Jeffrey Hickey understands the challenges and the glees of young boys
coming to grips with the ominous threat of adulthood. As he so
successfully accomplished in his novel MOREHEAD he sets out in THE
COACH'S SON to offer an insider's vantage of what stumbling blocs and
opportunities face the maturing brain and body of boys climbing the
ladder to manhood. Though the book is not (by the author's note) a
memoir, it is based on experience cum research that keeps the frontline
story of a lad (Mark O'Bern) who mirrors the being the `seer son' of a
football coach. But for many the storyline of the adventures and
highlights of this strange gift that the coach's son has in advising his
father regarding sports decisions are not nearly as entertaining as the
study of Mark O'Bern, a kid subjected to all the steps and missteps of
growing up in America during the 1960s and 1970s.
That is not to
say this book will not appeal to sports fans: there is enough quality
information in this book to satisfy even the most obsessed football fan.
But more than that we have the pleasure of getting to know a boy
challenged by rules of education, of etiquette, of relationships with
both boys and girls, the thwarted attempts at sexual encounters, and
such obstacles as dealing with the fact that he has a chronic problem
with defecation (see the hilarious cover photograph) and with the outlet
of masturbation, and with moving through life as ordered by the world.
Hickey has that ability to inform and entertain simultaneously, and as
he continues to prove to his readers, he has the ability to create
unforgettable characters - not too far removed form the status of Holden
Caulfield and Jonathan Safran Foer in his own `Everything is
Illuminated'. Hickey makes us recall and even relive the tightrope of
walking the line of the growing child in each of us. Grady Harp,
Clarion Review GENERAL The Coach's Son Jeffrey Hickey CreateSpace 978-1-4751-0721-0 Five Stars (out of Five)
Wherever there is a sporting event, the die-hard fans will be there. It
may be a mother at her son’s Little League game, screaming wildly, or a
middle-aged man painted in his team’s colors at a soccer match.
Regardless of who the home team is or who has the odds stacked against
them, such fans believe their cheering and acts of encouragement will
help their team emerge victorious. For Mark O’Bern, his loyalty is more
than an unfounded belief in his team’s abilityto win: it is his gift.
Chester O’Bern, Mark’s father, had been the head coach of the 1963 San
Francisco 49ers. After a miserable season that had fans ridiculing and
cursing him after games—antics witnessed by Mark, who was six years
old at the time—Chester lands an assistant coach job with the Dallas
Cowboys. During Cowboys games, Mark develops a series of rituals,
including two special sitting positions, patterned finger tapping, and
touching of pressure points, that he feels have a direct effect on
the game. In fact, “he still joined the crowd in their chants, though
these were beginning to strike Mark as irrelevant to the action and
somewhat irritating when they interrupted one of his own silent
strategies.” Indeed, evidence mounts that Mark’s gift of being able to
manipulate events on the field is undeniable.
Mark learns that
he can influence the outcome of an athletic event and control people’s
thoughts and actions. He can even cause physical reactions, such as when
he uses only his thoughts to make his teacher’s nose start to
bleed. He eventually learns that his brother and mother have kept silent
about their own unusual gifts.
Jeffrey Hickey’s account of a
boy coming of age in the 1960s succeeds on many levels. Sports fans will
enjoy the abundance of stories about professional baseball and
football, especially since Hickey speaks of real players and teams—such
as Don Drysdale, the Cowboys, and the New York Mets—to draw the reader
into the story. Hickey meshes well-known names and believable situations
with Mark’s exaggerated exploits, and the result is a story that is
both entertaining and well told.
Hickey also weaves in several
serious issues that make strong points. Mark witnesses blatant racism,
religious hatred, bullying, and political unrest typical of the turmoil
of the decade. Alongside these, Mark is experiencing the usual boyhood
tumult of relationships, love, and self-discovery.
underlying theme of “doing your duty” as a family member surfaces
throughout the story, from Mark’s childhood years through his adulthood.
The point is reinforced by the many insightful interactions that convey
the strength and support of the O’Bern family.
heavily loaded with sports stories, The Coach’s Son will appeal to
readers looking for a skillfully written, family-based novel full of
intriguing story lines.
