Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Review: I Am Not Making This Up (2010)

By Al Strachan

Al Strachan was one of those guys who was feisty for a living. He was a sports writer and columnist for a variety of newspapers in Canada, mostly specializing in hockey. He appeared on such television shows as "Hockey Night in Canada," and has been around the game for more than 30 years.

If you want to know what the ride was like for Strachan, "I Am Not Making This Up" is a good place to find it out in an anecdotal way.

You expect some laughs in a book like this, and there certainly are some along the way. There are also stories which often have a point, but aren't funny. They're "merely" interesting.

So far, so good. Strachan was usually someone who let you know where you stood. Now that he seems to be free of daily journalistic responsibilities, he's even freer to expression his opinions in such matters. His favorites and not-so-favorites come through loud and clear.

For example, Wayne Gretzky and Scotty Bowman come across very well here. Ken Dryden and John Ziegler do not. Clearly, Strachan developed a good relationship with the first two, and had his problems with the last two. It's hard to say if access has clouded his opinions; Strachan pretty clearly knows Gretzky and Bowman. Dryden may never had a chance with Strachan since politically they are like Nancy Pelosi and Sarah Palin (that's Strachan in the Palin role, by the way). As for Ziegler, well, what self-respecting hockey journalist hasn't picked on him over the years?

There's some score-settling here. I don't think Strachan has forgetten a slight in his career, and he sounds happy to give his side of the story here. Strachan makes some good points, too.

On the minus side, if there's much organization to this book, I must have missed it. Chapter headings sometimes give a clue for a few pages, but before we know it we're headed in an entirely new direction. Meanwhile, you also won't find a quicker read in the book store. It checks in at 224 pages, and you can get through it in an evening.

Hockey offers a unique blend of the American and Canadian culture, and those who have visited that world and know Strachan's work will feel pretty comfortable here. "I Am Not Making This Up" might be worth your time if you fit that description. I just wouldn't call it a "best buy" at $19.95 (American).

Three stars

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