi chase Sal the Cheetah through Europe and back to Pasadena, where Sal may be planning to attack the PFL Cup. Elam-Yohn litter the story with carefully-constructed plot holes that brilliantly undercut the narrative. The Cheetah, for example, travels from Colorado to Mexico to Italy to Mexico to Pasadena in a few weeks, an amazingly convoluted route for an international fugitive just days after a major terrorist bombing. Elam-Yohn's subversive wit can be found in other exquisitely-rendered writing techniques:
Wild Tone Shifts
Elam and Yohn usually place comic relief scenes of wise-apple federal agents just a page or two after each grisly bombing or torture/interrogation sequence. For example, with our heroes combing Europe, America presumably in mourning over the Colorado Stadium Tragedy, and a terrorist suspect freshly "persuaded" into a coma by interrogators, we get the following sequence:
"It isn't in the database, Terri," Gooey said, mispronouncing Tara's name for the thirty-second time since joining the team, thus causing Tara to have her thirty-second vision of planting the heel of her boot between his puffy blue eyes.
"Thanks ... Goofy," Tara said, immediately regretting her attempt at a zinger, which for some reason had seemed quite cutting when she'd rehearsed it in her head.
"So, no five," Tara plowed on. "And what about six? Oh yeah, that's Kasemi. Right?"
"Right-O, Tinkerbell," Hernandez confirmed.
"What? What did you call me?"
"Tinkerbell. Sorry, I thought we were doing Disney names. Didn't you, Mickey?"
"I thought so too, boys and girls," Williamson answered in a falsetto voice. "What about you, Fairy Godmother?"
"Bibbidi-bobbidi-boo," Evie sang.
In an earlier sequence, Ross and top agent Jim Hicks spend Christmas night at the office. After a page of cute character revelation (Hicks gives Ross a case of Yoohoo; Ross gives his commander a subscription to Guns and Ammo) they suddenly bare their souls to one another. Ross, a comic relief character for much of the novel, reveals that he's the child of drug addicts who sent him into dealers' houses to buy drugs as a child. Hicks reveals that he's a multiple divorcee who left his first wife after she refused to have an abortion and slapped his second wife when the pressure after 9-11 got to him. When we see Ross again about 20 pages later, he's back to being a lovable, iconoclastic techie agent, and Hicks is again an old-school Nick Fury knockoff.
Such tone shifts simply have to be intentional. Elam and Yohn rub the reader's face in them, creating cognitive dissonance that both elevates awareness and lowers expectations. Late in the novel, when the authors spend three-and-a-half pages parodying a vapid Super Bowl pregame show while terrorists descend on Pasadena and a seriously-injured Riley tries to decipher the Cheetah's plans, readers have surrendered to the power of the prose.
Earth Prime Doppelgangers
To avoid legal issues, Elam-Yohn created a fictitious alternate universe in which the PFL is America's top football league and the Colorado Mustangs are the team that represents the city of Denver. (The New York Times still calls it the P.F.L. Please don't fire me.) All of the other teams have names that closely mimic their NFL counterparts, so we read about the Oakland Bandits, Baltimore Predators, and Boston Colonials, among others.
The hastily-brainstormed, USFL-reminiscent names are just part of Elam-Yohn's plan to distract readers with surreal PFL-NFL parallels. The Mustangs lost a PFL Cup to the Texas Outlaws decades ago, their defense was once called the Red Scare, and the arch-enemy Bandits were once coached by Jim Madison, who later became a famous announcer (interestingly, youngsters still play Madden football on page 107). We've seen that their linemen don't talk to the media, and their kicker, Tory Girchwood, is so accurate that he can knock a beer out of a Bandits fan's arms with a punt.
No football detail is too minute or irrelevant for Elam-Yohn to twist into the tortured logic of their mirror-verse. A 46-10 blowout by the Chicago Stockmen in PFL Cup XX is referenced. Los Angeles' inability to field a PFL team is brought up. The reader is left reaching for parallels that might not exist. Is the dead Predators running back Jamal Lewis? A Predators offensive coordinator also dies -- did Elam have any beef against Jim Fassel? And what about Ricci? The reader is forced to believe that Elam looked over at Shannon Sharpe with suspicion at least once during their years together.