I first read Jeffrey Hickey's "The Coach's Son" around
Christmas of 2006 I had to admit to a lust to discover what this
insider to the pro football game had to show me beyond what the
traditional, packaged corporate sports media did. Hickey's father,
Howard "Red" Hickey had not only coached my home team, the
San Francisco Forty Niners, but as one of the most innovative minds
in the history of the game had invented the "shotgun"
formation and coined the term for the "Alley oop" pass play
so popular with fans. After turning a few pages, though, I was
seduced into this rite-of-passage tale of Mark O'Bern, the
protagonist of the story and the vehicle for Hickey to tell us about
himself, his family, the wider political screen of the 60's and pro
football in this semi-autobiographical story and its geographical
and philosophical journeys across the USA and the continuously
developing family saga. Mark O'Bern , a seeker has a gift-he isn't
just any kid. He appears to understand a power of manifestation and
a knack for speaking that sets him apart, sometimes to the
consternation of his authority figures- CAN he affect the outcome of
football games? Following his father's employment trail, the O'Bern
family moves from San Francisco to Dallas and back to Santa Monica as
Mark grows up and pokes at life to see what is real and precious and
what is disposable; some of his "spiritual" work is to
bring the Dallas Cowboys along through the years to their first Super
Bowl victory; Hickey adroitly captures the feel of being a young
person in many scenes much to our reading and now listening pleasure.
for us, because Jeffrey Hickey has already released "Bats and
Bones," a CD of stories with music, the audio book reading of
"The Coach's Son." actually introduces a whole different
way to appreciate the story. Authors who read their own works live
on a slippery slope - it is much too easy to let objectivity drift
away in a rather self-centered, undramatic tone. Hickey, however
reads the lines of his literary progeny with a sweetness, depth and
skill that ONLY the author could bring to it, embellished by Hickey's
own musical compositions; veteran actor Lauren Pizzi assists Hickey
with some cameo role reads. Like the book, the CD listener can't
wait to feed the player with the succeding disc because we HAVE to
find out what is going to happen to Mark O'Bern next !!
nine CD, 11hour fifteen minute audio book of "The Coach's Son,"
four months in the making is being released this first week in
November; it is also available in an MP3 file format and can be
accessed at Borders on itunes, Jeffrey Hickey.com, Amazon.com, Barnes
and Noble.com, Bloomingtwig.com (online publisher) and CD Baby.
Hickey will be touring his work on the East and West Coasts in 2008
and has two children's stories and an adult story in the works for
I rarely read a novel that I can relate to on a number of levels yet, Jeffrey Hickey, has somehow managed to do it. Mr. Hickey juxtaposes the humor of life against life's many contradictions. He accomplishes this comparison with amazing ease and hilarity. I have never laughed harder, or been more captured by the uniquely gifted boy who encompasses this tale. Hickey equipoise's his threads of fact, fiction and football into a tapestry that creates a spiritual joy never before experienced literarily. If you miss the opportunity to read this book you have missed the opportunity for mirth.
Even at the age of six, Mark O'Bern is aware of the quirkiness of sports fans. His father Chester is a football coach and Mark has already seen plenty of games. He knows that some people think they can control the outcome of a game by the clothes they wear or various routines they go through on game day. Mark discovers that he too can control the outcome of a game by channeling his "energy". But it will take several years before Mark can harness that energy and during those years he will grow in many different ways.
"The Coach's Son" is a multi-layered gem of a novel. It not only covers football and its fans (as well as baseball) but it is also a coming of age story and a look at a complex family with a touch of mysticism throughout the novel. Author Jeffrey Hickey does a terrific job of weaving in real life events with fictional events, especially the football elements, to the extent that you believe that Chester O'Bern was really a coach with the Dallas Cowboys. Anyone who has followed any type of sport, not just football, will nod knowingly at the superstitious rituals various fans have during games. One of the premises of the novel is that Mark really can control the outcome of games and Hickey deftly and sometimes humorously explains how Mark is distracted during Cowboy losses. The time period of the novel is 1963 - 1972 and Hickey does a good job of integrating events of that period of time into the book.
The coming of age and family dynamics in the novel are done as well as the football aspects. Mark is an interesting character, flawed to be sure, but intriguing. At times I thought he seemed older than he should be, especially in his religious beliefs (or non-beliefs) but that may have been by design as he is the product of a father who is not home for long periods of time because of his job and a sickly and overprotective mother. The novel ends when Mark is 15 and a couple of things at the end made me smile, especially the very last paragraph of the book.
A fine, well-polished and amusing read, this tale of an oddly gifted boy and his slightly twisted family is whimsical, mystical and at times slightly outrageous. This one-of-a-kind effort has something to challenge and bemuse all sorts of inquiring minds.
Mixing fact with fiction, the author slyly keeps the reader guessing as to just what is true and what is not. Some passages read as almost pure autobiography only to spin off into fancy on the next page. Details are sharply drawn and immediate, coaxing the reader deep into a moment or a scene. These recollections ring with the power of veracity and yet, there is no way it can ALL be true!
