Well, this isn’t a young adult fiction book. (The next review probably will be). In fact, I was planning to include more than one book today, but I got a little carried away on this one. We’re taking a look at a book about the faith of football players, coaches, and families, which is appropriate today, since later on I should have my weekly picks, predictions, and comments for the upcoming slate of NFL games. Until then, let’s dive in.

Men of Sunday – Curtis Eichelberger
I’m pretty good with words, but I’m not sure I can adequately articulate how disappointed I was by this book. Described as an exploration of the role faith has in the lives of NFL coaches, players, and wives, MEN OF SUNDAY proves to be a cursory glance at best and a confusing jumble of platitudes at worst. And the confusion stems from the very heart of the book, which is something of an internal argument Eichelberger appears to be conducting.

An intended central theme that emerges from the pages is that NFL players and their families are just like everyone else. They suffer with ailments, struggle with insecurities, fall prey to temptations, and face the same problems we all face as members of humanity. I know this, because it’s written over and over (and over) throughout the book, almost as if Eichelberger is trying to convince himself that it’s true.

However, this theme is betrayed by using terms like “ordinary people” and “regular people” to describe non-NFL employees. Coupled with an inherent weighting system that elevates NFL players above the fray, the stated central theme is modified between the lines to read something more like: NFL players are just like everyone else, except their problems are more severe, their struggles are more monumental, and, because of their success, fame, and fortune, they’re way more interesting, wise, and worth writing about.

Further juxtaposing the intended subject matter with author’s adoration of wealth and power is this gem of a quote, which I had to read several times over before I finally believed it was included in a book about living a life of faith according to God’s standards.

“…it’s unlikely that you’ll seek out the advice of the mail room clerk, the loading dock manager, or the nightwatchman. If that’s the highest he has climbed the corporate ladder, he must not be very wise.” (emphasis mine)

Material success clearly determines wisdom. And yet… Well, that speaks for itself.

So that’s the foundation of the book and on top of this sandy soil, Eichelberg builds his case. Or tries to. Initially, I assumed I was distracted by nitpicks that tend to bother me as I read. Then, slowly, it dawned on me that the quality of writing just wasn’t at a level I expected. In addition to the aforementioned thematic disparity, the book lacks clear organization and completion of thought.

Though divided into chapters on distinct challenges NFL players face (Family Sacrifices, Temptation, etc.), several times I had to remind myself which chapter I was reading, because the stories don’t always seem to align with the topic at hand. Many of the examples and quotes feel forced, or at the very least, hastily cobbled together. Further, the reader is often “left hanging” as the stories don’t fully resolve and we’re left to draw our own conclusions or fill in missing connections.

I don’t want to make light of the struggles we all face – NFL employees and “regular folk” alike – or the importance of faith in handling these challenges. And I’m certain that, in line with the adage of “more money, more problems,” these challenges can take on added weight with elevated exposure and societal status (perceived or otherwise). However, I don’t think anyone enters that profession without understanding at least some of these risks. I also lean onto the promise that we are never overtaken by our temptations – that is, God always provides a way out and we face nothing we cannot bear.

MEN OF SUNDAY seems to ignore that passage of scripture and embrace something of a victim mentality on behalf of NFL players and coaches. That, along with the other annoyances I’ve already laid out (and a few I haven’t), made this read both disappointing and aggravating.

peace… love… bdg…