Sunday, September 2, 2012

Review: Sapp Attack (2012)

By Warren Sapp with David Fisher

Who says media interviews don't help sell books? Warren Sapp recently made an appearance on WFAN Radio in New York (picked up by the Yes Network on television), in which the former NFL star was quite funny and interesting.

That prompted me to read his book, "Sapp Attack." It's the obvious literary track to say that the book is quite funny and interesting, but it's tough to go quite that far.

Sapp always has been an interesting figure. He was a superstar at the University of Miami, where he was part of some great teams filled with tremendous talent. But Sapp also carried some baggage with him, even then. He failed a drug test shortly before the draft, which allowed him to slip down the first round a bit. Sapp was grabbed by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who put him at starting defensive tackle after a few weeks and let him go to work.

Sapp certainly ranks as one of the great characters in recent NFL history. He usually said what was on his mind, on and off the field. That led him to some good-sized fines over the years. Isn't it interesting, then, that Sapp wound up on the NFL Network as a commentator?

Well before retirement, though, Sapp went through some good times and bad times. He certainly helped change the culture of the then-lowly Bucs, who eventually became Super Bowl champions. Sapp credits coaches Tony Dungy and Jon Gruden for leading the way in those years, although he was part of a often suffocating defense that was greatly responsible for Tampa Bay's rise. The story about how the Bucs knew the Raiders' audibles in their Super Bowl matchup because they hadn't changed them since Gruden had been the head coach there was particularly interesting.

Sapp eventually left Tampa Bay to jump to the Raiders, which at first glance seemed like a perfect match. All  Raiders are NFL players, but not all NFL players are "Raiders," if you consider the stereotype of Oakland's outlaw image. Sapp figured to fit right in, but he's quite frank in describing how disorganized the Raiders' organization was at that time and how odd owner Al Davis was back then. Well, we had plenty of other evidence about Al, so we don't have to take Sapp's word for it there.

The construction of the book is rather odd. Sapp and co-author David Fisher review the player's career nicely enough, mostly relying on anecdotes rather than reciting scores. But when the chronology ends, Sapp is only on page 200 ... and the book goes on to page 314. After some overall review of the game, Sapp moves on to what he's been doing since retiring, concentrating on commentary and "Dancing with the Stars." Turned out the big fellow did have some moves. But it feels a little padded. In addition, it's a book that reads as if there are no natural spots for chapter endings; it just sort of runs along throughout the entire text.

Occasionally, Sapp's logic is a little twisted. For example, he once grabbed Jerry Rice's facemask, forcing the receiver to turn awkwardly. A severe knee injury was the result. Sapp said about the play a few paragraphs, "You don't apologize for a clean hit,: But isn't grabbing the facemask a penalty? Sapp also controls his tongue a few times in terms of rough language, but there are enough bad words elsewhere in here to make the reader wonder why he bothered.

Overall, though, Sapp makes a good impression -- just like he did in the interview. He's quite candid throughout, put in the hours off the field, and didn't take any plays off on it. "Sapp Attack" isn't great literature, but it's worth a read -- particularly in the first half of the book -- by those who have followed this future Hall of Famer.

Three stars

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