My brother, Buddy Martin, is an award-winning sportswriter with over 40 years' experience covering (among many other things) University of Florida football. Buddy has just completed and released his fourth book on the Florida Gators, Urban's Way: Urban Meyer, the Florida Gators, and His Plan to Win. I recommend it (would you expect otherwise?) not only for Gator fans, fans of Urban Meyer or readers of sports books, but for anyone wanting a bit of inspiration / motivation.
Those who know me realize I have just endorsed a book in a genre I never read and about which I know virtually nothing. If I had admitted enthusiasm about a new philosophy text (I'm reviewing a final draft for Greg Ganssle right now), a work of classic literature, poetry or theology, no one would think it strange. But a sports book? Buddy has written them before, and they were good. I digested them as best I could and moved on. I have always respected my brother's expertise. Moments in his prose remind me of our dad, a career journalist with a flair for tangents on the subject of Old Florida flora and fauna. But a sports book? I can't put it down!
Here's why: first, the author's perspective on his subject in this authorized biography of coach Urban Meyer is wholistic. Far more than braggadocio and endless statistical jargon, this book humanizes and contextualizes the story of a great winner, a driven, flawed man -- a husband, father, son, child of God, brother, apprentice and friend. From page one, the reader is thrust into the personal world of coach Meyer. We see him not as a calculating strategist, void of conscience, machinelike; we see him first in "The Cul-de-Sac of Champions," a domestic setting, learning from and exchanging ideas with his neighbor and fellow Florida (basketball) coach, Billy Donovan. Buddy offers a view of their relationship as one of the factors contributing to the record-setting 2007 simultaneous national championships: the BCS title in football, and the NCAA Mens Division I basketball championship.
Second, Buddy (a master biographer in this book) is a remarkable psychologist in exposing to the reader not just the habits, but also the drives, passion, principles and potential pitfalls of Urban Meyer's coaching plan. (Urban Meyer must be credited for his amazing vulnerability!) Meyer's approach to football is filled with gleanings for approaching life-goals, rasing children, and pursuing a career. Without intending, this book is therefore serviceable to those who peruse the shelves for self-help -- the practical philosophy of a neo-sophistical era to be sure -- and it is far better than the dumptruckloads of would-be-wise life-calculus texts, designed to make their authors rich and famous, precisely because it does in an honest, unforced, genuine way what the waxnosed sophists claim but fail to accomplish: offers a vision of a life well-lived!
I think some of my favorite moments so far, as I read Urban's Way, are those brief glimpses into the confessional, where Father Buddy is listening to a slice of self-doubt, a bit of critical concern expressed by a friend. The book thus transcends "how to succeed" trash in its inspiration and example for the reader. I am personally inspired. I will keep reading this one until page 336. Then, and only then, will I send my hardback copy back to my brother for his autograph.