Snake Summary (Ken Stabler, Berry Stainback)

Ken Stabler, Berry Stainback


(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

After the Oakland Raiders’ 1977 championship season, Ken Stabler suddenly found himself in good company: The other quarterbacks who had led their teams to Super Bowl wins--Bart Starr, Johnny Unitas, Joe Namath, Len Dawson, Roger Staubach, Bob Griese, and Terry Bradshaw--were legends. Stabler, however, did not fit the prototype, and probably will not be included in their historical ranks. The left-handed “good-ole-boy” from Alabama more likely will be lionized for his contributions to a larger legend, the Oakland Raiders.

Like his coach, John Madden, Stabler (a.k.a. “Snake”) was adept at steering the Raiders’ rebel energies repeatedly into the playoffs. He showed canny leadership also in coordinating his teammates’ hard-drinking, women-chasing all-nighters, a practice that embellished their outlaw image. In SNAKE, Stabler recalls with affection and candor those glory days and nights.

Like most entries in this genre Stabler’s book is short on syntax and serious insight into his sport but full of folksy, vulgar similes and the tales that athletes love to tell on each other. As the wily quarterback with a mediocre throwing arm once might have mounted an offensive drive, Stabler combines several tedious game descriptions (and a few memorable ones of classic contests) with enlightening and often hilarious profiles of the colorful characters with whom he worked and played.

Few autobiographies have a supporting case this strong--Bear Bryant, Al Davis, John Madden, George Blanda, John Matuszak (who deserves the entire chapter devoted to him), and plenty of “L.A.” (Lower Alabama) drinking buddies--and Stabler makes the best of it. As a result, SNAKE revels in good-natured, locker-room camaraderie, and recounts the rowdiness and luxuries of being a male professional athlete.