Book Review: Low Collision Crossers by Nicholas Dawidoff

As rabid, unapologetic American sports fans, every Sunday during football season we huddle around or television sets, congregate at our local watering holes or if we have the funds, attend games with family and friends, eagerly anticipating what the next three hours hold in store.  Sundays in this country have morphed into an all new religious experience, not because of the morning sermons delivered by our pastors but rather for the afternoon passes completed by our quarterbacks.

We have become infatuated with all things pigskin.  If you don’t believe me, check the television ratings.  The NFL dwarfs everything else.  We buy jerseys, gamble, obsess about our fantasy football lineups and then, when our Sundays are over, we break down every aspect of what we just saw, scrutinizing every highlight and anxiously counting down the days until it happens again.

29book "COLLISION LOW CROSSERS" by Nicholas DawidoffBut as much as we obsess about football, we don’t really know what goes on inside an NFL locker room, the organizations, the time, the effort, the painstaking details it takes all those involved to put their particular product on the field.

Thanks to Nicholas Dawidoff’s “Low Collision Crossers: A Year Inside the Turbulent World of NFL Football,” we do now.  Dawidoff takes us inside the sanctuary that is the New York Jets and gives us a detailed, honest and heartfelt account of the blood, sweat and tears that lead up to the Sundays we hold so dear.

Crossers is unique in that it takes place not only in the midst of the NFL lockout but in the context of an ever-changing game that continues to grow exponentially in popularity while doing its best to protect the health of it players.  “As the game grew to a nine-billion-dollar revenue industry, with more to lose, the NFL seemed increasingly uncomfortable with the nature of what it was.  Revelations about the long-term effects of concussions had recently tarnished the NFL and made it seem to some like the Big Tobacco of Sports.  Was it acceptable to enjoy something that brutalized the minds and bodies of young men?”

Dawidoff take us inside an NFL organization, deeper than we’ve ever been, introducing us to the coaching staff, the players, the combines, the conflict, the intensity of draft day, the research leading up to it, the lifestyle, the tightly-knit family that is the organization and the other family those in football rarely get to see.

Rex Ryan smirksIf you weren’t a fan of the Jets or their head coach Rex Ryan before reading this book, you will be afterwards.  “Ryan brought to mind a Coca-Cola belt politician planted atop the back of a flatbed truck, suit jacket flung at his feet, imparting jubilant election-week promises to the little guy.”  Dawidoff has a flair for describing his season with the Jets as both insider and outsider.  Former GM Mike Tannenbaum even fined him for showing up late to a team meeting.

Dawidoff reminds us the football locker room is not for the faint of heart.  This is particularly telling in the wake of the Richie Incognito-Jonathan Martin scandal. Rex Ryan’s father, coach Buddy Ryan “had contempt for sensitivity in men; he liked players who could handle being called pussy or slob or dumbass or worm while making them hit until they bled.  There was simply no such thing as political correctness in a football meeting room.  [Rex] Ryan urged those who worked for him to grow “skin like an armadillo” and advised them that the best way to approach anything was “blunt-force trauma.” With the Jets, Ryan imposed sensitivity fines on thin-skinned players and coaches.”  One can’t help but wonder how long Jonathan Martin would have lasted in that climate.

Jets play bookCoaches coach, players play and they all watch film.  “The players were abstractions, works perpetually in progress for the coaches to edit, improve, even transform.  It was up to the coaches to reimagine the familiar thing they saw on film in a new light.  That was really half of NFL coaching – thinking of one’s players as characters, each with a set of skills to model in the endless sequence of narrative experiments that sixteen times a regular season became a game plan.”

The book is chockfull of detailed accounts that any ardent football fan will enjoy and all the big names are there: Revis, Ryan, Pettine, Scott, Cromartie, Sanchez.  Crossers explains the painstaking process of interviewing and researching every potential draftee, the locker room camaraderie, the overall obsession to get everything they possibly can right with the understanding that despite their efforts, failure will still inevitably occur, at least for 31 of the teams in the league.

CromartieThe book is long, at times as arduous as an NFL season.  At others, it is as real and as poetic as the most fluid football player you’ll ever see.

“In football, the life was so insular and demanding, so focused on those critical moments, that when things went wrong, the whole world for many coaches became fruitless and grim.  There was the stated belief that if you’d truly given your all, that was enough.  That wasn’t enough.  The point was to win, and all the games were closer than they seemed, which meant that losses were easy to reimagine as wins if only… it was maddening.”

