The Daily Bongo

Crosby, The Rookie

I just finished reading The Rookie: A Season with Sidney Crosby and the New NHL by Shawna Richer. Or perhaps the better title would be The Rookie: A Repetitive, Superficial look at Sidney Crosby's first half of his first season with a quick even more superficial gloss over the second half of that season. Hmmm, I suppose the first title is shorter, but it is far from descriptive of the nature of the book. The book has been getting alot of positive press here in Pittsburgh, and I think that the main reason for it is the general topic (Crosby and the Pens) as opposed to the quality of the information. Shawna Richer is a reporter for the The Globe and Mail, a Canadian based newspaper. She had the role of following Crosby for the entire season last year. The book's intent is to document that first year and all that it stood for: the Next One, Crosby, and his transition from Junior Hockey to the NHL, and the post lockout NHL. The book does give a simplistic view of the season, and an outsider's view of Crosby. Unless we actually get something from Crosby himself, I suppose we are stuck with the third hand viewpoint. In this case, the viewpoint is from someone who did not appear to have closer access than any other Pens' beat reporter.

The reason that I made the comment about the title change is that three quarters of the section that covers the actual season is devoted to the first half of the season, October through December. The remaining quarter is spent on the second half of the season. As Ms. Richer comments in the book on page 248 as the Pens return from the Olympic break: "I sensed the remainder of the season was going to go by quickly." That means little coverage from her on what happened during that time. There is alot of fluff in the book, with a few pages devoted to e-mails from girls who want to marry Crosby and with repetitions of stories throughout the book. Crosby is asked about the Olympics, and six pages are devoted to Team Canada's dismal performance in the Games and repeated comments of Crosby's feelings about being left off the team (a repeat from when Team Canada was announced). I suppose that when you are trying to fill pages, the best thing to do is repeat yourself. I thought at first that the reason for the general lack of hockey detail is that Ms. Richer isn't a sports reporter. She is a journalist for The Globe and Mail who thought that following Sidney Crosby for a season would make a great story. She came at it from a personal point of view, and gathered her information from press conferences and interviews. Ms. Richer tells us about her sports reporting career on page 279. (That's in the chapter where she explains why she decided to cover Crosby for the season.) I was surprised at the fact that she covered sports, especially hockey, because that made the superficial coverage even less understandable. On doing more research though, I noticed that the book is very similar to the blog entries that she maintained for the newspaper.

I think that my biggest problem with the book is that I expected more from it after the glowing print reviews and commentaries on the local sports shows. The very format of the book reminded me of a lazy 12 year old who manipulates the margin width and font size to make them as large as possible to meet the teacher's page limit requirement. I wonder if the repetitive text and page layout were to meet a demand for x number of pages for a $24.95 book. Personally, I would have preferred more meat for my buck. The book only has eight pages of black and white photos. More pictures, especially those that would have shown a more personal side to Crosby, or ones that highlighted some of his memorable moments, would have been nice. As Richer said on page 198 of the book when Crosby was trying to wade through a hoard of fans in Montreal, "I desperately wished I had brought my camera, because in more than a decade of writing about sports, I had never seen anything like that." I would think that the cardinal rule, especially with the small, digital cameras of today, is never leave home without notebook, pen, AND camera. But then the book is full of missed opportunities. Finally, there is no index for the book. It's hard to find a non-fiction book without an index, but this is one of them. It's hard to find events in the book because of the lack of an index. It would have been great to look through the index for references to Don Cherry to read again about the comments made against Crosby on Hockey Night in Canada. The comments are there--repeated in a few sections as most things are in the book--but not something that can be quickly referenced by an index listing.

There were some good parts in the book. We do find out that Crosby is dedicated to hockey and to doing his best at all times. Crosby is a team player, and was just as concerned that his teammates get credit. The relationship with Mario Lemieux's family is covered, and it becomes clear that the Lemieux children have a strong attachment to Crosby. Crosby is treated as one of the family from Lemieux, his wife, and his children. We get to feel the frustration of Michel Therrien, Eddie Olczyk, Lemieux, Crosby, and others on the team at the chronic losses. We also learn that Eddie O was never really a coach, but someone that was seen "as your dad, your brother, your husband, your friend. He was human." (p. 151) I don't think that the good coaches are ever known for being empathetic.

I would recommend that those who want to read the book borrow it from their local library. If you want to own the book, I would purchase it at a discount seller. It's a disappointing book, but would be entertaining for the novice who hears Crosby's name on the news and wants to read more about him. All in al, a fast read (because of the large margins and font) that the ardent, teenage girl who swoons over Crosby will want to own, but that others will just give a quick read and want to return to the library. If you want more than a superficial account of Crosby's first season, you won't find it in this book.

P.S. For all those girls who carry signs into the Mellon Arena letting Crosby know that they are ready to marry him, stop now while you have your respect. Although Crosby doesn't have a girlfriend as of the writing of the book, he says, "I don't think that I'm going to meet any of my girlfriends through signs in a hockey arena." (p. 285)

December 27, 2006