Sunday, May 12, 2024

Review: Finished Business (2021)

By Ray Didinger

Ray Didinger had been following the Philadelphia Eagles for essentially his entire life. It started with parents who had the idea that there was nothing better on a summer afternoon than to go watch the team work out under a hot sun in training camp.

From there it was on to college, where he decided to become a sports journalist. Didinger quickly rose up the ladder from one job and newspaper to the next, eventually becoming one of the youngest beat writers in the NFL and then moved on to become a columnist. Eventually he moved into other mediums, such as working for NFL Films and in radio and television. 

Along the way, eventually he became one of "those guys" that became the most respected opinion on local sports in the area. Every city has a couple. They seem to tap in to what the community is thinking, simply because they are so familiar with how the population thinks. 

When Philadelphia won its first Super Bowl in 2018, Didinger did a little celebrating too - famously with a big hug with his son on camera. And he thought to himself that an NFL championship was just the bow he needed to tie his life in sports together in the form of an autobiography of sorts.

That book is called "Finished Business," and it holds up very nicely as a readable look back at an interesting career. 

One of the good parts about books like this centers on the basic job of reporters. That is to say, they rely on the kindness of strangers for information. Yes, Didinger's life story is covered here. But it's basically a clothesline to hang stories about famous athletes and personalities. Since Philadelphia is a big town, its stars are well known nationally.

Therefore, there's information about a variety of athletes from an upclose viewpoint. Bobby Clarke. Mike Schmidt, Julius Erving. Dick Vermeil. Some other characters come up who might be a little less familiar to national readers, like Eagles' owner Leonard Tose and wrestler Sergeant Slaughter. 

The best chapter in the book, though, might have been the next-to-last one, though. It's the story of Didinger's relationship with Hall of Fame wide receiver Tommy McDonald. Ray first met him as a seventh grader at training camp as he walked back to the locker room after practice with him. It became a ritual that took place over the course of six years. Much later, the two were reunited in a different way - even if Didinger didn't immediately reveal the old-time connection to McDonald. Ray played a role in Tommy's induction in Canton, and they remained close until he died. Didinger even wrote a play about their relationship; it sounds like it would be worth seeing, even outside of Philadelphia.

There are a few excerpts from his writing here, enough to give you an idea of his style. But there's a book that's a collection of his work from 2007 that is available elsewhere. This is a more personal story, and the reviews of it on are downright rapturous.

Admittedly, I'm an easy target for stories from sportswriters, especially the veterans. But "Finished Business" goes down very smoothly - as you'd expect. Let's put it this way: You don't have to be from Philadelphia to enjoy it. 

Four stars

Learn more about this book from an Amazon affiliate, I earn money from qualified purchases.)  

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