(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Jim McMahon became a celebrity because of the famous “headband incident.” Right after being fined five thousand dollars by NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle for wearing a headband advertising “Adidas” in a televised playoff game, McMahon entered the NFC championship game with the Rams wearing a headband bearing the name “Rozelle.” This may have seemed like pure orneriness at the time, but McMahon makes it seem like a sensible and natural thing to do.

His philosophy of life is based on two principles: be yourself and have fun. “If I’m supposed to be a role model because I’m a high-profile athlete,” he says, “then the best thing I can advise is, be yourself. Don’t operate to please other people; don’t mold yourself to satisfy society.” His attitude sometimes exasperates his fiery coach Mike Ditka, but Ditka knows that in McMahon he has a sparkplug who is largely responsible for bringing the traditionally colorless and disappointing Chicago Bears to life.

McMahon’s sentiments have obviously been toned down by co-writer Bob Verdi, a gray-haired veteran with the Chicago Tribune’s sports department. It is hard to find a swearword in the book. Alcoholic drinks are always referred to as “beverages.” There is no mention of drugs or extramarital sex. It is a book that would not have a harmful influence on the most impressionable youngster--although the adult who reads between the lines realizes that McMahon must have been a real hell-raiser all his life.

McMahon has unkind words to say about some media folks and a few football players who are not responsible for protecting him against pass rushers; but his only real blasts are directed against his parents, who punished him brutally as a kid, and against the professional football establishment. He is making a fortune, but he reminds the reader that the average player, who has a playing life of 4.3 years, takes an awful pounding for relatively little pay. He berates the Bears’ management for their skinflint practices and team owners in general for monopolistic collusion against the guys who take all the licks.

The book has little to say about football strategy but is helpful in understanding what makes professional football players tick.