Aren’t men generally kind of stupid? And the things they like, aren’t those pretty meaningless too? All those silly, pointless traditions: the nicknames, the rituals, the insults, the posturing. Nonsense, right?
That’s basically the point and the premise of The Throwback Special, a strawman construction in which Chris Bachelder creates the silliest, most pointless male ritual imaginable merely to demonstrate how easily he can knock it down. It’s boxing against a tomato can you filled yourself. In its own way, this book is as pointless an exercise as the annual event at its center.
That event is the Throwback Special of the title, where 22 men gather together to re-enact one of the most famous plays in NFL history: Lawrence Taylor breaking Joe Theismann’s leg on Monday Night Football in 1985. Why would anyone do this? It’s a question Bachelder intentionally leaves unanswered. How the ritual got started is also something he never explores, nor do we get much of a sense of the relationships between these men. They seem to be strangers who only see each other once a year. They meet at a hotel, figure out who is going to portray each of the 22 players involved in the fateful event, then they dress up in full uniform, go out to a high school football field, and run exactly one play, one that everyone involved already knows the outcome of.
Bachelder gets into the mind of most of the participants. They are about what you’d expect for a group of largely white, middle-aged men in a literary novel. Everyone has sick parents, or marital issues, or misbehaving children. They have mortgages to pay, crumbling bodies of their own, and very similar humorous stories involving home repair. They are by and large disappointed and pathetic. In short they are the easiest of targets, and watching their insecurities get picked apart is, I guess, what Bachelder considers good sport.
There really isn’t much more to this book than that, a panoramic, de rigeur examination of male ego that’s been done far better by many authors of both genders.