Late in the novel, Tyrone Wheatley is inexplicably name-dropped, one of the few individuals (Chad Hennings is another) who exist in both universes. The mention shatters any assumptions the reader had that he, or anyone else, is in control of the story.
Boldly Dichotomous Narrative Choices
The characters in Monday Night Jihad never curse or make any sexually explicit remarks, a unique feat in a novel crammed with football players, federal agents, and evil criminals, all being pushed to their physical and emotional limits. When Jim Hicks gets off the phone with a clueless Homeland Security Director, the hardened career soldier calls the politician a "pompous, stuffed shirt, windbag, fancy tie-wearing good-for-nothing." Elam-Yohn are writing for the Christian bookseller audience, so toned-down language is expected. But in a novel with a body count in the thousands, where suspects are interrogated with knives at their throats, federal agents are decapitated, and the hero is tortured with electrodes on his nipples, the absence of a simple "ass" or "dammit" causes massive meta-cognitive de-centering for the reader.
Elam-Yohn's studied homage to thriller tropes extends to the tough guy-showdown dialogue, which doesn't need obscenity to be just as inane as you'd find in any potboiler or action flick. There are dozens of tough-guy showdowns: agent-on-agent, interrogator on terrorist, linebacker-on-tight end, and so on, and each comes with stereotypical, giggle-inducing dialogue.
Near the end of the novel, Hicks challenges the clueless Homeland Security Director, who doesn't want to assign extra security to the PFL Cup just because one stadium has already been bombed and Riley ascertained top-secret plans while being held prisoner. "What do you want? Are you expecting an engraved invitation to the Jihad party at the PFL cup? BYOB – bring your own bomb!" This is the literary apex of the novel: a completely implausible scenario, a cliché-ridden confrontation that plays out like a bad Dirty Harry imitation, and a tasteless, obvious, unfunny joke uttered by one of the heroes. The authors finally reveal their ultimate goal with this bit of dialogue: they make us hate terrorists, not just for blowing things up, but also for inspiring predictable action novels.
We've only scratched the surface of Monday Night Jihad. We didn't cover Elam-Yohn's brilliant name for the terrorist organization (The Cause!); Sal and Riley's six-page theological argument, in which the clean-living American military and sports hero barely battles a fanatical killer with a crappy nickname to a draw; the dozens of characters whose subplots never achieve resolution; the authors' constant use of past perfect tense; or the scene where Sal's American wife romantically tears out his back hair with tape on their honeymoon. It's all sublimely subversive and giddily postmodern.
Elam and Yohn leave us with one final question: why make the hero of your novel a linebacker if he doesn't do any linebacker stuff? Riley never tackles a terrorist or puts a swim move on a would-be attacker. He never designs a strategy that resembles a blitz or a Tampa-2 (St. Petersburg Deux in the PFL) zone. What's more, Riley's skill as a pilot is established in an early scene, but he doesn't fly any aircraft when fighting terrorists. And the expert marksman only fires shots at point-blank range. Monday Night Jihad is ultimately impenetrable in its deliberately awkward structure. I predict that future installments of the Riley Covington saga will branch into Thomas Pynchon territory. Alas, I don't think I'll have time to read them.
Stick to Football
Reading and writing about Monday Night Jihad was so much fun that I plan to make schlock-entertainment reviews a once-in-a-while feature of Walkthrough. Inspired by the I Watched This On Purpose series at The Onion, I am introducing Stick to Football. The premise is simple: I watch or read some tangentially football-related piece of pop culture fluff, then write a comprehensive review. It won't be a weekly feature, but it will make a great segment when football news is slow or my life has gotten too fast. Filler, in other words. But funny filler.
I need your help to make this work. Suggest books, movies, or other endeavors by football players who should have stuck to the gridiron: novels by kickers, movies by Brian Bosworth, and so on. I'll make a list and keep chipping away at it until my sanity fails.
