Friday, January 26, 2007

Ruffians, by Tim Green

Ruffians: A Novel, by Tim Green

This book tells of a highly drafted rookie that discovers virtually his entire NFL team is on steroids and is threatened with being blackballed if he doesn’t start shooting himself up as well. The steroid is explained away as being untraceable and therefore random drug testing wouldn’t uncover it, which seems far fetched at best. The steroid-crazy team went on to hurt opposing players badly enough so they had to leave the field multiple times every week. There is no way the NFL would ever stand for this, much less the players on the other side of the ball. Yeah, people get seriously hurt in football, but a defense that was unabashedly and purposefully trying to injure other teams on a regular basis would get suspended so fast your head would spin. I’m sure I’d be surprised at the actual level of violent intent in the pros, but this seemed way over the top.

The plot being as silly as it was, I was surprised to find that the main character, Clay Blackwell, was reasonably deep. I heard somewhere that Tim Green based Clay on himself which might explain that, especially as all the other inhabitants are one-dimensional. Clay is shown to have deep feelings for his college girlfriend yet still unable to resist the temptations of easy sex that comes so easy to a professional athlete. He has a complicated relationship with his father, yet is still able to find father figures in others. While clearly upset and morally offended at the idea of steroids, he doesn’t blow the whistle on his teammates and flip-flops on the thought of taking them himself. While Clay is not anywhere near as complex a character as Prince Hamlet, he is far from the wooden caricature I’d expected from a novel by an ex-jock.

First Sentence:
The concrete was cold and made Clay’s bare feet clammy.

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