Footballers are given the stereotype of not necessarily being the brightest people in the world. Some crude perceptions see them as nothing less than money-hungry, rather brutish, simple kind of guys whose idea of sophistication is to get hammered at Stringfellows.
Brad Friedel’s Thinking Outside The Box goes a huge way to negating that stereotype. It is an autobiography and yet it is much more than that. It is a journey into how a man’s developing principles and values have seen him negotiate the fascinating world of football as well as society itself.
Not taking the expected straightforward chronological approach, Friedel engages the reader in considering wider aspects of how to get ahead in the game when you are born in a country that is not know for its love of the sport. Disproving other myths about how backward the game is over in the States, Friedel opens the reader into a preparation and commitment to quality that would be the envy of all but the very best clubs in Europe.
A much travelled player, his international experience, especially through episodes like representing his country at the Olympics have gone to great lengths to give a greater appreciation for the global community that we live in.
With all his different travails and triumphs, Friedel comes across as an intelligent, engaging, thoughtful and considered participant in his world and the credit of the book is that it is not just for football fans, especially ones of the clubs that he’s played for. An outsider with an interest in life itself could pick up the book with no interest or desire for anything about football and still gain so much from the experience of reading the book.
They say you don’t have to be crazy to be a goalkeeper, but it helps, and this appears to be the case for Friedel, not in terms of being crazy as definitely being unorthodox. His whole manner and approach to the game implicitly makes him different to his peers, and that’s not to fall back on the old stereotype of professional footballers, it is to highlight just what an intriguing and different character Friedel is to the game.
To also read about his commitment to reinvesting into the development of the game back in his homeland and how that as a project in itself keeps him occupied in something productive, is also something that adds respect and a further fascinating dimension to him.
Although I borrowed the book from the library, I remember being somewhat reluctant to read it at first, thinking it would be no different to the other football biographies in terms of going beyond surface reactions to retelling football episodes. I made a wrong assumption on that front. Friedel does share incidents about games, but this book is so much more than that and I was indeed glued to reading it once I started it and got tremendous satisfaction from it at its completion.
For a biography in itself it is a strong piece of work and although it’s a different tack from the approach of that milestone football biography Addicted by Tony Adams, it is not far from that book in terms of outstanding quality. I would unreservedly recommend reading this book not to just to gain insight into how a footballer with intelligence views things, but also to get some good pointers about how to engage in this life business.