One more thing: if you hated this week's Walkthrough and something with a little more football, pick up the current issue of ESPN The Magazine for another on of my glossaries, this one on pass routes. I'm also working on a piece about Philadelphia sports history which I hope will run in the Sunday New York Times with my game capsules. Something for everyone, except deep plant operatives disguised as tight ends. I'm looking at you, Fasano.
UPDATE: Tyndale House Publishers was kind enough to send us a photo related to the book that I felt was worth adding. You can view that photo here. -bb
82 comments, Last at 01 Dec 2009, 11:15pm
#1 by xLittleP // Oct 29, 2009 - 9:50am
Three words: Awesome.
#55 by Noahrk // Oct 30, 2009 - 1:58am
You said it! Ha, that's three words for you.
The picture is great, too.
#2 by big_jgke // Oct 29, 2009 - 10:04am
"prays roughly five times per day"
So... he's a muslim?
#11 by AnonymousA (not verified) // Oct 29, 2009 - 11:16am
Let's read this again, shall we?
"Riley Covington is a driven, passionate man. He's an expert marksman who can fly an airplane, prays roughly five times per day, and isn't afraid to resort to violence to solve a problem. He's the kind of hero America's enemies just cannot relate to[...]"
Passionate? Airplane? 5xPray/Day? Violence? America's enemies cannot relate to?
Yes, indeed, you've identified a joke!
If it makes you feel better Mike, I liked that one...
#3 by fyo // Oct 29, 2009 - 10:04am
I'm speechless... and left with a perverse need to read the book...
#4 by Dearth O'Faith (not verified) // Oct 29, 2009 - 10:09am
Ive read worse. There is a long line of actually bestselling books which all proudly blurb on the backcover..."and only one man can stop them. Ex-CIA, but they wont let him leave" Any Tom Clancy, post 'Executive Orders', is stupider, and he still made billions. Then, they let him leave. About time.
#5 by Keith (1) (not verified) // Oct 29, 2009 - 10:09am
Even as a book review, I laughed.
Very well done. Thanks.
#6 by Danish Denver-Fan // Oct 29, 2009 - 10:16am
This was beyond excellent.
#7 by Kal // Oct 29, 2009 - 10:24am
You need to lose more bets.
A LOT more.
#18 by Temo // Oct 29, 2009 - 11:55am
I think I figured out Tanier's scheme:
Step 1: Pick a senseless fight with Barnwell and take the less likely position while giving even odds. Also, take the position that you don't really want to succeed, thus making full use of the age-old reverse-jinx theory of outcomes.
Example: Betting for Reggie Bush and against Kevin Kolb.
Step 2: Make sure you bet so that if you lose, you'd just be doing something that you'd probably do for fun and/or to mine a rich vein of hilarious writing material.
Example: Blogging the pro bowl, writing a review of Monday Night Jihad.
Step 3: ???
Step 4: Profit.
#32 by BroncosGuy (not verified) // Oct 29, 2009 - 1:35pm
It isn't so much that he bet against Kevin Kolb, he bet on the Chiefs defense. I'm no psychiatrist, but sometimes a masochistic personality can be spotted from a great distance.
#39 by Thomas_beardown // Oct 29, 2009 - 3:06pm
He's considering making this a recurring article idea, I think it's fair to say that Mike is a glutton for punishment.
#50 by Mike_Tanier // Oct 29, 2009 - 6:59pm
Shhhhh. Barnwell hasn't figured it out yet!!
#51 by BroncosGuy (not verified) // Oct 29, 2009 - 8:02pm
If self-flagellation makes you feel so good, let me suggest a more direct course: restrict yourself to games featuring Raiders, Browns, Rams, Lions, Bucs, and sometimes Chiefs or Redskins (preferably against one another). That way you achieve all of the pain without needlessly contributing to Barnwell's self-esteem, which needs tending like Larry Johnson needs counseling.
#8 by DeltaWhiskey // Oct 29, 2009 - 10:41am
What does it mean when the review is better than the book?
#19 by Temo // Oct 29, 2009 - 11:59am
If you're an avid reader, you'd know this happens more often than you expect. Unfortunately.
It's why the entire practice of literary criticism exists, to an extent. (It also exists to give creativity-starved college English professors something to publish when they're not banging co-eds)
#9 by elhondo // Oct 29, 2009 - 10:50am
I can't help but think that I would enjoy this more than that recent Dan Brown novel.
