Butkus: Flesh and Blood

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9780385486484: Butkus: Flesh and Blood

From 1965 to 1973 Dick Butkus was the most revered player in professional football. Although he never played for a championship team, and one can't say he set all kinds of records, no other defender in the entire history of the NFL has so electrified the game. The stories about Butkus are legendary. They make him sound so intense, so ferocious, and for the most part they are frighteningly true. Yet underneath the layers of mythology resides a man who is as thoughtful and emotional as he is intense.

In Butkus, Dick Butkus tells his entire life story, from growing up and getting into trouble in Chicago, to his uncomfortable yet glorious years at the University of Illinois. He reveals what it felt like to be the ninth child of two hardworking Lithuanian parents--one of whom was born in a Illinois coal mine, the other never fully learned to speak English--and the camaraderie and contentment he experienced while playing football. He recounts the historic nine seasons with the Chicago Bears where he played with and against such immortals as Gale Sayers, Jim Brown, Brian Piccolo, Mike Ditka, and Joe Greene.

Dick Butkus looks deeply into his own psyche to find the source of his passionate style of play--a style that has often been described as violence and intimidation on the football field. With honesty and emotion, he recounts his battles with George "Papa Bear" Halas, the NFL, and the media.

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Review:

Like his no-nonsense tenure as one of the dominating linebackers in NFL history, Dick Butkus's no-nonsense autobiography covers plenty of ground, offers no excuses, scares the hell out of you (you will never look at your knees--or your doctors--in quite the same way again), and, in the end, entertains with his candor and verve. Butkus has axes to grind, and he grinds them wonderfully, but he also is capable of examining his own behavior. What emerges is a portrait of an athlete willing to explore--roots, warts, and all--the aggression and rage he rode to glory on the field, and the challenges he faced trying to harness those same emotions off the field.

From Kirkus Reviews:

Personal and often heartfelt reflections from Butkus on his love-hate relationship with the game of football. During the nine seasons (196573) he played middle linebacker for his hometown Chicago Bears, Butkus was one of the most feared, hated, and respected players in the NFL. He was one of the rare players whose very presence on the field changed forever the nature of his position. And in this frank and understated memoir, Butkus reveals how he came to play this way. By his own account, he was able to bottle up anger from Monday through Saturday and release it on the gridiron come Sunday. Naturally, this anger occasionally needed to be vented in other ways, all of which Butkus makes sound both logical and interesting: He liked to engage occasionally in boozy hi-jinks with friends and colleagues; he goaded the many sportswriters he mistrusted, especially Sports Illustrated's Dan Jenkins, who, he says, ``blindsided'' him in an article that labeled him ``A Special Kind of Brute with a Love of Violence''; he often bickered during salary negotiations with the Bears' autocratic owner and coach-for-life, George Halas. Despite pain and indignities suffered on and off the field, Butkus's enthusiasm for the game seldom waned. He notes the lasting impact of other players and coaches, among them his Bears teammate, Hall of Fame tailback Gayle Sayers; Colts quarterback Johnny Unitas (``the best quarterback of my time--maybe of all time''); and his one-time Bears defensive coach, George Allen. Butkus's obvious love of the game infuses with drama the chapters describing his decline as a player. Thankfully, he does not belabor us with too much detail about his post-football life and acting career, topics that he seems tacitly to acknowledge are more interesting to him than to his readers. A perceptive and occasionally humorous view from the trenches of a great era in pro football. (20 b&w photos, not seen) -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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