By Porter Anderson | @Porter_Anderson
From December 19, 2011
A review I wrote for the site Reader Unboxed.
Slotback Rhapsody, by Christopher Harris
Near the center line of his recently published football opera, Slotback Rhapsody, debut novelist Christopher Harris can make even the most skeptical guy in the stands believe his protagonist’s secret. You’re ready to buy into the idea that this author has memorized a playbook as rich as the one his likeable hero keeps executing.
Football is beloved because there’s a scoreboard, because the rules are arcane but perfectly known to millions. Is there any wonder the slowest of slow-motion instant replay has evolved through football broadcasts, where we must know whether this shoe definitively touches the sideline marker or if the ball jiggles brownly in the wanton receiver’s mitts as he hits the turf? It is perfection because everything will be known. Anyone who says the sport is simply a venal substitute for warfare and that it satisfies the modern human’s suppressed bloodlust needs, they’ve either advanced to a higher stage of dealing with life’s unfathomability and should be followed like yogis, or are uncharitable to a fault. The beauty of statistics and formations and (yes, by heavens) instant replay is they let us touch bottom. And of course there is no bottom to life, which is wonderful but awful, and so we pretend: for a few hours, we allow ourselves to be charmed by a common spell.
This is a bracing, gratifying concept. Sport as a temporary refuge from chaos. Football as a reality ruled by people, not by the ineffable gods who handle daily life outside the stadium. And it’s a guy too short for the game, weighing under 180 pounds, who holds up to us this canny filter through which we can view the game’s grip on so many fans in our culture.
Still, Harris’ work proves less compelling than his diminutive protagonist’s. Nick Morrison. “Mouse,” as the slotback on Detroit’s squad is nicknamed, may lose both the girl and the dog, that’s true. But Harris, an ESPN fantasy football analyst, loses track of his own offense. He succumbs, eventually, to a “big game” conclusion that surely is any sports story’s most hackneyed temptation.
To read the full review, jump over to Reader Unboxed.