Sunday, September 16, 2007

Shirley draws a violation in Can I Keep My Jersey?

Books now read in ’07: 89
Title: Can I Keep My Jersey?
Author: Paul Shirley
Genre: Basketball
Date Completed: 9-12
Pages: 322

I had every reason to like this book. Shirley is a Kansas kid, as am I. While he didn’t play for my alma mater, Kansas, he did earn a starting role for Big 12 rival Iowa State and I saw him play on several occasions. Too, this book was recommended by a friend with impeccable judgment in books.

So I had every reason to like Can I Keep My Jersey?, but I didn’t like it at all.

I didn’t like it for a lot of reasons. Shirley isn’t as smart or as funny as he thinks. The kid could do with a dose of self-awareness. He actually uses words like “homo” and "retard,” while blithely criticizing professional basketball players for their narcissistic ways. Shirley thinks of himself as witty, but he’s really just sarcastic – and that doesn’t make a funny book, only a sad one.

He condemns anyone with a religious faith based on the actions of a few professional basketball players – surely (no pun intended) not a sampling truly reflective of believers anywhere and which misses the point about faith in any event.

But my biggest bone of contention with Paul Shirley is on two fronts. First, he completely fails to enjoy or to appreciate adventures that most people will never have the opportunity to experience. He plays in Greece, Spain and Russia, but only offer up a litany of complaints about his foreign experiences. It’s as if none of this touches this kid in any meaningful way. It's all about Paul.

Finally, Shirley seems no different from the other professional players he is so quick to distance himself from. Shirley is an engineering major and, after graduation from college, he would certainly be well on his way to a good career and a respectable income. Instead, he shuttles about the NBA, the CBA and foreign teams in pursuit of his “dream” to play in the NBA. More accurately, Shirley doesn’t play in the NBA so much as hold down a seat on the bench and wait for a blow-out – by either team – so he can literally see a few seconds of action.

Shirley is contemptuous of the values of his fellow NBA colleagues, yet I do not see that his are so different. As for his writing, it is a lot like his play in the NBA, best in limited doses.

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