A group of middle-aged men meet once a year to re-create the grisly play that ended Joe Theismann's career. Underneath all the planning, uniforms, lotteries, superstitious tokens, and rules of conduct, The Throwback Special is really a story about the somewhat sad and yearning inner life of these men who have somehow made a misstep in life. Divorce, business loss, kids with problems, theft, identity crises, unhappy wives, neglect, and other daily issues all conspire to make for very interesting characters. It's not really about football, thankfully. Recommended By Dianah H., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
2016 National Book Award Finalist in Fiction
Winner of the Paris Review's 2016 Terry Southern Prize for Humor
A slyly profound and startlingly original novel about the psyche of the American male, The Throwback Special marks the return of one of the most acclaimed literary voices of his generation.
Here is the absorbing story of twenty-two men who gather every fall to painstakingly reenact what ESPN called "the most shocking play in NFL history" and the Washington Redskins dubbed the "Throwback Special": the November 1985 play in which the Redskins’ Joe Theismann had his leg horribly broken by Lawrence Taylor of the New York Giants live on Monday Night Football.
With wit and great empathy, Chris Bachelder introduces us to Charles, a psychologist whose expertise is in high demand; George, a garrulous public librarian; Fat Michael, envied and despised by the others for being exquisitely fit; Jeff, a recently divorced man who has become a theorist of marriage; and many more. Over the course of a weekend, the men reveal their secret hopes, fears, and passions as they choose roles, spend a long night of the soul preparing for the play, and finally enact their bizarre ritual for what may be the last time. Along the way, mishaps, misunderstandings, and grievances pile up, and the comforting traditions holding the group together threaten to give way.
The Throwback Special is a moving and comic tale filled with pitch-perfect observations about manhood, marriage, middle age, and the rituals we all enact as part of being alive.
"[A] comic dissection of male bonding....Sharply observed and sympathetic and funny enough to win over even those readers who abhor football and its fans." Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)
"Bachelder reveals the magic of professional sport spectating, the silliness and profundity of traditions, and the tender illogic of friendship....There is absolutely something for everyone (even the sports-averse) in this rollicking, irreverent but sweet human drama." Julia Jenkins, Shelf Awareness (Starred Review)
"Wistful and elegantly written…The Throwback Special conjures the rewarding melancholy of Richard Ford’s Frank Bascombe novels" John Williams, New York Times Book Review
"Powerful, intelligent, and entertaining....Chris Bachelder works a kind of poignant comedic magic, expertly locating and drawing out central truths about life." Drew Nellins Smith, Los Angeles Times Book Review
"A gem...Bachelder’s 'football' novel is an eerie, witty work dissecting a modern-day sacrificial ritual." Matt Seidel, The Millions
About the Author
Chris Bachelder is the author of Bear v. Shark, U.S.!, and Abbott Awaits. His fiction and essays have appeared in McSweeney’s, The Believer, and the Paris Review. He lives with his wife and two daughters in Cincinnati, where he teaches at the University of Cincinnati.