Monday, November 10, 2014

Review: Straight Up and Personal (2014)

By Don Cherry

Don Cherry has become something of a one-man industry in Canada.

He is best known for his appearances on Hockey Night in Canada's "Coach's Corner." Those segments on television broadcasts have made him one of the most popular figures in Canadian history - a statement that must sound like an exaggeration to Americans, but it's true.

Cherry also has produced videos, written books, done a regular radio show, and made personal appearances. He's still going strong past the age of 80.

Book four has arrived at the stores this fall in the form of "Straight Up & Personal." It's a breezy volume of stories of his past and snapshots of his life.

Cherry always was a good story-teller. Back in his coaching days, the media used to line up to talk to him after games along the lines of children waiting in a department store to see Santa Claus. It was almost guaranteed to be the best 10 minutes of their journalistic year.

What's it like to be Don Cherry now? He takes the reader along a few times by keeping a diary of some of his activities, essentially. Cherry went over to Afghanistan to see Canadian troops. He came down with gout early in the trip, but he limped his way around a war zone to show that he cared.

Other segments aren't so life-and-death dramatic. Cherry went to Sochi for the Olympics in 2014, and watched Canada take gold medals in men's and women's ice hockey. The hours were long and difficult, partly because of the time zone change. Then there's the Stanley Cup playoffs, which kept Cherry on the move for the better part of two months. Ever try to carry five suits across the country a few times? The always dapper Cherry did, thanks to that New York-Los Angeles final. 

Otherwise, though, Cherry writes about whatever comes to mind. There are stories about lessons he's learned in life, comments about hockey figures, thoughts on the state of the game today, etc. It was particularly interesting to hear Cherry's take on one of the most famous penalties in hockey history - Boston's "too many men on the ice" violation in Game Seven of the 1979 playoff series with Montreal, which probably cost his Bruins a Stanley Cup. Yes, he's still angry at himself about it.

If you wondering about the lack of an assisting writer for the book, it's interesting to look at the inside covers of the book. There are photographs of some of the pages of material written out in long hand. While Cherry certainly had some help putting the book together, it looks like he did a lot of the work involved in the old-fashioned way.

Admittedly, it's difficult to come up with A-level material when you are on your fourth book. You'd have to think that the best stories already have been published. The less-than-200 pages go by pretty quickly for the price tag, even if the material isn't overly memorable. Still, it's always interesting to read Cherry's views in this format, just as he remains popular after 30-plus years on the air in Canada.

In other words, "Straight Up & Personal" is like spending a couple of hours talking with Cherry. What hockey fan wouldn't want to do that?

Three stars

Learn more about this book.

Be notified of new posts via Twitter @WDX2BB.

No comments:

Post a Comment