I'm not trying to tell anyone not to watch TV, but if you've ever spent a long winter afternoon playing shinny with the whole neighborhood, or a summer playing softball with anyone who shows up at a diamond, you will know that kids who don't have the chance to organize themselves and solve their own problems and feel the exhilaration of sport for its own sake are missing out on something irreplaceable.
In my experience, I've come to realize that there are very few "self-made men" in this world. While you have to work hard to become successful, the truth is that most who have gone far received a whole lot of backing from friends and family at key moments.
And so on. Ball Four this isn't. The first 50 pages or so are devoted to Orr's upbringing and family life. The last 50 pages or so are devoted to a chapter titled "State of the Game," in which Orr offers several ideas about how to improve upon hockey and how the parents of young players ought to maneuver through the shoals of amateur hockey. There is even a chapter about Don Cherry, the Rush Limbaugh of Canada, the former Bruins' coach and now routinely divisive analyst on Hockey Night in Canada, whom Orr clearly admires and appreciates (so much so that he wants Cherry admitted in the Hockey Hall of Fame). Only about one-fifth of the book, maybe 50 pages or so, are devoted to the core of Orr's career, his glory days with the Bruins.
Disappointing, yes. Surprising, no. Over and over again, in both the introduction and the afterword, we read how reluctant Orr was to write the book, how he feared he had nothing to say. He never became a coach, he candidly tells us, because he never really had to think about playing the game of hockey. So great and instinctive were his talents, in other words, that never needed to become a student of the game (the way, for example, Dryden did). And it shows in this work. Here's one such way in which Orr chooses to explain why this is less a memoir and more a manifesto:
If this book were just about nostalgia, or highlights from my career, it would just reinforce a version of the story I never found particularly interesting. The trophies, the scoring titles, the Stanley Cups—that's all in the history books now. But like that famous photo, or the statute outside the TD Garden, they don't tell you much. They don't speak to values or to motivation...
So what exactly has Bobby Orr, the man who has been the face of Canada since before he could shave, done here? The blessed man, he has used nostalgia to write a book that asks readers to limit their nostalgia toward the more important things in life. The charitable man, he has used the power of his fame to urge a nation to lighten up on the young athletes in its care. The private man, he has tactically refused to give his fans the gossip they may have wanted; besides, who is going to complain (and who would listen?) to a lament that Bobby Orr was too earnest in wanting to leave the world a better place than he found it?