It’s a given that the nephew of one of college football’s most storied coaches might know a little something about the sport, especially if his father also played college ball and his grandfather coached for decades over at Sewanee. So it’s no surprise that Inman Majors’ new novel, Love’s Winning Plays (Norton), is a knowing satire of SEC football culture.
Majors is, yes, the nephew of the University of Tennessee’s beloved Coach Johnny Majors, but that doesn’t mean his fourth book is an ode to football. In fact, the novel is a critical lampooning of the excesses of the sport—coaches, boosters, and overly obsessed fans. Critical, yes, but very funny.
Love’s Winning Plays is the compressed escapades of one unnamed SEC school’s graduate assistant, Raymond Love, as he travels across the state with the team’s Pigskin Calvacade, one of those summer promotional tours geared to impress fans and boosters alike. Love, meanwhile, is trying equally hard to impress the Saban-esque head coach, Von Driver, and the beautiful Brooke Sampson, who just happens to be the athletic director’s daughter. Driver can confer upon Love an actual coaching position, while Brooke can—well, you can probably guess. And then seemingly everything that can go wrong does.
Throughout the book, clichéd characters abound: the seersucker-wearing suck-up competitor, the despicable drunk booster, the slimy overcritical sportswriter, the message-board maniacs who think they know more than the coaches. But Majors takes the clichés and spins pure comedy gold—I can’t remember the last time I laughed out loud this much reading a book.
However, Love’s Winning Plays doesn’t just send up college football. It ridicules book clubs (one of which Love has joined to try to impress Brooke), books about food, academia, golf, and a few other things in between. While it’s true that those with an extensive knowledge of football will probably find the book funnier than those who don’t know what a bootleg is, Love’s Winning Plays has plenty of jokes for everyone. So what if Eat, Pray, Love is an easy target? The satire works.
It’s no simple task to write a humorous novel, one that skewers its subjects without defaulting to bitterness, and one that embraces the slapstick without resorting to silliness. Majors pulls it off with aplomb. Your favorite team, whether or not it’s in the SEC, is likely to bring you to tears at some point this fall. Cheer yourself up afterwards with Love’s Winning Plays.