If you’re a fan of the New York Jets, this book is a must.  If you’re an NFL fan yearning to learn more about what happens behind closed doors, this book is also for you.  Just be prepared for a 500-page commitment.  Hey, come on.  If Mark Sanchez can memorize the entire Jets playbook, tackling Crossers is nothing by comparison.

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14 Replies to “Book Review: Low Collision Crossers by Nicholas Dawidoff”

  1. Sounds good… Too bad the author had to base his expose’ on a New York team… I know, I know… The sporting world sure doesn’t revolve around that part of our country. It would have been refreshing to see it written about the Minnesota Vikings or the Arizona Cardinals but then the east coast folks would pooh pooh it…
    Regardless of my sentiments, I’ll check it out. Thanks Chris!

  2. Minnesota? Arizona?

    I’m not too sure I’d want to read exactly what goes on in those locker rooms, Dwin.

    No, the guy does a pretty good job. I think everyone expected the Jets to do a little better after their back to back AFC Championship Game appearances. This book takes place as they’re taking a step back so there is no happy ending.

    It’s long but it’s good. The training camp and draft war room parts were the best.

  3. Sounds like a good read, but I don’t believe it can really reveal what we don’t already know about the game (NFL) , pretense of the NFL and attitudes within the locker rooms . It’d be remiss, to think that Incognito affair as it relates to the Dolphins was the only locker room where that type of behavior was atypical . Hell, for years Paul Goodell and his predecessor Paul Tagliabue tried to have us believe that there was no cause and effect to head trauma concussions and its association with the play , taking place on the field , even when the league’s own conducted , stated that to be a fact . Now we have the damn hypocrisy of the league and union having passed a mandate , for in and out season testing for PED’s and steroids , but as of yet that policy has to be put in place and this all stems from a vote that took place in 2010 , after Goodell and his three other executive counterparts from the NHL , NBA and MLB sat in front of a Congressional Committee to discuss the issue in- depth. Meanwhile , another hypocritical a##hole in DeMaurice Smith is walking around strutting his bull like a rooster , not wanting to rein in the behavior of his playing and union members within the NFLPA (union) .

  4. Yeah, Al, it’s a good read but long.

    As you mention, Ohio State, Cincinnati and Oklahoma all bowed out yesterday but those teams were all over-seeded in my opinion. None of them were all that impressive. That probably explains why their season is now over.

    Great day of basketball, however.

  5. Timely that I put this Jets post up, huh, Al.

    Yeah, I’m not sure what’s going on there but even in the book, there’s hints that Sanchez wasn’t the answer.

    Look, its the NFL and nobody’s job is safe, particularly if it comes with a hefty price tag. Teams would rather cut ties with players if they notice they’re not the answer than have to pay them a large sum of money.

    The question I have is whether Sanchez will find himself starting on another team.

    Tiger Woods’ season is off to a rough start. I’m not sure what he’s done to his back but you think he’d have rehabbed that thing in the off-season.

    They’re making a movie about the Browns? Let me guess. It doesn’t have a happy ending.

  6. I’m appealing to Buffett to simply dole out that $ 1 billion and save himself and us all , the trouble of going off the rails . My bracket went up in smoke rhe moment the Duke players set foot on court against Mercer !

    Jets’ GM John Idzik in one season has drafted Russell Wilson who has now led the Seahawks to their first Superbowl and then two years later he acquires Michael Vick for the Jets and believes the player worth $5 million for one year at this stage of his career ? What’s wrong with this picture in your estimation ?

    Woods has been spending too much time sticking his “pole” into Lindsey Vonn’s slalom course . Hence the issues with ongoing back problems .


    tophatal ………..

  7. Nothing like sibling rivalry to bring out the best in a pair of brothers to set things off . Bucs’ wide receiver Mike William was stabbed in the leg , by his brother , all over some stupid innocuous argument . Just what Lovie Smith wants to be dealing with in the off-season as it relates to a completely disorganized organization . The injury is not said to be life threatening . Is this the high point of Williams’ mediocre career in the NFL , besides being overpaid ?

  8. Al…

    That was a safe bet by Buffett. There weren’t even any perfect brackets midway into the second round.

    Yeah, I didn’t follow the details of the Mike Williams case but it wouldn’t surprise me to see him on his way out sooner rather than later.

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