#42 by Sophandros // Oct 29, 2009 - 3:41pm
Or any Dan Brown novel....
Sports talk radio and sports message boards are the killing fields of intellectual discourse.
#10 by bravehoptoad // Oct 29, 2009 - 11:04am
I thought this book was something Mike was making up, and felt shame for typing it into Google. "That Tanier got me again," I'm thinking.
19 out of 22 people give it 5 stars on Amazon.
#13 by Danish Denver-Fan // Oct 29, 2009 - 11:21am
Yes but those people are named Eve Statwater, Man Darino and Roy Shakeman.
I believe tha Darino guy played for the Florida Sea Mammals in the 80'es an 90'es...
#34 by Kevin from Philly // Oct 29, 2009 - 2:01pm
You forgot Ray Finkle and Lois Einhorn. Laces out, Marino!!!!
#20 by Sophandros // Oct 29, 2009 - 12:09pm
And one of the reviewers said that it made you relive 9/11...and she meant it as a compliment!
Sports talk radio and sports message boards are the killing fields of intellectual discourse.
#12 by ammek // Oct 29, 2009 - 11:19am
What a great idea: postfootballism!
My pitch for the sequel: Long-retired quarterback Donovan McNabokov is haunted by the disembodied voices of phone-in callers chanting his name. Believing himself to be the chosen one — but chosen for what he does not yet understand — McN tries out for his old team, the Amorfraternia Kestrels. The Kestrels have made the K.F.C. championship game every year for 47 years, but have lost each time.
McN's return is controversial. The other QBs on the Kestrels' roster, including starter Roland Barthkowski, all develop a degenerative disease that turns their skin to parchment. Coach Herrmann Herrmann Edwards Edwards begins to speak exclusively in rhyming verse, his offensive playbook now the complete works of Algernon Swinburne. And star wide receiver Calvino Johnson loses the ability to run in a straight line: hitherto he can only run hooks and curls, and even then the route always finishes where it began at the line of scrimmage.
A series of twists and turns reveal this strange turn of events to be the work of the Kestrels' recently-signed mid-operation transgender punter Sonja Male. With typical irony, Male is the female half of the punter's double personality, the male part going under the name of Honey Vest, a (literal) ghost writer of third-rate sports-themed thrillers. It turns out that McN, like Vest, has been dead for more than a century, and the body that McN thinks he is inhabiting in fact belongs to a much-derided journeyman QB called Chunky Campbell.
No explanation is given for McN's reincarnation nor for the strange fate of the offense. But the story ends in overtime in the K.F.C. championship game. One of the footballs has been fitted with an explosive device which, if spiked, threatens to annihilate Hamlin Fiscal Field. McN, having intercepted his own pass, comes charging towards the Kestrels' end zone for the game-losing safety, preparing an almighty spike, when he looks up and sees that he still has the punter to beat.
#37 by jfsh // Oct 29, 2009 - 2:50pm
"One of the footballs has been fitted with an explosive device which, if spiked, threatens to annihilate Hamlin Fiscal Field. McN, having intercepted his own pass, comes charging towards the Kestrels' end zone for the game-losing safety, preparing an almighty spike, when he looks up and sees that he still has the punter to beat."
I think that's the funniest mental image I've had in a very long time.
#48 by Sifter // Oct 29, 2009 - 5:11pm
I laughed hard at this - your stupidity rocks!
#61 by Noahrk // Oct 30, 2009 - 10:55am
Donovan McNabokov! That's the best part, though the ending is good, too.
#82 by littletinybroncos (not verified) // Dec 01, 2009 - 11:15pm
I am an entertainment lawyer. I love your treatment. Can I option the screenplay?
#14 by Dennis // Oct 29, 2009 - 11:28am
The next thing to review is obvious - Blown Coverage (Riley Covington Thriller Series #2) http://www.amazon.com/Blown-Coverage-Riley-Covington-Thriller/dp/1414317328/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1256829990&sr=8-3
#16 by DrewTS (not verified) // Oct 29, 2009 - 11:34am
HAHAHA! From the Amazon review of "Blown Coverage" --
"For readers who enjoy a suspenseful near-super-hero versus underworld story, this thriller disappoints with its predictable arc and passages of dialogue that are downright mundane and off the plot path."
