Title: The Throwback Special
Author: Chris Bachelder
Rating: 3.75ish / 5
I saw this one at my university library during a lull in my reading. “I like the font,” I thought to myself. “It looks short,” I considered. I checked it out.
And it was a good choice! Despite not ever having heard of the incident the title of this book refers to (Joe Theismann’s leg injury), or Joe Theismann himself–and actually I also have a complete lack of football knowledge–I still found a lot to enjoy here. I think this book was probably geared to a different audience, and people who are familiar with the things I listed in the previous sentence may get “extra” out of the book than I did, but knowledge of those things is definitely not a prerequisite to understanding the book or finding it meaningful.
Basically the premise is this: twenty-two men, mostly strangers to each other, meet every year at a hotel to re-enact what they call “The Throwback Special,” or that time Joe Theismann’s leg was horrifically injured. They travel from around the country, have a raffle to decide who plays who, suit up, take their positions, and the whole thing is over in about a minute. The men are middle aged, and I would say that that is what this book is about far more than anything else–masculinity, especially the growing-older sort, but it also highlights how it can be fragile, hostile, anxious, hilarious, weird, or just run-of-the-mill.
The book is short–224 pages, and they aren’t all that big to begin with–and with 22 characters, you can probably guess that not a lot is said about each. It can be hard to tell them apart, but my advice is not even to try–it’s really more about the insight into the individual than it is important to the plot. It’s like a series of tiny character studies, and it’s very well done. It’s a fun book, but it’s kind of melancholy as well. I definitely found it thought-provoking and am even considering it as a gift for my dad, someone with a similar level of interest in football as me (that is, none), because I know he would appreciate the writing style and the humor and the pathos. It’s a solid novel for such a short read, and I am glad I picked it up.