Ross and his story in rugby spoiled by its scattergun style
SOMETIMES IN sport the tempo of a contest is so high, right from the beginning, that competitors settle into a rhythm straight away.
The fare on show is attractive, it is intense, spectators are gripped from start to finish. There are no thoughts of glancing away.
Yet, maybe even more common, is the settling in period. It’s the golfer that wants to get that first par on the board in a major championship, the tennis player who needs those first few rallies to find the sweet spot, or the darts player trying to hit that first double.
Team sports have this too. How often do we see two big football teams ‘feeling each other out’, afraid to make a mistake that might lead to an important first goal. In rugby, American football and cricket too, teams look to get ‘settled in’.
It’s somewhat apt, therefore, that sports books can need a similar period of adjustment. Each book, or more accurately, each author/ ghost writer, has a style of their own. Some fit a certain reader’s eye, some never sit well, but others just take a little adjustment.
‘Dark Arts’, the latest Irish rugby autobiography to hit the shelves, falls into that final camp, at best. The subject is Mike Ross, the former Leinster prop, a late-comer to the professional game but a mainstay in the national team once he made his breakthrough.
This reviewer came straight from the previous week’s book, Andy Lee
‘Fighter’, into this, and it was a difficult transition. For the first 30-odd pages, an avid reader of sports publications might want to chuck this against a wall and leave it crumpled on the ground.
It’s not exactly a smooth read, especially as the reader adapts to ghost writer Liam Hayes’ style. It’s clunky in a lot of places, doesn’t always flow well, but the most difficult aspect to get over is the constant use of ellipsis.
Those three little dots (...), we might use them in text messages, even in non-formal e-mails, but they are difficult to swallow, page after page, in what is, by and large, a pretty serious read about a hard-working guy.
Some won’t last, maybe it works for the target audience and it is a genius move by Hayes, but this reviewer struggles to believe too many will have a preference for it. If you can sidestep and settle into the book, it does offer a redemption of sorts.
It happens after an unusually long foreword by Joe Schmidt and a 30-odd page prologue.
The first chapter is where the reader gets drawn in, and maybe that doesn’t happen if the content isn’t heartbreakingly painful.
Ross rarely focuses on family after that chapter, as the book quickly moves into his rugby life. The modest background with U.C.C., with Cork Con., then with Harlequins as Ross gets his first professional contract.
The biggest section of ‘Dark Arts’ covers his eight years with Leinster, and while detailing his time with the province he touches on his International career.
The details seem a little sparse but Ross goes back to it in ‘Part 6 - Lock and Loaded’ to complete the publication.
For the rugby fan, this is an honest read by someone who gave everything he had each and every time he walked on the pitch. There’s nothing groundbreaking in there but it will add to your knowledge.
The story of the career of Mike Ross is different from most other recent internationals but the book is probably lacking a little in depth.
It’s scattered in approach, and the style may be difficult for some to look past.
Visit The Book Centre on Wexford’s Main Street for the very best selection of sports books.