Clearly, much of the tale is fiction. Some of it even borders on the metaphysical. There are much deeper levels of introspection (and even philosophy) than are found in your common "boy-meets-world" memoir. A myriad of topics are explored by the young narrator...among them: faith, fate, class, race, loyalty, love and most importantly, the power of will.
And yet, it is a light-hearted tale, peppered with wisecracks and an overall wry sense of humor. The writing style is highly personalized and the author delights in numerous inventive word combinations and clever turns of phrase. There are many hilarious and surprising family and personal moments. The aforementioned flights of fancy sometimes rocket situations off into the ridiculous and the absurd. This all works to keep the reader guessing and well-entertained.
I suppose I should also mention that there are quite a few stirring accounts of historic and memorable gridiron contests, which would only be right in the story of a coach's son. Indeed, the boy's connection to and influence over these games is the framework upon which much of this book is built. But it would be a disservice to describe it as merely a recounting of those faded, childhood glory days. There is much, much more here than meets the eye.
And that is what makes this book truly one-of-a-kind.
Martin Kenlon, San Francisco, CA
*********************************************************************************************************************** While all books that rise above the level of mind-numbingly boring are unusual, this book is more unusual than others. Mark is the son of a coach in the National Football League and a great deal of ink is spent describing his doing his duty. In this book, that duty is defined as defecating. The cover photo shows a young boy sitting on a toilet reading what appears to be a map.
While the duty may not appear to differentiate Mark from any other child, there is a hint throughout the book that Mark somehow has the power to predict future events as well as influence current events. His ongoing influence is via a series of movements and the touching of pressure points. His family comes to believe that he has these powers, after his father Chester becomes a talent scout for the Dallas Cowboys; he begins consulting Mark regarding decisions. It was Mark that convinced his father to recommend that Dallas draft malcontent running back Duane Thomas.
Other than his powers and difficulty in defecating, Mark is an ordinary boy who does things typical of the gender. He runs away once, back to an old school, he has difficulty in relating to girls, he fights with a boy no one likes and learns to appreciate the other child's problems, he has difficulty with his teachers and he masturbates. After years of frustration, the Dallas Cowboys manage to win the Super Bowl and Mark then goes on to make additional predictions. Although he attends a Catholic school, Mark is a religious unbeliever, so a mythical person named Al Mighty is invoked on a regular basis. The segment that I thought was the best was when Mark attends the victory party after the Cowboy's win and despite being underage drinks some champagne with his parents. After becoming groggy, he is sent to his room to go to sleep. A teenage girl from the party knocks on his door and he lets her in. They share a marijuana cigarette and engage in a bit of sexual tension but without the consummation. When the girl leaves she asks him if it is OK to tell her friends that they "did it", even though they both remain virgins. In a few pages, Hickey sums up the tentative sex life of adolescents.
This book contains many metaphors regarding the role of major sports in American civilization and the sometimes brutal treatment of the players and coaches. However, it is mostly about an odd boy growing up, he is intelligent, has his own opinions and just may have extraordinary powers.
Charles Ashbacher, Marion, IA
*********************************************************************************************************************** Those who will enjoy this the most will probably be football fans, and particularly NFL afficionados. The story features Mark O'Bern, the son of an NFL coach and talent scout, who seemingly (at least in his mind and that of his family) has the ability to predict upcoming events and even influence their outcome.
Although listed as fiction, it is likely at least semi-autobiographical. The author is the son of former NFL coach and scout Red Hickey who was the inventor of the shotgun offense.
The story contains a lot of things that are believed at least on some level by many sports fans such as curses and the rituals of a fan having an impact on the game. It also contains a lot of NFL history including some tidbits on the famous 'Ice Bowl' and other events from the 1960s and early 70s.
This is a good story and will be enjoyed by many sports fans.
S. Peek, Billings, MT
*********************************************************************************************************************** As an avid football fan, I enjoyed the insights and historical perspectives of the Superbowl, and the author’s careful authentic detail describing teams in both leagues that were in various stages of growth, disarray and grandeur during the 1960s and 1970s.
Two football teams are at the center of the author’s attention, the San Francisco 49ers and the Dallas Cowboys. These teams are intertwined with the young, impressionable and remarkable primary character, Mark. You realize early, in The Coach’s Son that this little boy possesses a provocative and engaging special gift that influences game plays and game outcomes. In his early years, Mark believes that his external voluntary ticks and fidgeting wills his team to big wins, but it often leads to costly and humorous disaster.
Now that being said, I had no idea where this book was going to take me. And, that is definitely part of the book’s allure.
Mark is hovered over by a loving but overly protective, religious mother who is a dominate force in the young boy’s life. His father, Chester, consumed by coaching football, and later as the premier talent scout for the Cowboys, is portrayed is as a laid back, understanding, but absent father. Mark’s older brothers float in and out of the story, with slight significance.
