James Harrison was honored this week for his play on the field by the NFL, which named him Defensive Player of the Month. Bill Moushey, author of the brand new Harrison biography "Never Give Up" should be similarly rewarded.
When informed of this project last spring, I had mixed feelings. I knew of Moushey’s reputation as a top-flight investigative reporter for the Post-Gazette and was curious as to why he’d take on Harrison as a book project.
We in the sports world knew of Harrison’s troubles with high school administrators while growing up in Akron, and we knew of his legal problem in Pittsburgh where he was arrested for assaulting the mother of his child during an argument over the child’s baptism. Other than that, I didn’t see the need for an investigative reporter to dredge up more from Harrison’s past. But that’s not what Moushey did with this book.
Make certain, of course, that if there was any more to Harrison’s past, Moushey would’ve found it and reported it, so there was relief on my part – as someone who talked to Harrison on his very first day at spring practice, and someone who traveled to his Akron home for my 2008 book "Steeler Nation," and someone who considers Harrison to be misunderstood – that nothing new has surfaced.
What this outstanding investigative reporter did was discover the details of Harrison’s transgressions and clarify the misconceptions. Of course, Moushey did this in an unapologetic way. He told the truth, and the truth here is something we all can handle.
Actually, this 155-page book – that I gulped down in one satisfying sitting – is a great book for kids, and that’s a tricky accomplishment. Too often, authors of kids’ books turn down the truth and turn up the myths of the particular sports hero. Moushey, I’m certain, couldn’t have lived with himself with that type of approach.
Instead, Harrison’s transgressions make him come off as all too human, while his incredible will and work ethic – interestingly detailed – make this an inspirational read for not only kids but adults.
What also makes it a suitable children’s read is the lack of salty language. That’s not easy to do, but here Moushey shows his self-strength while keeping the flow interesting for adults because of the fresh information.
Moushey also shows strength in keeping the book to 155 pages. Many first-time authors feel the need to fill just for the sake of it, or because their ego’s out of control. But there’s no dead wood here. It’s a chocolate chip cookie that’s packed with chocolate chips.
Even I, a guy who covers the Steelers, learned new facts about Harrison. Moushey clears up the details of every Harrison topic, right up through the pit bull attack on his child this summer past. In fact, there’s a line from Harrison about what he felt was a poorly played 2009 preseason game. Such timeliness is one beauty of self-published books, and one that I hope results in a satisfying payoff for an author who bypassed the archaic publishing-house system and plowed ahead with nothing in his pocket but phone numbers and well wishes.
It’s a book I recommend for both adults and children. It inspires and informs without clutter or apologies. So if you buy two books this Christmas season – mine being one, of course – “Never Give Up” should be the other one. It's available on-line at jamesharrisonnevergiveup.com.