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The Book of Coach

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Alma, Jan 26, 2013.

  1. Alma

    Alma Well-Known Member

    Wondered how many folks had read this about Bill Walsh's bible of football.


    I liked this story for a few reasons, but the main thing that keeps it from being the typical overwrought "man's burden" kind of piece is this: It's sneakily funny. Seth Wickersham, who wrote it, never has to explicitly say "as you can see these three guys trying to help Bill Walsh write a definitive book on football was occasionally ridiculous," but he manages to use the sources own words, pacing and sly observations.

    This section, read as a whole, is pretty terrific:

    THEY STARTED OVER. Peterson became Walsh's de facto co-writer and produced a new outline. He reworked Billick's draft, trimming as he went. Walsh loved military references, even from Nazis, all of which Peterson cut. "Having an excessive number of quotes from the bad guys distracted from the point," Peterson says.

    But for every quote that was cut, Walsh wanted to add 10 pages. He wanted a chapter on salary cap management, about which he had only rudimentary knowledge. He put Peterson on the phone with an NFL capologist, and Peterson wrote the section as if it came straight from the legend's lips. Then Walsh wanted a chapter about the media, and as Peterson says, "His only contribution was 'The media sucks.'" So Peterson researched media strategies and wrote a chapter about deflecting questions and never allowing reporters to get under your skin -- skills that Walsh neither possessed nor practiced.

    All along, Peterson was working on spec. He never signed a contract or even talked money with Walsh. Spending hours mining the coach's psyche was worth it. Though Walsh had decided not to write an autobiography, it ended up being autobiographical anyway. In the third person, he encouraged assistants who worried they'd never become a head coach. "Many people erroneously think they have only one chance to succeed, and if they miss that chance, they are doomed to failure. In fact, most people have several opportunities to succeed." And he warned about the perils of retirement. "Life after football can be an extremely traumatic experience."

    In 1996 Peterson sequestered himself to write. He gave Walsh pages to review, and Walsh would blanket them with comments, always in pencil. Then new ideas would occur to him, and he'd fax over additional notes. Walsh hated to waste paper, so he'd send Peterson torn magazine pages with feedback in the margins. As Peterson neared completion, Walsh's perfectionism kicked in. Walsh suddenly wanted the book to be about coaching and business, a niche read and a bestseller, everything to everyone. Then he wanted a chapter on the Catch, Montana to Dwight Clark in the 1981 NFC championship game. Peterson argued that if they included X's and O's, booksellers wouldn't put it in the front of the store but back in sports. Walsh ignored him, adding 82 pages of inside-football appendixes and 55 pages of play diagrams. As Craig says, "He wanted people to know that he had that all in him, that all his success didn't just happen."

    Then Walsh wanted people to know that it wasn't all him. He insisted on including inspirational quotes from his coaching buddies, so, as Billick says, "We had to put in every slapd -- he'd ever met." The book swelled so much -- to more than 800 pages -- that Peterson suggested breaking it into volumes. But Walsh wanted one comprehensive guide. Finally, in mid-1997, Peterson cut it to 550 pages and, acting as an agent, sold it to Sports Publishing Inc. Walsh received a $20,000 advance. Walsh never paid Peterson but did put his name on the cover, in small type at the bottom, under a photo of Walsh waving to the Candlestick crowd after his Hall of Fame induction in 1993, appearing neither happy nor satisfied. Still, as Peterson says, "I was honored."

    Now, two questions:

    -The italicized sections of the story feature a HS coach who buys the book and sees his worldview influenced in not good ways. Are they necessary?

    -Should the story end the way it does, or with the second-to-last section?
  2. Songbird

    Songbird Well-Known Member

    I read it. Nicely written story.

    But ...

    Boohoo. Coach wins state title with a perfect record but only wins title game by a touchdown, not two or three or four.

    Give me a break, douchebag. Nothing's ever good enough.
  3. Riptide

    Riptide Well-Known Member

    Walsh never paid his co-writer for all the hard work. That story will live on, too.
  4. Riptide

    Riptide Well-Known Member

    And this:

    Walsh mailed signed copies to his friends and traveled around the country to discuss it with coaches and owners. But Walsh being Walsh, he couldn't bring himself to actually read it. He hated the book the way he hated his legacy -- it wasn't perfect. He regretted using a small publisher and blamed Peterson for it, cutting him off forever. He sued the publisher for rights, a case that was later settled.
  5. Norrin Radd

    Norrin Radd New Member

    Really enjoyed that article, but started skipping the italicized parts after the first couple sentences. Didn't care about some random coach with a book and a dream. Did want to know more about the book. Bitter that it's exhorbitantly priced at Amazon.
  6. 21

    21 Well-Known Member

    SJ was onto this one years ago...Boom has been trying to get the book for years:

  7. Riptide

    Riptide Well-Known Member

    Wow. You ain't kidding.

    3 new from $1,517.24
    used from $650.00
  8. Norrin Radd

    Norrin Radd New Member

    Just found a torrent download of it for free.


    (click on the torrent. Do NOT do the fast direct download. You need a torrent client, obviously)

    If something is in print, and available, I will find the best price and purchase it. But I have no qualms about finding a free download of something that is no longer available for cover price.

    (Cue Det. Jimmy McNulty's rants)

    Re-read the Wickersham article, including the italicized parts. I understand quite well the Walsh philosophy of the failures being more devastating than the successes are satisfying. But I hate reading about some douchey high school coaches ripping their team right after a 42-7 win. How about you save it for the next morning's light practice/meetings? Now they'll go out that night talking about that jerk coach of theirs.

    It's always been very easy for high school kids to realize that smoking pot/playing video games/hanging out with their girlfriend/being a dork with their buddies is a lot more fun than listening to coaches yell at you after a 42-7 win.

    "The Churchmen finish the season 10-0, winning the league championship 21-14. Afterward McDermott says, "It would have been more gratifying if it had been a two-score game."

    Oh, spare me. Shut up, coach. No one cares.
  9. Boom_70

    Boom_70 Well-Known Member

    It's the first book that I look for when I stop at old book stores.

    Can't believe that's it's still out of print.
  10. Cape_Fear

    Cape_Fear Active Member

    That was a great read as one who has the book. I never knew that he basically farmed the whole thing out. I could have done without the bits on the high school coach, and, although he's an asshat would have like to have hear more from Belichick on it.

    I found the book in an airport bookstore in the 90s. It's kind of sad knowing that it's the one thing I own that has appreciated in value the most.
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