JOCK SNIFF AMERICA
In this sequel to The Pop Tart Insurrection, with his plans for global domination on hold, Magnus Haycock is forced to move back in with his mom and stepdad, Ryan. The struggle is real as Magnus endures icky come-ons from his younger cousin and holiday gatherings without chardonnay. He hits rock bottom, enrolling at a community college with a program for ex-cons and then hooking up with his ex, Brynn, who previously dumped and humiliated him. Magnus goes to work for Ryan, who is an assistant to the president of a small sports agency, where he comes face-to-face with America’s sometimes unhealthy attachment to sports. He finds himself sickened by all of the obsessed fans, stupid coaches, coddled athletes, selfish parents, and shady agents. But when he has the chance to land a huge shoe deal for one of his clients, Magnus must choose between joining the jock sniff mob or staying true to his principles.
One thing was clear from my conversation with Thad: I needed to find some new friends. I’d been carrying his pathetic ass for years, letting him tag along with me to parties, games, and other social gatherings, sacrificing the hit in cool points so that he could experience a meaningful adolescence. I’d listened to him piss and moan for more than a decade, repeating his “oh-woe-is-me” routine about how he wished that his life was different on a weekly basis. But now that he had a student visa stripper girlfriend and a decent first semester GPA, he had no problem giving me his condescending “it’s-all-in-your-head” psychobabble during my existential crisis.
“And their linebackers are slow,” another dude in a stylish but inappropriately light puffy jacket added. “So we need a lot of run-pass option and use both tight ends.”
The woman standing next to him, whom I presumed to be his girlfriend or wife, since she wore a similarly silly puffy jacket, jabbed her index figure repeatedly as she agreed.
“All day long to the tight ends.”
Everyone nodded and the short guy high-fived her. I’d always found it funny that, even in the midst of raucous debates between heated, heavily-soused football fans, the one suggestion that would dampen the flames, the one thing everyone could agree on, was that we should throw more to the tight end.
“Because of your . . . display . . . in the dining hall at Ross, you’re kind of famous now. But not in a good way.”
“Hey, I just invented a word for that,” I smiled in reply. “Infamous.”
“You need to grow a beard,” Ryan ordered.
“Why?” I shrugged. “Because everybody else who works at your company has one?”
“That’s not true,” my stepfather corrected.
“Well, let’s see. The two of you have beards. And last summer, when you somehow forgot your phone and I had to bring it to you at work, I only saw one dude without a beard. And I’m pretty sure he’d just been through chemo or something, because he didn’t have any eyebrows either.”
“We don’t require all of our employees to wear beards,” Jeremy stated flatly.
“And yet they all do, including your receptionist. What’s her name . . . Cheryl? Somebody might want to suggest electrolysis.”
The worst part about working at KTM was that it was a commune for jock sniffing douchebags. Regardless of gender, sexual orientation, or beard length, all anybody did at that company was talk about sports: from standings, to stats, to parroted predictions from consummately ignorant talking heads . . . And the very worst part about the KTM jock-sniffery, was that all things sport took on a ridiculous importance that everyone worshiped and nobody questioned. It was like I’d joined a cult of sports groupies.
“Shouldn’t these kids be in school?” I asked.
“They’re on break,” Ryan reminded me.
“So why are they spending their winter break practicing for a sport that doesn’t start for eight months?”
“Really, if you want to be good at anything anymore, you have to work at it year-round,” Ryan lectured. “That’s what the pros do.”
“Beeeeecause their pros. They get paid millions of dollars and have a bunch of out-of-wedlock offspring and baby mamas to support. These kids should be parked in front of their Xbox, or at the very worst maybe ice skating in goofy-looking knit hats.”
“Magnus, it’s just camp. Look at them, they’re having fun.”
I paused to watch a fat kid throw up running wind sprints, partially digested Little Debbie Christmas trees and milk dripping from his chin.
RATINGS AND REVIEWS
By Diane Donovan
Senior Reviewer, Midwest Book Review
Jock Sniff America is a fictional satire of professional sports moral and ethical challenges and the evolution of narrator Magnus Haycock's entry into the circles of the "jock sniff elite."
The story opens with a family Thanksgiving. Magnus is on the cusp of new adulthood, and has encounters with family and others where he 'pretends he is an adult' while navigating the oddities and complexities of the professional and business world of sports and community engagement.
The subtle irony and satire replete throughout this account shines, from Magnus's last name to the cultures he explores which revolve around popularity, sports, politics, and incarceration.
The holiday season has itself become a joke and a parody to Magnus, who is both tired of the expectations and shallowness of the season and taking a trip to sign new talent that calls into question his own abilities and perceptions.
Marcus Herzberg's romp through American morals and culture offers the feel of Catcher in the Rye and other classics of young adults exploring the nuances and ironies of the adult world, commenting on their shifting roles and disappointments after the action begins.
Where Holden Caulfield's primary focus is in Catcher is losing his virginity, Magnus's challenge involves losing his attitude and perceptions about sports and his place in the world. He realizes "the course of my life could be forever affected by the choice I am about to make." The impact of his decisions and the forces motivating and guiding them makes for thoroughly engrossing reading as Magnus steps up to the plate of addressing double-edged sports swords and making his mark on the world.
The story opens with his big dreams of taking over the world. It closes with the baby steps of possible romance and life-changing approaches that reflect Magnus's newfound maturity and revised thoughts about his place in the greater scheme of things.
Libraries and readers seeking a vivid coming-of-age story about professional sports, athletics, and a young man's growth as he explores both familiar and unfamiliar cultural influences will find Jock Sniff America not only a compelling journey, but worthy of book club recommendation. It can be used in discussions about bigger-picture thinking, growth, and satirical examinations of American sports culture.