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One Minute to Play

August 27, 2007

I picked up One Minute to Play in a used book store a month or so ago because I momentarily mistook Harold Sherman for Ralph Henry Barbour. They were both popular writers of sports stories, but it turns out that there’s an important difference: Ralph Henry Barbour knew how to write. Harold Sherman did not. I mean, it’s not like Barbour was all that great or anything, but Sherman, judging by this book, was really, really bad.

It’s a pretty generic sort of story. Red Wade is so obsessed with football that he paid no attention to his schoolwork and took six years to get through high school. His father hates football and thinks people who play it are thugs. Before Red goes off to college, his father makes him promise not to play, but once he gets there, he finds that his reputation has followed him — apparently he’s so good at football that he tends to win even if he’s on an awful team — and he’ll be the most unpopular boy in the school if he refuses to play. So he joins the team, and just makes sure that the grades he sends home to his father are good enough so that his father won’t suspect he’s playing football. Oh, and there’s a girl — the younger sister of the football coach — who Red tells about his promise, and who breaks up with Red’s rival for him.

The team does really well, but just before the final game against the school’s main rival, Red’s roommate Toodles sends Mr. Wade a newspaper clipping about Red, not knowing that Mr. Wade isn’t going to be too pleased about it. Toodles, by the way, was the only character who was even slightly interesting. Mr. Wade shows up and stops Red from playing, but then he makes the mistake of going to see the game to make sure Red doesn’t play. And then, of course, he gets caught up in the excitement of the game and eventually changed his mind in time for Red to play for one minute and win the game. It’s completely ridiculous. And also badly written. And if any single piece of dialogue isn’t completely inane, it’s a cliché.

I wish I could say that the illustrations from the photoplay starring Red Grange, an actual football player, made up for the terrible, terrible writing, but they don’t. Not that they’re not nice. Amusingly, Red Grange’s IMDb page shows that, even when he played fictional characters, he always retained his nickname. Here is a picture of Red Grange. He’s kind of entertainingly ugly. Click for more picures.

Red Grange

Also, the actor who plays Red’s father? Was in 305 movies between 1908 and 1926. Which is kind of impressive.

Anyway, I guess this is what I get for buying a book based on a movie.

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