Red Zone is Mike Lupica's 15th novel. As a columnist for the New York Daily News, and a commentator for ESPN, Lupica certainly knows sports. And this novel is definitely written with the sports enthusiast in mind. Full of sports jargon and trivia, especially football, this novel is sure to appeal to those who love the sport. But others will be left wondering what this book is all about.
As for me, I'm not a sports lover by any means, but I am married to a football junkie. It was my husband who first read this book, and loved it. And then set about convincing me to give it a try, promising that I'd love it as well, and that it isn't "all about football". Well, he was half right about both promises. I liked the book, but didn't love it. And it IS mostly about football.
A sequel to Bump and Run (2000), this book follows protagonist Jack Molloy who has just watched his NFL team, the NY Hawks almost win their second Superbowl in a row.
But Jack hasn't been around for most of this past season. He's left the running of his team to his partners - his "evil twin siblings" Ken and Babs while he's been living his fantasy life in London. With his girlfriend, his constant drink-in-hand, and more disposable income than he knows what to do with, he's content to sit back, live the high life, and watch his team win football games.
But, all good things must come to an end... The twins inform him that they've sold their half of the team to Dick Miles for half a billion dollars. And now Miles is pressuring Jack to sell him the other half. Against the advice of all his friends and loved ones, Jack agrees to sell him half of his half. Thus Miles will own 75%, and Jack will own 25%, with an understanding that Jack will return to the main office for the next year to manage the team.
But Jack very quickly realizes that Miles intends to run the whole show. In less than a month, the general manager and head coach have been replaced. Then a very "loose canon" is brought in to be the starting quarterback. All of this happens so quickly, Jack's head is spinning, and he realizes he's made a huge mistake. He wants his team back, and he's got to figure out how to make that happen before the final closing date, just a few months away.
The good stuff
For those who enjoy sports trivia, especially football, this book is full of it. Although this is a work of fiction, there are plenty of references to real teams, real owners, and past games. I think that's a large part of why my husband enjoyed this book so much. As for me, I enjoyed hearing the old stories, even if I didn't know about them beforehand.
This book is definitely a comedy. Rarely do I find myself laughing out loud when reading a novel, but this book provided several opportunities to do so. Jack is a wise-cracking, sarcastic, smart-aleck. And his dialogues with others reflect this. With a wit sharp enough to slice, Jack's usually not afraid to say whatever's on his mind. And for those rare times when he holds his tongue, we the readers get to "hear" what he really wants to say as this book is written in first person from his point of view. So even if he's keeping mum, he'll let us know exactly what he's thinking. And that same wit shines through.
The bad stuff
No review of this book would be complete without mentioning the language. It's "colorful" to say the least. Then there's the drinking, the sex, the violence, and the gambling. Yup, this story has all of it, in excess. Nearly every one of Jack's "business meetings" takes place in a bar or a strip club. If books had MPAA ratings, this one would be R for sure.
The characters in this book are all very wealthy. And they're portrayed as if they have absolutely no idea what to do with their money, except to indulge in their vices. To me, this means that there's not a single likable character in this book. Though we're supposed to root for Jack - the "good guy" - I found myself not caring one single bit if things worked out for him or not. It's hard to feel sorry for someone who regrets making a sale that netted him a quarter billion dollars. I mean, really, how many tears should I shed over this? Especially since no one twisted his arm to make the sale in the first place. Furthermore, all of his friends and loved ones tried to tell him from the beginning not to do it. He chose not to listen to them; he chose to take the cash; he gets what he gets, as far as I'm concerned.
Not that Dick Miles is any more likable. He's got just as many character flaws as Jack does, maybe even more. But so what? This is business, right? The way I see it, the guy bought 75% of a team, he gets 75% of the decision-making power. And if wants to hire/fire people on a whim, it's his choice.
This is a fun book, and a quick read. Sports fans who don't mind the "adult themes" will likely enjoy it. Others won't.
Too bad the "recommended" field doesn't accept "Maybe". But I must choose "Yes" or "No". I'll choose "No" but I really mean "No for most people, but Yes for a very limited audience".
Another Mike Lupica novel: Too Far