Book Review: Martyball!

“Autobiographies” can be tricky things. At one end are tremendously interesting and insightful ones that are clearly in the person’s style; there are many examples of this, though Ulysses Grant’s (which I’m very slowly and irregularly making my way through) is one that stands out. At the other end is Charles Barkley’s Outrageous, which he claimed misquoted him even before it was released. With my affection for him as a coach, it somewhat saddens me to report Martyball!: The Life and Triumphs of Marty Schottenheimer, the Coach Who Really Did Win It All, co-written by the longtime NFL coach and sportswriter Jeffrey Flanagan, is much more an “as-told-to” book than a book that really feels like a true autobiography and product of the person being profiled. The result, almost inevitably, is a book that feels like a lesser, less insightful work.

I’m selling Martyball a bit shot; Flanagan uses a lot of information from other people, including friends and players, and the result is a book that feels more like a biography with extensive access to the subject than the sort of autobiography Schottenheimer’s name on the cover would imply. A chapter that really gets at the distinction I’m trying to draw is the one on Raiders week. It includes quotes from Marty on how the Raiders were the intentional obstructionists at the league meeting, frequently voting against otherwise popular measures, and were a vicious team. All quotes, however, come from days in the Chiefs; while in Marty’s prior tenure with the Browns he didn’t face the Raiders much, he coached in the AFC West later in his career. Did he preach in San Diego the same animosity to the Raiders he’d preached in Kansas City? Martyball doesn’t answer this seemingly obvious question.

Even with Marty’s somewhat more than nominal participation, the book I’ve previously reviewed on here Martyball reminded me of most was Cantor’s Paul Brown biography. Longtime readers may recall I’ve read two biographies of Paul Brown; Cantor’s came first, and while Flanagan doesn’t suffer from the same sourcing problems I criticized in that book, it feels similarly non-insightful. Yes, there are still things in the book I didn’t know about the person’s life (Schottenheimer’s road to becoming a coach was not exactly a straight one), but looking back at the book, even from a minute after I finished it, I was left wanting more, much more, than I got from it. I wouldn’t say Martyball is really a bad book; I just didn’t find it a worthwhile one.


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