Continuing with the semi-regular series of Friday Book Recommendations, I wanted to put in a plug this week for Jeff Pearlman's highly-entertaining new book, Boys Will Be Boys. This book has had a lot of hype and is already having a ton of commercial success (#1 on Amazon for sports books), so I was really looking forward to reading it. Plus, I really enjoyed Pearlman's other critically-acclaimed book about the 1986 New York Mets World Series team titled "The Bad Guys Won."
First the positives. This book follows the same type of formula as the Mets book, so it's a very informative and well-researched book. He starts the book by laying the groundwork for the Dallas dynasty with Jerry Jones and Jimmy Johnson and steadily introduces the key components of those Cowboy teams (Aikman, Irvin, Emmitt, Novacek, Haley, Deion, etc). You see the team come together during the rebuilding years, and then he takes you through their eventual rise and fall as a championship football team. Between the Jones-Johnson feud, Emmitt's ego, Irvin being Irvin, the Herschel Walker trade, the Leon Lett fiascos, the White House, the 3 Super Bowl championships, the legendary party reputation, and Barry freaking Switzer, there is a lot of material to cover. It was definitely a hard book to put down.
I don't know how gets the information that he does, but it's almost as if Pearlman was on the team. It's an insider's account of the Dallas Cowboys in every way, and the amount of detail that he puts into this book is incredible. He has quotes and interviews with every relevant Cowboy figure of the 90s, and I can't even imagine how he manages to find out some of the stories that are in this book. Either he made half of this stuff up (which I doubt) or he's just a really thorough reporter.
For you Bengal fans out there, believe it or not, there is a VERY informative chapter in the book about David Shula's brief tenure as offensive coordinator in Dallas prior to Norv Turner. According to this book, Shula was a complete joke of a coordinator who didn't have the respect of Aikman or anyone on the Cowboys (including Jimmy Johnson who only agreed to hire Shula as part of a package deal to get Dave Wannstedt from the Dolphins). Pearlman was practically mocking him in the book. Jimmy Johnson couldn't have fired him fast enough after seeing him in action as the offensive coordinator. I literally started getting upset while reading the chapter even though it had nothing to do with the Bengals simply for the fact that we were subjected to 4.5 years of David Shula as the head coach of the Bengals even though he was clearly a joke in Dallas. It confirms what many of us have known for 18+ years. Bengals owner Mike Brown is completely incompetent and borderline deceitful. He is literally STEALING money from the taxpayers of Cincinnati and the season ticketholders, and anyone who continues to support his "regime" (that's the only word that I can use for him at this point since he has become a Stalin-like figure in Cincinnati) should take a peek at this David Shula chapter and see for themselves how Mike Brown has been conning the city for almost 20 years by deliberately putting out a crappy product. Ok, I need a walk now. I digress.
Now to a few drawbacks for the book. I enjoyed everything about this book and in many ways it lived up to the hype with one exception. THE SUBJECT. The Dallas freaking Cowboys. I sort of forgot how much I hated those guys back in the 90s, and the book brought back many memories of me rooting against them on a weekly basis. I remember being happy when Leon Lett touched the live football in the Thanksgiving game against Miami that gave Miami another chance at the winning field goal, and that feeling came rushing back when I was reading about it in the book. It was sort of hard to read a 400 page book about the Dallas Cowboys and feel compassion or joy for them when I rooted so feverishly against them back in the day. I remember being HAPPY when Jimmy Johnson left the Cowboys, so it was hard for me to really feel sympathy for Aikman when he started getting upset about the Dallas dynasty spiraling out of control in the post-JJ era.
It also doesn't help that Pearlman almost goes out of his way to make the major players of the 90s Dallas organization look like bad dudes. Just going through the portrayals of some of the key figures:
Jerry Jones - egomaniac, insecure, in over his head, wanted credit for building the Cowboys even though he knew nothing about personnel, habitual drunk, adulterer
Jimmy Johnson - control-freak, petty, jerk, egomaniac, completely neglected his family, backstabber, picked on the trainers and "little people"
Emmitt Smith - completely self-absorbed, not a good teammate
Michael Irvin - drug addict, crazy, womanizer,
Charles Haley - certifiable nutjob
Deion Sanders - lazy, self-absorbed, bad teammate
Barry Switzer - stumbling drunk, in over his head, not respected by his players or coaches
Either the 90s Cowboys were just not very redeeming people or Pearlman makes them out to be worse than they actually were. Aikman comes off ok in the book, but that's about it. It's just hard to buy into the idea that was as much dissension and tension within the Cowboys when they were winning as many games as they were. The team would be like 8-1 and Pearlman was acting like they were coming apart at the seams. Try saying that to a Bengal fan!!
Finally, "Boys will be Boys" is pretty salacious and downright raunchy at times. Between all the "cheating on wife with 8 strippers" stories, the "found in a hotel room with coke and prostitutes" stories, the drug stories, the "reserving an entire limo of bimbos to be transported from Dallas to the Super Bowl" stories, the DUI stories, the gun stories, and the stories about Charles Haley's....ummmm...third leg, I legitimately felt dirty after finishing the book. Just know that there is a lot of off-the-field stuff (many of which is obviously highly entertaining), and I was actually sort of fatigued by it by the end of the book.
All in all, even though I felt a little dirty reading it and wasn't a huge fan of those Cowboy teams, I'd highly recommend "Boys will be Boys" if you are looking for an entertaining book that reads quickly and has a lot of great stories and great reporting. If you love football and grew up watching the NFL (even if you hated the Cowboys), this book is a must read.