I think we have a winner on our hands.
#15 by David W. (not verified) // Oct 29, 2009 - 11:32am
Brilliant! Lots of laugh out loud moments. I think my favorite is the analysis of the "triple duty paragraph".
#17 by Will Allen (not verified) // Oct 29, 2009 - 11:53am
You bastards just wait and see what happens to this country when Minneapolis is no longer producing lutefisk!
#27 by Bobman // Oct 29, 2009 - 1:23pm
Then I'll sit back counting my kroner as my shares on the SLUFE (Seattle LUtefisk Futures Exchange) soar. It's pretty popular here, mostly among the old-line Scandinavians, and friends tell me that "it's not as gross as you might expect."
Damned by non-existent praise.
#35 by Will Allen (not verified) // Oct 29, 2009 - 2:37pm
It ain't bad, if you don't mind eating tenderized rubber.
#21 by Thomas_beardown // Oct 29, 2009 - 12:29pm
"massive meta-cognitive de-centering"
What a fantastic phrase, I hope to be able to integrate it into daily use.
#22 by David // Oct 29, 2009 - 12:33pm
Playing for Pizza, by John Grisham
Not a failed book by a football player, but certainly an odd little book. Personally, I quite enjoyed it, as it's actually a travelogue/ode to italian food with an american football player dumped in as the slightly odd choice of everyman for the reader to relate to
#28 by Bobman // Oct 29, 2009 - 1:24pm
I thought it was fun. If I had bought in hardcover I'd feel robbed, but $5 at Costco... just about right.
#23 by drobviousso // Oct 29, 2009 - 12:34pm
This review makes me want a Yoohoo.
#24 by The Other Ben … (not verified) // Oct 29, 2009 - 1:15pm
I think we could all use a review of Hunter "The Punter" Smith's songwriting as a part of contemporary Christian pop duo Connersvine. http://www.myspace.com/connersvine
#31 by Danish Denver-Fan // Oct 29, 2009 - 1:30pm
... on that string of thought, didn't Kerry Collins do country at one point? Oh and the Heavy-rock thing of the cowboys o-line...
#25 by Karl Cuba // Oct 29, 2009 - 1:16pm
How about Florio's horrendous 'Quarterback of the Future'? That looks like an awful read.
#54 by poboy // Oct 29, 2009 - 10:47pm
Second vote for that one. It's got to be awful.
#66 by dbot (not verified) // Oct 30, 2009 - 12:14pm
this was my first thought. please do this. please!
#26 by Still Alive (not verified) // Oct 29, 2009 - 1:16pm
Just an excellent piece of writing. Sometimes it seems like he is trying to hard but this stayed right on mark.
#29 by Bobman // Oct 29, 2009 - 1:26pm
MT, You really did a masterful job, but I suspect it was never as much fun as reading your review. Sorry you had to read it; hope you're not blind now, or clinically depressed.
Finally, is this really *all there is* for walkthrough?
Guess I'm just being greedy.
#62 by Noahrk // Oct 30, 2009 - 11:00am
This probably took Tanier 3 times as long to write as a regular column, you greedy bastard! :)
And no one has even mentioned the brilliant spam from the beginning, which was probably the most time-consuming part of all.
Tanier wrote inspired today.
#30 by BroncosGuy (not verified) // Oct 29, 2009 - 1:28pm
creating a kind of un-novel that is every bit as deep as it is entertaining.
And Tanier masters the art of the blurb: say something printable that's still technically true.
I'll also point out that the Mall of America stands on the site of old Metropolitan Stadium. So even when the terrorists bomb something other than a football stadium, its still a former football stadium. These guys really hate football. Does Al Jazeera only broadcast Raiders games?
#33 by The Hypno-Toad // Oct 29, 2009 - 1:57pm
"The rest of the novel plays out like an elaborate game of learning-disabled cat and narcoleptic mouse"
This phrase is as good an example of perfection as anything I've ever read.
