Hello, Loyal Readers!
My next book, OVERTIME: Jim Harbaugh and the Michigan Wolverines at the Crossroads of College Football, comes out September 3. You can pre-order now from amazon, Barnes & Noble, or your local book store.
We’re setting up the book tour now, which will include a big launch on Tuesday, September 3, 7 p.m., at Michigan’s Hill Auditorium, hosted by Literati, and introduced by WTKA’s Sam Webb and Ira Weintraub. Bring 3,000 of your best friends!
It’s early, but we’re already getting great reviews and endorsements.
“John Bacon is a riveting story-teller on any subject. This book may be about Michigan, but it captures the human, physical and financial challenges of college football nationally. John explores this story—as with everything he does– with enormous heart and enthusiasm. A fun and important read.”
“John U. Bacon’s Overtime is a brilliant look into the wild and wonderful world of U.S. college football. While Bacon’s intense focus is on the Michigan Wolverines his first-rate storytelling transcends Ann Arbor. This is one of the best insider-football books ever written. Highly recommended!”
–Douglas Brinkley, Katherine Tsanoff Brown Chair in Humanities and Professor of History at Rice University and author of American Moonshot: John F. Kennedy and the Great Space Race
WOLVERINES WIRE (part of USAToday Sports Network): ISAIAH HOLE
By: Isaiah Hole | August 6, 2019
That’s how many are in a year. And, as New York Times bestselling author John U. Bacon notes, for those who don the winged helmet on Saturdays, only 60 of those hours are spent on the field actually playing football.
So what constitutes the ideals of a student-athlete – their schedule, the preparation, and what life is like — in the other 8,700 hours? Those are the questions at the heart of Overtime: Jim Harbaugh and the Crossroads of Michigan Football, Bacon’s latest behind-the-scenes installment featuring the Wolverines.
Unlike Three and Out or Endzone, Overtime isn’t about how Michigan systematically failed and looked to regroup after historic miscues. “Those were autopsies,” Bacon recently told me, off the cuff. Overtimeis certainly not that – quite the opposite. It’s a chronicle, a proverbial diary of those who grind daily within the hallowed walls of Schembechler Hall, from the players, to the support staff, to Jim Harbaugh, himself.
If Bacon’s previous works were autopsies, then Overtime is life after surviving a successful heart transplant.
While the 2018 season didn’t turn out as many fans had hoped, Overtime is perhaps an anti-thesis to the results witnessed in the Amazon All Or Nothing series, which highlighted a Michigan football team in increasing disarray amidst a disappointing 8-5 season. 10-3 with losses to Notre Dame and Ohio State certainly isn’t what fans would call a dream season, but where Bacon shines is highlighting how a student-athlete, a strength coach, a nutritionist, or even the head coach, prepares, reacts to adversity or success – depending on the week — and moves forward, considering there are larger goals beyond each individual game.EmailSign up
The NFL Films-style retelling of the week-by-week game schedule is expertly interspersed with vignettes featuring our cast of characters. There are multiple flashbacks to Jim Harbaugh’s formative years, which gives us a fully-fleshed out, 10,000 foot view of the man who’s worked to turn around a program that had been the negative subject of Bacon’s recent books. We come to understand more, not just about the man Harbaugh is — his drive to win with integrity, and how he operates — but why it’s so much more difficult to win in the current college football landscape, given that the NCAA rewards those who do not necessarily abide by the same moral compass as Harbaugh and Michigan. Unlike in some of his predecessors, Bacon offers personal commentary when merited, given that one of his previous works, Fourth and Long, was itself a cautionary tale of how college football could decline. Here, in Overtime, we instead see a program back on the rise, while fighting to stay above the fray.
The interstitials between game weeks serve to illuminate exactly how Michigan and its players stand apart from some of its contemporaries. We learn more about Rashan Gary, his recruitment (and again, why Michigan stands apart as one program that refused to get down in the muck); how he’s managed to be devout in his studies, despite struggling with dyslexia; and how his mother asserted herself as a driving force for good in his life. We get a more fleshed out picture of Chase Winovich’s recruitment and struggles as he moved from position-to-position, lost on the depth chart before he made the switch to defensive end. We learn more about what it’s like to be in Karan Higdon’s position – a young father who worked relentlessly towards his dreams, while eschewing the typical life of a college football player, so that he could be around and raise his daughter. We learn more about the man Grant Newsome has become in the aftermath of a gruesome leg injury that prematurely ended his fast-emerging football career. And we also get to spend time with one current player, Ben Bredeson, who was surprised to be elected a team captain as a junior, and why that’s a sign that Michigan is returning to the statutes and institutions that fans have come to embrace since Bo Schembechler took the helm back in 1969.
Not only do we get a look at the inner-workings of Michigan football, but Bacon expertly delves into some of the maize and blue’s rivals. 2018 featured scandals at Ohio State, Michigan State and Maryland and Bacon doesn’t shy away from those, but places blame where it’s precisely deserved – there’s no conflation between Larry Nassar and Mark Dantonio, for instance. Still, the chapters on MSU might be the most compelling. The in-state rivalry was directly in the middle of the season, the second game in the three-game ‘gauntlet,’ and we get 23 scintillating pages that all but shatter the illusion that ardent green-and-white supporters paint of the maize and blue and the Wolverines. Again, Michigan fans will read these entries and come away proud of what the program – and its players – has become, especially given the vacuum of leadership in the previous decade.
Overtime reads like a 400-plus page diary, a page-turner easily digested within an incredibly short amount of time, further aided with the added benefit of having those personal stories intercut. National media and rival fans can paint Harbaugh as they wish, but Overtime tells an entirely different story. We come to know the man on a personal level, what drives him, and why he’s adamant about doing things the right way – as he was taught by both his father, Jack, and Bo Schembechler.
Though the end of the season was a disappointment, with two consecutive blowout losses after building towards such promise, the end of the book has quite the opposite feel, thanks to Bacon’s deft hand. We come to realize that, four years into Jim Harbaugh’s tenure helming the team, we’re still at the beginning. Bacon’s assumed final entry on the Wolverines football program may be called Overtime, thus signaling a nearing end, but given the constraints in which Michigan and Harbaugh are limited, we come to understand why the program is, indeed, on the right track. When the Wolverines return to the top of the pyramid – and Bacon makes a compelling case through the vignettes why the team is trending in that direction – fans will appreciate how those in leadership, from Harbaugh to those now wearing a winged helmet, haven’t cut corners or sacrificed integrity like many others in the NCAA.
Famed Ohio State coach Woody Hayes once wrote a book called You Win With People! Whereas Michigan once employed gimmicks or had ineptitude at the highest level, Bacon fully illustrates that there’s been a wholesale change in Ann Arbor. Overtime is certification that the ideals upon which the program was built have returned, and that winning with people – not players as pawns – is precisely the foundation that Jim Harbaugh & Co. have reestablished after disarray threatened the very core of the program.
So if you’re a fan who’s discouraged by losses to the Buckeyes, or Michigan not seemingly playing at the level of the Alabamas and Clemsons of the world, this book is a must-read. If you’re enthusiast of all things maize and blue, this book is also a must-read. This book is a must-read if you love college football and want to understand more about the inner workings of a top-level program. Most importantly, if you care about the ‘student’ portion of the student-athlete, this book is for you.
Because we only get to see those players for three hours a week, 12-15 weeks a year. Bacon and Overtime give us a pivotal glimpse into those other 8,700 hours, and why college football is about so much more than mere wins and losses.