Image by Jon Bois
Topic #1: Read a book about sports.
Book: The Tim Tebow CFL Chronicles by Jon Bois
Former-NFL quarterback Tim Tebow has just been fired from the Patriots and doesn’t know what to do. He loves American Football more than anything, but it seems as though his glory days–which were never that glorious anyway–are behind him. So, he signs a contract with the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League. He doesn’t really expect much from the job, just hopes that it will be a step toward something bigger and better. His hopes will not be in vain, because although he will only play one game as a CFL quarterback, he will look back on that game as the greatest that he–or anyone else, for that matter–has ever played.
For those who don’t know, Tim Tebow is a real former-NFL quarterback, and author Jon Bois draws on his legacy to form the emotional core of the story, before hurling us recklessly into a world of utter insanity, the result being among the funniest, most heartfelt, and most rewarding works of the absurd that I have ever read. Canada is a ludicrous fantasy world where cell phones have been replaced by city-wide networks of voice-pipes, where ordinary people have superhuman endurance and where games of football can–very occasionally–spill out from the stadiums and into the streets.
“Canada is weird” is hardly an original joke, but Bois gives it new life.This is partly because his imagination is so vibrant, but that’s only half of the story. Like in most great comedies, the jokes land so well because they are tied up in actual character drama. All Tim Tebow wants is someplace quiet to recuperate from his embarrassment in the NFL while he figures out what he’s going to do with his life. Instead, he’s thrown into headlong into a world he cannot understand, to play a game that resembles the football he knows, but is unimaginably different in unexpected ways. The result is hilarious, but also makes me feel for Tebow, whose anxieties are understated but very real.
The main draw of this book is the sheer madness of the game that they’re playing, as well as the strategies Tebow and his fellow Argonauts employ to adapt to it. Bois has a firm sense of fair play, and as preposterous as the rules are, they are rigidly defined for the most part. Occasionally, I had to look up a bit of football terminology, but even a football-layman like me could follow along as Tebow and his opponents try to take advantage of loopholes in the 250,000 page CFL rulebook.
Although the surreal jokes and the battles of wits are what pulled me into the story, what will stick with me more is what the story eventually becomes once the novelty wears out and an eerie loneliness takes hold of everything. When I noticed it, creeping in from the edges, I realized that it had always been there, just waiting for its chance. “What is the point of football?” the story asks, but there’s another, deeper, darker question underneath, one that it’s almost too frightened to ask: “What’s the point of being alive?”
Enough of the heavy stuff! Here are some quotes out of context:
“I buckle down, ready to fight. I don’t think anyone’s fought wolves in a football uniform, so what the Hell, let’s see what happens.”
“I pride myself on being the first player in the history of football to get drunk in the middle of the play.“
“The Toronto Argonauts have had their time. Untie me, present me with the ball, and accept your fate!”
Final Grade: A
Wow! I gave an “A” to the very first book. I’m actually pretty surprised. Let’s hope for more books on this level.
The Tim Tebow CFL Chronicles is a free web novella. You can find it right here.