#36 by jfsh // Oct 29, 2009 - 2:47pm
Yup, I basically lost it at that point. Amazing review.
#77 by TTLG // Oct 31, 2009 - 12:12am
Yeah, that's one of the best phrases I've read in a long time.
Why is that a chimp does not straddle a goat and ride into the sunset?
#38 by Dean // Oct 29, 2009 - 2:56pm
I'm not sure if I'm just punishing myself, but I might have to read it now. And then promptly regret it.
There's a guy whose name escapes me at the moment but is a former DE for the Falcons and sometime broadcaster (on FOX?) who also has a half-dozen or so books in print.
Dan Jenkins has nothing to fear.
#40 by flipper13 (not verified) // Oct 29, 2009 - 3:23pm
#41 by redraider33 (not verified) // Oct 29, 2009 - 3:25pm
Elam actually has two more books, another that's already out (Blown Coverage) and one forthcoming (Blackout). The book review was hilarious, although the books are actually halfway decent. Blown Coverage was actually quite good. The writing matured a lot from the first book to the second. Yes, I've read both.
#43 by Kevin from Philly // Oct 29, 2009 - 4:20pm
I suspect that you are the "Doctor Jeckyll" to RaiderJoe's "Mister Hyde".
#44 by jayinalaska // Oct 29, 2009 - 4:38pm
Football Outsiders Almanac 2009 (PDF): $8.00
FOs 2009 KUBIAK: $20.00
FOs Premium Access: $40.00
Getting to read Mike Tanier's Walkthrough column once a week: Priceless!
#45 by Bill Barnwell // Oct 29, 2009 - 4:40pm
I've added a very special photo to the bottom of the article.
#47 by Keith (1) (not verified) // Oct 29, 2009 - 4:58pm
El oh el.
#57 by Kevin from Philly // Oct 30, 2009 - 10:07am
Sherlock Holmes called - he wants his hat and pipe back.
#60 by elhondo // Oct 30, 2009 - 10:37am
I like how the photo shows that you bought a stack of the same book. As if you knew it was going to be good enough to give away copies as Christmas presents. Or for some reason, didn't know you could re-read the same copy.
#64 by Bill Barnwell // Oct 30, 2009 - 11:13am
The photo is neither myself or Tanier.
#69 by Floyd (not verified) // Oct 30, 2009 - 1:56pm
That photo just turned a great article into something transcendent.
I actually hunted down a color printer here at work in order to print it out. It hangs in my cube now.
#70 by redraider33 (not verified) // Oct 30, 2009 - 2:34pm
You do realize the photo's of Elam himself. That's what makes it so funny.
#73 by Floyd (not verified) // Oct 30, 2009 - 3:55pm
Yes, I do. It just adds one more wonderful layer to Tanier's desciptions of it as some sort of postmodern masterpiece.
#68 by tiktok (not verified) // Oct 30, 2009 - 1:17pm
I like the back cover quote: "He thought his deadliest enemy knelt across the line of scrimmage from him... he was wrong!"
Does this make sense? Isn't his enemy the TE? Don't TE's kneel across from linebackers?!?! Or was his biggest enemy himself, Mike didn't mention it but maybe Riley had to "fight" himself inorder to foil the terriorist plot. Or maybe his love love interest was so hot it was all he could do not to lay around and boink her all day...
#75 by Paulo Sanchote… (not verified) // Oct 30, 2009 - 9:34pm
His worst enemy is the book author... or, maybe, Tanier!
#46 by yogi // Oct 29, 2009 - 4:45pm
A beautiful piece.
I can't wait for your next book review.
I only regret that I simply have no reading material to suggest.
#49 by B // Oct 29, 2009 - 6:50pm
For movies for the "Stick to Football" series, I heartily endorse "Firestorm" Howie long battling forest fires and escaped convicts. What more could you ask for?
#52 by Pat (filler) (not verified) // Oct 29, 2009 - 8:24pm
Or Failure to Launch, for that matter, though that may sear Tanier's eyes from his head.
#53 by T. Diddy // Oct 29, 2009 - 9:19pm
And don't forget the 1996 classic Broken Arrow!
