For Indianapolis Colts fans, the past three seasons have been memorable to say the least. First there was the season Peyton Manning missed, which started with fans wondering if the team would win a single game and culminated in Indianapolis hosting Super Bowl XLVI. Then there was the offseason dismantling of both the front office and roster. The Colts’ fanbase prepared to be pruned for a couple of painful seasons, even if no one liked the term “rebuilding.”
Instead Colts fans were treated to two seasons that reminded them that the unexpected wins are the most meaningful wins. Those wins, and what made them both unexpected and meaningful, are well-documented in coach Chuck Pagano‘s new book Sidelined. Those who write books are told to “write the book that needs to be written.” Pagano’s book most definitely needed to be written.
Casual fans remember when the Colts’ brand new coach was diagnosed with leukemia during their ridiculously early bye week. They’ll remember the viral video of the weakened, bald-headed coach addressing his team in the locker room, stating his intention to beat cancer and dance with his daughters at their weddings. Casual fans who were touched by Pagano’s story will likely get a lot out of this book. But fans like me, who followed the story feverishly and read everything we could get our hands on as it was unfolding, might not find a lot of new information. If anything, the book might try to cover too much in too little space.
Coach Pagano’s story is told in a matter of fact way that kind of reminds me of the Star Trek Captain’s Log (star-date 10072012). He presents us with a careful record of historical events and maintains a bit of distance between himself as the narrator and us as the reader, not going as in depth into how he felt or what his decision making processes might have been as I would have liked. That probably tells us a lot about who Pagano is; those things were seemingly self-evident and didn’t require further explanation. His story doesn’t read like a novel, and it wasn’t meant to.
The book, for me, brought back a lot of memories and the emotion that came with them. I was reminded how I felt when I witnessed Reggie Wayne catching the touchdown against the Green Bay Packers with his special orange gloves. It made me wonder how this book would read for someone who had no prior knowledge of these events. I’m not sure if the emotion of the story would still shine through. I hope that it would.
Though the book is largely about the relationship between Pagano and the team during his cancer struggle, it offers some other insights I hadn’t expected. He details what it was like to interview with the Colts in the wake of Manning’s departure. He writes extensively of his relationships with team owner Jim Irsay and general manager Ryan Grigson. The last one-fifth of the book covers his first full season with the team, including what he did for Reggie Wayne after he tore his ACL. And possibly the most interesting aspect of the book is how Pagano wove in the issue of faith.
Colts fans have had the opportunity to build quite a faith-based book collection, between former coach Tony Dungy and Pagano. I know several church groups have used Dungy’s books as study guides. I’m not sure that Pagano’s book would quite serve that same purpose (it’s more general in nature), but he did include several intensely inspirational messages he received from friends during his struggle with cancer. Those inserted messages alone make the book worth picking up.