A quarterback, two coaches, the Giants

November 04, 1990|By VITO STELLINO

After Doug Williams climaxed an inspiring comeback story by being named most valuable player as quarterback for the Washington Redskins in Super Bowl XXII three years ago, he said he had no interest in doing a pedestrian sports biography before the next season.

When he finally told his story, he said, he would be interested in having someone of the stature of Alex Haley, the author of "Roots," to capture the big picture of his life and times. Instead, Mr. Williams wound up telling his story this year with Baton Rouge sportswriter Bruce Hunter.

Unfortunately, "Quarterblack" (Bonus Books, 209 pages, $18.95) only hits the highlights of his fascinating life and NFL career as he trashed the stereotype that a black quarterback couldn't win it all. It's more pedestrian than inspiring.

He devotes only 10 pages to the ups and downs of the 1987 Super Bowl season that were a metaphor for his entire career. He got the starting job twice and lost it twice when he was the victim of a strike and an injury before getting it back in the last regular-season game.

It's even sloppy about facts. He says he underwent an appendectomy after the second game in 1988 (it was after the third game). He also says when he played in the Super Bowl in San Diego's Jack Murphy Stadium, he had "never set eyes on the place before." The Redskins played a regular-season game there in 1986.

Mr. Williams obviously is bitter about the way his career ended last year. He says teams won't hire black backup quarterbacks, ignoring the contention of Washington coach Joe Gibbs that he cut Mr. Williams out of concern for his health. You can argue the coach was overly concerned about Mr. Williams' health, but not that he's racist, because he was a long-time backer of the quarterback.

Mr. Williams also tarnishes the book with petty remarks about the breakup of his marriage to his second wife, Lisa.

There is much to celebrate in his career because of the adversity he overcame. Yet he seems so bitter that he almost overlooks how much football did change in his time and how he helped change it.

A more penetrating look at pro football is presented in "No Medals for Trying," by Jerry Izenberg (Macmillan, 273 pages, $18.95).

Subtitled "A Week in the Life of a Pro Football Team," it is an updated version of the classic "Run to Daylight," by Vince Lombardi and W. C. Heinz, about a week in the 1962 Green Bay Packers' season. This one focuses on a week with the New York Giants last season.

The Lombardi book was ahead of its time because pro football then wasn't covered in much depth. But Giants coach Bill Parcells gave Mr. Izenberg extraordinary access to the team's meetings and enables him to provide interesting insights into the workings of the team in this era.

The book has a gritty, downbeat flavor because it covers a week in which the Giants lost a Monday night game to San Francisco and then lost another tough game to the Philadelphia Eagles. It may be a painful week to relive for Giants fans, but the book is a treat for football fans.

It's difficult to find two coaches more different than Bill Walsh and Jerry Glanville. Mr. Walsh, who coached the San Francisco 49ers to three Super Bowls before retiring to the broadcast booth, treated the sport as a chess match. Mr. Glanville, now the Atlanta Falcons' coach, acts as if it's a gang war.

Their books illustrate the differences in their personalities. Mr. Glanville's "Elvis Don't Like Football," co-written by J. David Miller (Macmillan, 189 pages, $18.95), is subtitled "The Life and Raucous Times of the NFL's Most Outspoken Coach."

The book is filled with his usual shots at Pittsburgh Steelers coach Chuck Noll ("I took sociology, and that was more boring than Chuck Noll") and Dallas Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson's hair, but he comes across as a one-joke comic. You've seen the act before and it's become stale. One of these days he may realize he's supposed to be a football coach.

Nobody ever doubted Mr. Walsh is supposed to be a football coach. His book "Building a Champion," co-written with Glenn Dickey (St. Martin's, 272 pages, $18.95), even includes diagrams of football plays. It's not surprising that Mr. Glanville doesn't diagram any plays.

Yet Mr. Walsh's book is a mundane telling of the familiar story of how he built the 49ers, without providing much new insight. He does offer tantalizing hints of drug use on the team ("I was never able to completely stop drug use on the 49ers") and says it contributed to its failure to repeat in 1982 and 1985, but doesn't give any details.

He does offer one telling anecdote about how obsessed a coach's life is: "One time when I had my arm around [his wife] Geri's shoulder, I was unconsciously drawing a play with my finger on her shoulder. When it appeared that I had finished, she said, 'Did it work?' "

Mr. Stellino covers pro football for The Sun.

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