#59 by matt w (not verified) // Oct 30, 2009 - 10:15am
I was just about to chime in that I liked Broken Arrow. It didn't seem to stretch Howie beyond his abilities.
Failure to Launch, though -- that is one not good movie. Kids, if you ever fly to Australia, try to get a flight that has the movies on demand service; FtL was the second most appealing movie after I'd already watched Ice Age 2: The Meltdown. I did think it had one scarily convincing moment, when Terry Bradshaw's wife says she regrets having got their son to move out of the house, because it's creepy to be around Bradshaw all day. (I won't spoil the exact reason why. Why should you have that knowledge without having to suffer for it, as I did?)
#56 by Keith (1) (not verified) // Oct 30, 2009 - 8:17am
People question the ridiculousness of this book, but never bothered to question Red Dawn?
Because a Colorado highschool is the place to land if you want to take over America from the inside...
#58 by Kevin from Philly // Oct 30, 2009 - 10:10am
Everyone knows that the commies target American high schools - with their talk of "evolution", their Mary-Jane and their boogie-woogie music.
#63 by Noahrk // Oct 30, 2009 - 11:03am
I doubt there are many books out there this good to review, sadly. I bet most are boring and unoriginal in their suckiness. We got lucky with this one!
#65 by andrew // Oct 30, 2009 - 11:30am
Other reviews of the book:
"Elam's concept of tying together professional football and the war on terror seem purely brilliant." - [url=http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/479793/monday_night_jihad_by_denver_broncos.html?cat=4]Associated Content Society[/url]
"an exciting fast paced thriller that goes inside the mind of the terrorist to learn why they perform such horrific acts." - Harriet Klausner Review
You can find reviewers who [url=http://harrietklausner.wwwi.com/review/monday_night_jihad_yohn]liked monday night jihad
#74 by grassy (not verified) // Oct 30, 2009 - 3:58pm
oh it must be excellent then.
but why would tanier mislead us like this?
#79 by The Hypno-Toad // Oct 31, 2009 - 3:45am
You can probably find reviewers who liked The Blair Witch Project Part 2 as well. It doesn't stop the movie from being horrible.
#67 by Jaana (not verified) // Oct 30, 2009 - 12:18pm
“I found Monday Night Jihad to be not only interesting but very thought provoking. It made me examine not only my thoughts about football but also caused me to look at how I view life and people around me.”--Tony Dungy, Head Coach, Indianapolis Colts
Perhaps next could be a music review of "Christian Recording Artist" and Cincinnati Bengals tight end Ben Utecht? It can only be similarly life-changing, according to Dungy:
"Ben Utecht is a talented football player. He started at tight end for my team ... in Super Bowl XLI and helped us beat the Chicago Bears," said former Colts head coach Tony Dungy. "However, I always thought his real impact would be in Christian music."
#71 by redraider33 (not verified) // Oct 30, 2009 - 2:45pm
Here's a link to Elam reading his book. Now that's pretty darn funny.
#72 by jjb (not verified) // Oct 30, 2009 - 2:57pm
Suggestion: "Toss" by Boomer Esiason. Please.
#81 by Snowbound (not verified) // Nov 03, 2009 - 5:42am
$0.79 for the hard cover?
ha - my captcha is "Wednesday downers"
#76 by Gruntled (not verified) // Oct 30, 2009 - 9:40pm
Renowned football analyst Mike Tanier staggered through the vaulted archway of the lobby of the towering skyscraper that was the headquarters of Football Outsiders. He lunged for the nearest book he could see, a Dan Brown. Grabbing the paperback's well thumbed edges, the middle aged man heaved the masterpiece toward himself until it lifted from the table and Tanier collapsed backward in a heap beneath the large print volume.
#78 by I am excellent… (not verified) // Oct 31, 2009 - 2:19am
Uhh, how about a SPOILER ALERT, for chrissakes???!!!!
#80 by Adam (not verified) // Oct 31, 2009 - 10:13pm
I second the request of John Grisham's Playing for Pizza. It read like an excuse for Grisham to spend some time "researching" in Italy.