Without giving away the storyline, I’ll leave you with this note. Mark’s childhood friendships, or lack thereof, love of family, relationships with nuns at Catholic school and his special gifts to influence outcomes of a variety of life changing events, do not hamper, but enhance his sense of humor, childhood pranks, religion, world view and growing up as the coach’s son.
Barbara Fielder, Gilbertsville, KY for Armchair Interviews
*********************************************************************************************************************** As many of you watch the Super Bowl this Sunday, superstitions will take hold - wearing a favorite hat, sitting in a certain chair, following a certain routine, or other rituals undertaken to assure that your team wins.
Now comes "The Coach's Son" by Jeffrey Hickey (Blooming Twig Books), the story of young Mark O'Bern, the son of San Francisco 49ers coach Chester O'Bern, whose tenure as coach ended in 1963 after losing to the Minnesota Vikings 20-24.
Mark has a special talent - the future projected on the back of his eyelids - which his mother discovered at that game.
The family then moves on to Dallas, where Chester had accepted a job as wide receiver assistant coach for the Dallas Cowboys under Tom Landry. Soon the fans at the Cotton Bowl, where the Cowboys play their home games, noticed Mark's energy - and that when he focused his attention on the field, things happened.
During that summer, Mark tells his dad that the Cowboys will be going to the championship game that year. They did finish second in their division and went on to the Playoff Bowl in Miami - where they lost to the Colts 35-3.
By the end of the next season Mark was into finger touches and pressure points to help his team and watched them improve - and then predicted they would be going to the championship the next year.
As the season progresses, Mark attends all the games, and the run of wins for the Cowboys begins and continues.
Anyone interested in football - and those who believe in superstitions, curses and hexes - will enjoy the book.
I think Packer fans will now believe the Sports Illustrated curse (i.e. if you are on the cover, you will be injured or lose).
Favre was on two covers, so let's all shift the blame to Sports Illustrated.
We sure could have used Mark during the playoffs. However, the book is fiction, and, as the author says, "Places, events and situations in this book are purely fictional and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is coincidental."
Anyway, it's a good read. It should be available at your bookstore.
Joyce Laabs, Features Editor, Lakeland Times, Minocqua, WI
OTG Book Review Review Written by Brian van Vliet - April 1, 2008
The Coach's Son, by Jeffrey Hickey
When I was first contacted to do a review of Jeffrey Hickey’s sports themed book titled The Coach’s Son, I’ll have to admit I was hesitant.
The premise of the story is about young Mark O’Bern the son of an NFL coach who some believe can alter the course of football games with a series of superstitious movements and gestures. My first thought was that this story would be filled with a bunch of old sports clichés leading the reader through a series of football games with predictable outcomes.
Was I in for a surprise! Instead, Hickey took us on a wild, unpredictable journey with the O’Bern family as they travelled from San Francisco, to Dallas and back to Santa Monica California following Mr. O’ Bern’s employment trail. The reader gets an inside look at the somewhat neurotic O’Bern family. Although we were introduced to Mark’s father Chester, mother Anna and his two brothers John and Paul, the story mainly focuses on young Mark.
When the tale begins in the year 1963, Mark’s Dad Chester is the head coach of the National Football League’s San Francisco 49’ers. After being let go by the team, the family moves to Texas where Chester takes on the role of assistant coach with the Dallas Cowboys. It is here that we are taken through all the experiences of a young boy (Mark) who longs for his old home. Everything from religion, racism, Mark’s own rebelliousness, sexual tension and the political climate of the times are touched on.
That’s not to say that there isn’t a lot to do with football in this book. Hickey does a masterful job of walking the reader through a series of games as the Dallas Cowboys go from their early years of futility right through to their first Super Bowl victory. Hickey’s description of the plays make the reader feel as though he is watching the events unfold before his eyes.
All the while young Mark displays what appears to be a gift for determining the outcome of games through a series of movements and the touching of “pressure points.” So much so, that Chester started to consult his son when it came to making important decisions pertaining to the team. In some cases after a loss, Chester would be angry at his son implying that Mark had done something wrong causing the team to lose.
Just when you think you have it figured out as to what is going to happen next, Hickey throws another curve ball.
Son of former National Football head coach Howard Hickey, author Jeff gives the reader some great insight into what it must have been like to be part of an NFL family throughout the sixties. That in itself makes the story much more intriguing.
For anyone who is a serious sports fan or just loves a great adventure, this is the book for you.
Rating: 4 footballs out of 5
You can purchase this book by visiting the author’s website at www.jeffreyhickey.com.