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Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2012-07-02
- Reviewer: Staff
This rollicking, tongue-in-cheek sports novel from Majors (The Millionaires) makes for a breezy read worth a few chuckles while it gives a behind-the-scenes peek at the often greedy, arrogant titans who run college football. Raymond Love, former star QB at a small college in Kentucky, is presently a noncoaching graduate assistant, or “full-time errand boy,” at an unnamed SEC university. He aspires to fill a vacant coaching GA position, competing for it with his brown-nosing peer and rival, Sparkman. Before the team’s annual fund-raiser involving affluent “Pigskin Cavalcade” boosters, Love is assigned to babysit veteran coach Bill Woody, a loose cannon who loves opera and blunt speaking. All of them work for head coach Von Driver and athletic director Sampson; Love, meanwhile, is dating Sampson’s nubile daughter, Brooke. She ropes him into her largely women’s book club, and he laughs about his discomfort there with Julie, a fellow graduate student in his sports classes who, though she’s engaged to be married, obviously better suits him as a romantic interest. As Love listens to Coach Woody’s war stories, he also encounters the seamy, corrupt financial aspects underpinning university football. Love’s major conflict pits his personal integrity against his career ambitions to become a “great” college football coach in Majors’s funny, irreverent, and savvy sports novel. (Sept.)
Southern comedy never fumbles
In his wry, winning novels, Inman Majors has written about the South’s shady businessmen, bent politicians and moderately dysfunctional families with the delicate grace of—well, a Southern gentleman. But in Love’s Winning Plays, the sixth-generation Tennessean gets so down and dirty it’d be no surprise if he got booted above the Mason-Dixon Line forever.
In this uncomplicated, acidly hilarious new novel, Majors (who comes from a football-playing family—his uncle is former UT coach Johnny Majors) gleefully skewers the sacrosanct Southern institution of college football. And not just any college football, but Southeastern Conference football. With both barrels, he lets loose on the venerable, holy SEC.
Raymond Love is a young, earnest, almost-coach on one of the conference’s powerful teams. His actual position is Off-the-Field-Graduate-Assistant, but he is vying with another student for the position of Coaching Graduate Assistant, a coveted ticket to the sidelines.
In an acidly hilarious new novel, Majors lets loose with both barrels on the venerable, holy SEC.
When head coach Von Driver asks him to go along on the Pigskin Cavalcade, Raymond hopes he’s moving closer to the coveted slot. The Cavalcade is a road trip through the towns of Tennessee where fat-cat boosters and appreciative fans alike mingle with their coaching gods. But his spirits fall when he learns his job is to babysit the unpredictable Coach Woody, one of Driver’s assistants.
If Raymond embodies youthful innocence, then Coach Woody is his polar opposite. He is also the driving force behind the book. An alcoholic, renegade football legend who loves both country and classical music, he relates to the outside world in football terms. “He’d outkicked his coverage with her for sure,” Woody says of an old rival whose wife is too attractive for her mate. Woody is also a man of rare integrity in a business with a noticeable dearth of it.
Over the course of the tumultuous journey, which is spiced up by alcohol, a beauty or two—including one Raymond joined a book club to get close to—and a hilariously fanatical blogger, Raymond and Woody become friends. But when it comes time for Raymond to decide just how badly he wants the coaching job, that friendship—and Raymond’s values—are put to the test.
Love’s Winning Plays is classic guy-lit—a fun, fast romp that may not break new ground but does offer genuine laughs on nearly every page.