Book Review by The Bookworm Sez
You have a job, go to work, and there are things you expect for it. A
paycheck, first of all; that’s the big one. You might expect a job
title, too, maybe a company car, and you expect regular hours. But, as
in Counting the Days While My Mind Slips Away by Ben Utecht with Mark
Tabb, you don’t expect work to make your life disappear.
One of the earliest recollections Ben Utecht cherishes is that of
playing football with his father, a preacher with a good arm. In that
memory, Utecht, suited up in tiny protective gear, was four years old
and eager to learn the game.
They were Minnesota Vikings fans then; growing up, Utecht recalls trips
to training camps and following his teams. Meanwhile, he matured
physically and mentally and excelled at high school football, which, at
sixteen, paid off: he was offered a college scholarship and a chance to
play with the Minnesota Gophers.
The college career Utecht dreamed of having didn’t happen: he was
injured, injured, and injured again. He played football, but not as much
or as well as he needed to play and, when it was time for the NFL
drafts, he wasn’t picked.
Throughout this, Utecht struggled with his relationship with God, but a
shared-faith connection with Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy saved
Utecht’s career. Keeping a promise made at a speaking event, Dungy
called Utecht’s agent in the days following the draft, and a deal was
brokered. “But,” says Utecht, “this isn’t a book about football.”
Five times throughout his career, Utecht suffered concussions. It was
common, he says, for players to get their “bell rung.” When that
happened, they’d usually be quickly examined, deemed fit to play, and
sent back to the field — but for Utecht, the damage seemed to build.
Playing with pain is normal in football, but he had terrible headaches,
his body didn’t always respond to his brain, important memories went
missing, and his personality changed.
He started to understand that the old Ben Utecht wasn’t coming back…
Though it’s a little on the rough side, and though it’s filled with
obviously recreated conversations presented as truth, Counting the Days
While My Mind Slips Away is really quite a nice surprise.
In this book that’s supposedly not about football, author Utecht (with
Mark Tabb) writes mostly about football. That’s not unexpected, but how
it’s approached is: though the game is a large part of this story, the
authors seem to treat it as just another small layer to Utecht’s life.
There’s some name-dropping, yes, play-by-plays, and a light touch of
proper bragging, but it all strongly supports the rest of this
faith-based, love-filled tale of trust (justified and otherwise) and
Readers interested in the seamy side of football or the aftermath of
injuries will find this book to be eye-opening, but if you’re not a fan,
don’t let its sports-centricity scare you off. Even someone with the
tiniest pigskin familiarity will find Counting the Days While My Mind
Slips Away to be payday.