________________ CM . . . . Volume XXII Number 14. . . .December 4, 2015


Crack Coach.

Steven Sandor.
Toronto, ON: James Lorimer, 2015.
160 pp., pbk. & epub, $14.95 (pbk.).
ISBN 978-1-4594-0980-4 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-4594-0981-1 (epub).

Grades 8-10 / Ages 13-15.

Review by Alise Nelson.

**½ /4


The coach took a deep breath. Flashes went off in his face. The clicking noises of cameras followed.

“Gentleman, you know what I want to win, more than anything? ANYTHING? Well, believe me when I say this: If you gave me a choice between the mayor’s office and winning the league, I’d choose the league. You boys, you are special to me. We can achieve great things together. I know some of your moms and dads, sisters and brothers, aunts and uncles. And we are going to show them what this school is all about!”

The boys cheered. All except for Maurice. He saw some of the reporters furiously scribbling in their notebooks.

An hour later, the Toronto Scene website had a new front page story.


In Crack Coach, by Steven Sandor, the reader is immediately asked a question: What do you do when the coach is an addict? The premise of the book is straightforward: Grade 9 boys, on a primarily grade 10 football team, wonder how they can get much needed support to remove a coach who is exhibiting increasingly erratic behaviour. This concept had the chance to be incredibly interesting if the coach was well-liked, and the boys struggled to prove his misdeeds to a team blinded by their admiration of their gregarious coach. Instead, Crack Coach is less about the team, and it instead focuses on the crazy antics of the football coach and mayor of Toronto.

     Mayor Bob Jones insists that he will lead an inner city school to football greatness. Along the way, he skips important city functions to coach football, is caught on video drunkenly singing racial slurs with a fake accent, removed from city functions for intoxication and finally caught on camera holding a crack pipe. If this sounds familiar, it is because each and every event from Crack Coach is lifted directly from actual city of Toronto headlines (this is confirmed on the Lorimer Press website). As such, the title page claim that the “characters and events described in this book are entirely fictitious” falls conspicuously flat.

     The book follows two grade 9 students, Maurice, a football dynamo, and Vijay, a child of fanatical supporters of Bob Jones Nation. Maurice is an incredibly bland character. Readers learn very little about him throughout the course of the book, and instead they will get the sensation more than anything that Maurice was only intended to be a blank slate through which to observe Bob Jones’ antics. Vijay is considerably more fleshed out. He disagrees with his family’s blind support of Bob Jones and struggles to muster any sort of grief for a drug dealing cousin who was killed in a gang hit. His speeches to his father and a school board trustee are the only examples of any real gumption within the book.

     As a coach, Jones is both physically and verbally abusive. When the assistant coach attempts to stand up for the team, Jones promptly fires him and banishes him from the stadium. It is hard to understand why a group of 14 and 15-year-old boys would continuously endure this man only for the love of a game. Perhaps if this were senior football and college scholarships were on the line, it would read differently. Or even if a passionate love of football was exhibited, readers would understand the players’ dedication to the team. The closest readers arrive at an explanation is Maurice’s brother Fabien. Fabien plays for an American college team, and Maurice hopes to follow in his footsteps, but this fact does nothing to explain why anyone else on the team tolerates Coach Jones.

     The only example of character growth in the book occurs when Andre, the 10th grade bully, and Maurice put aside their differences for the good of the team (with the help of a signed football jersey). In the book’s climactic scene, the team finally stages a protest, and Coach Jones is ousted from his position. The team goes on to win the league championship. While a satisfying conclusion for the football team, the book, itself, ends on a sour note as Bob Jones takes all the credit for the team’s success and subsequently refuses to step down as mayor of Toronto.

     Quickly paced, the book does well at holding attention; however, I found myself questioning whether Sandor’s intended audience has any awareness of, or interest in, the Rob Ford media circus. And while it was not poorly written, Crack Coach is not an overly substantial book. Readers may cheer when Jones finally steps down from the team, but they will be left feeling hollow when the last line of the book is Jones’ declaration that he will remain mayor of Toronto “for a long, long time.”

Recommended with Reservations.

Alise Nelson is a graduate of the Simon Fraser and holds a Certificate in Liberal Arts as well as Bachelor’s Degrees in English and History. She is currently a Reader’s Advisor with the Prince George Public Library in Prince George, BC.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.

CM Home | Next Review | (Table of Contents for This Issue - December 4, 2015.) | Back Issues | Search | CM Archive | Profiles Archive

Updated: October 17, 2014 (hsd)