Sidelined: Overcoming Odds Through Unity, Passion, and Perseverance, by Chuck Pagano with Bruce A. Tollner
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by BookLook/Zondervan Press in exchange for an honest review.]
Although I am a Steeler’s fan , this particular sports memoir from Indianapolis Colts coach Chuck Pagano (with some help from an articulate agent who styles himself esquire, as I did when I was a teenager) is a moving and inspiring account of how faith and the support and encouragement of friends and family and coworkers helped the author overcome a diagnosis of leukemia during his debut season as a head coach in 2012. Although this particular book will be most enjoyable for those who are both profound sports fans as well as thoughtful believers in scripture (as this book has lots of talk about sports and the mysterious ways of the Eternal), it is written in a clear and easy-to-read style that should not be too difficult for a wide and appreciative audience.
In many ways, this particular book is very similar to a book in my stepfather’s collection called Lost Sundays , about the Pittsburgh Steelers. Both books share a general organization of looking at a season week by week, heavy on reportage and a narrative of drama about the progress of the game and big plays on both sides. Both books even share at least one notable person, Tony Dungy, who was an assistant coach for the Pittsburgh Steelers during the season chronicled in Lost Sundays and wrote the forward for Sidelined. Some major differences include the fact that this particular novel includes a lot about faith (which was only a minor concern in Lost Sundays) and that this book is ultimately hopeful and encouraging while the other book was far more gloomy and depressing (especially for a Steelers fan like myself).
Indeed, this particular book explores divine providence in a variety of ways and also is filled throughout with a great sense of gratitude and appreciation. Pagano comes off as sincere, passionate, enthusiastic, and warm, genuinely surprised at the wellspring of support for “ChuckStrong” that followed his cancer diagnosis and appreciative of the visits and communication from others. This book shows a lot of thoughtful examination on divine providence and why God allows what He does, for what purposes. Although this book is ultimately optimistic, and shows the intensely driven nature of NFL players and coaches to overcome injury and disaster that would crush less willful people, it is not a book that sugarcoats the difficulties of life but shows a strong sense of resilience that should be appreciated by many readers.
Although being diagnosed with acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL for short), which caused a great deal of bruising from the bone marrow, was a major blow for Pagano and his associates, especially as he was a rookie head coach who had never been higher than defense coordinator at any level before, this book shows Pagano’s strength of faith, generous supply of encouraging associates, and strength of will. All of these elements combine to make a book that is easy to read, honest about the setbacks along the way, and filled with thoughtful notes that ponder the question of the meaning of blessings and setbacks (including a lot of commentary about God’s economy and Victor Frankl ). Readers with interests in both sports and faith will find much to appreciate, and a narrative to encourage us in our own dark seasons, to give us the encouragement to keep a season of struggling from turning into a lost season. We can all use the encouragement at times.
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