Book Report: Tuesday Night Football by Alex Karras with Douglas Graham (1991)

I bought this book for a dollar at a book fair this year because I liked Alex Karras as Mongo, and as Webster’s father, and in all his television and film roles; I wasn’t born when he played football (but man, they all became movie stars from that era, didn’t they? Alex Karras, Bubba Smith, Merlin Olsen). Still, I bought the book because it was written by Alex Karras with Douglas Graham. And I think it was mostly Alex Karras.

What an absurd little book it is. It reads like a polished high school creative writing piece, like something I would have written in the tenth grade. Seriously, it reminds me of something my creative writing class group came up with when we were doing the “stories in the round” schtick, where every row of students working as a group would write a scene into a short story and pass it to the next group for them to write a scene, and we would get a story from another group and write a scene. We created an absurd character and inserted him into all of the stories.

In this book, the character is the happy-go-lucky or lucky-go-happy son if immigrants named Lazlo. He’s eventually going to be on Tuesday Night Football, the also-ran behind ABC’s Monday Night Football. But the first half of the book deals with the youth of the precocious Lazlo, who became an accordion prodigy, lived through a slightly cracked but within the bounds of normalcy family, and ended up as the Jingle King. From an early age, he has always connected to commercials and loved jingles because the people depicted within commercials are all happy, and Lazlo associates that with happiness. He’s never anything bad to say about anybody and looks on the bright side of life.

A network executive catches him in his act in a Holiday Inn and decides to bring him to Chicago to be the third man in the booth with the play by play man, a veiled rendition of Howard Cosell, and an extremely randy color man. Thus, the second half of the book deals with the middle-aged young Lazlo coming to the big city, seeing what happens behind the scenes, learning the meaning of the University of Michigan fight song to Lance Allgood, and thwart the middle level executive and the professionals who think Lazlo will sink the sunken show.

But in the end, when Haywood’s ex-wife incapacitates him with drug-laced cookies, Lazlo has to step in and briefly save the day. And he does, at which point the authors realize they’ve reached novel length and end.

The prose wasn’t bad, the characters were obvious caricatures, and the plots outlandish. The book is billed as a comic novel, and while some of it is very, very mildly amusing, it doesn’t reach the level of Hiaasen or Barry. It was designed and packaged with the football fan who reads in mind, as the cover depicts not Lazlo, but Alex Karras sitting in a cartoon chair in a cartoon living room watching football.

But I had a good time reading it.

Books mentioned in this review: