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Book review: Hudy throws a yellow flag on football's "The Code"

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Diary of a Mad Sportswriter: Book review: Hudy throws a yellow flag on football's "The Code"

Diary of a Mad Sportswriter

Stan Hudy is a sportswriter for The Saratogian and Community News. He covers high school and youth sports in the Saratoga County area as well as writing a weekly book review on sports books. He's not just a "stick and ball" sportswriter, he's willing to take on any sport as well as any subject.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Book review: Hudy throws a yellow flag on football's "The Code"

The Code
Football's Unwritten Rules and Its Ignore-At-Your-Own-Risk Code of Honor
By Ross Bernstein
Triumph Books
246 pages

Author Ross Bernstein returns with his inside the game series "The Code: Football's Unwritten Rules and Its Ignore-At-Your-Own-Risk-Code of Honor" after having previous success with books about "The Code" in the NHL and professional baseball.

Unfortunately his foray into football starts out slower than a stagnant offense with consecutive 3-and-outs in a big game.

The title is catchy; the notation of previous works about the inner workings of retaliation, do's and don'ts on the ice and on the diamond made this version of "The Code" an enticing purchase.

The book begins with two forwards written by a pair of former NFL stars, Jerome Bettis and Ahmad Rashad, followed by Bernstein's own preface. He gets "The Code" moving downfield with a complete 14-page entry of what "The Code" is, but that is where the book falls off the gridiron and the reader's own radar.
The next 51 pages (of a 246 page work) deal with "Revenge and Retaliation" giving the reader the truth of what happens under the piles of 300-pound lineman during a scrum, why cut-blocking is abhorred and the frequent eye-gouging that occurs. Bernstein is able to keep the theme going by utilizing 63 different quotes from NFL greats, former players, referees and league officials.

What makes the book grind to a halt like a first-ranked defensive line is the reiteration of the constant warnings of intentional injury, payback and commotion in the football scrums. Page after page is the same theme, just different voices who I am sure Bernstein is grateful for granting him an interview, but do not serve to advance his point, and only bore the reader.

If that wasn't enough, Bernstein dedicates the 22 pages to another page-gripping topic from "The Code," retaliation. If 51 pages of what happens at the line of scrimmage isn't enough to keep any parent from ever letting a child play football, the next 22 pages come close to forcing the reader to shelf the book.

Bernstein's Hail Mary for this version of "The Code" delves into the topic involving stealing signals from the opposition during games, on the road, from television feeds and gives a quality look at "Spygate" involving the New England Patriots.

His work provides plenty of anecdotes from Hall of Fame coaches and their efforts early in the history of the game to prevent spying and how they attempted to throw off the enemy camps is a perfect break from the last 73 painful pages.

Bernstein's scoring drive stalls later on as the writer gives only a quick look to interesting subjects such as the referee's code during contests and interactions with coaches, just four pages to the training camp code before providing a look inside the locker room of NFL clubs.

What NFL book would be complete with a solid discussion regarding steroids and drugs? Bernstein gives the subject a quality view and then brings the reader back to Earth with two intriguing chapters about players playing hurt and the long-term effects of the violent game that dominates Sunday afternoons in America.

Bernstein appears to have the play clock wind down on him late in "The Code," using his chapter "Sub-Codes to the Code" to toss in quick slants in sub-headlines for long-snappers, the late game kneel down code, the Pro Bowl code and others that deserve more attention and could have broken up his verbose earlier chapters.

While tagged as only a 246-page work, "The Code" is not a quick read; it can only be compared to being forced to watch all of your favorite team's pre-season games before jumping into the mid-season hunt for a title, a quick glimpse at the playoffs and a shortened Super Bowl contest.

It takes a true NFL fan to be willing to break open "The Code."

1 ½ Hudy Heads
Note: The Hudy Head rating system ranges from 1 to 5 Stan Hudy Heads.
1-head - I wasted my time reading it, don't waste yours.
2-heads - If you have time, it looks good on your shelf
3-heads - Worthy of a read, may come in handy during timeouts
4-heads - Forget the beer, buy the book and brag to your friends
5-heads - An All-Star book, worthy of promotion on any sports talk radio show

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