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Book review: 'Best of Rivals' great read for football fans

By Connie Lewis

For the Deseret News

Published: Saturday, Sept. 15 2012 3:00 p.m. MDT

"BEST OF RIVALS: Joe Montana, Steve Young and the Inside Story Behind the NFL's Greatest Quarterback Controversy," by Adam Lazarus, Da Capo Press, $29, 304 pages (nf)

“Best of Rivals” is as exciting to read as watching your two favorite teams playing in a close back-and-forth game that leaves you wondering who to root for.

Adam Lazarus chronicles the competition between Joe Montana and Steve Young during their time with the San Francisco 49ers. Young, after playing for Brigham Young University and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, was hired by San Francisco as a promising quarterback. The plan was for him to eventually replace Montana, who had been with the team for several years.

The rivalry between Montana and Young was inevitable. Montana was not ready to give up his starting position. Young was eager to prove himself and looked for any opportunity to play. His chances came mostly at the expense of Montana’s many injuries.

“Joe Montana was the greatest quarterback that I had ever seen,” Young said Young, who wanted a chance to prove himself against that standard.

“Best of Rivals” tells of two excellent athletes: one a seasoned veteran adored, almost worshipped, by his hometown fans; the other an eager young athlete wanting to excel and show the world what he could do.

The rivalry was real and sometimes heated. Montana said in an interview with Sports Illustrated’s Ralph Wiley, “We’re friends, Steve and I. But on the practice field, if he doesn’t hate me as much as I hate him, then there’s something wrong.”

The chapter “The Orchestrator” was particularly riveting. Montana battled through the 1989 season with multiple injuries that saw him getting back up and into the game. He ultimately led his team to a Super Bowl win. Young was forced to remain mostly on the sidelines and itched to test himself in the top spot.

Lazarus is a sportswriter from Atlanta and a member of the Professional Football Writers of America. He did extensive research for “Best of Rivals” and brings the story to life by taking the reader behind the scenes of professional football. He shows the injuries, the triumphs, the defeats, the hope, the despair and the frustrations all of that can bring.

For anyone who follows football, “Best of Rivals” is a great read. It has all the drama of a weekend afternoon game plus inspiring inside stories of athletes dedicated to reaching perfection.

The book contains very limited swearing and a slight mention of alcohol.

After attending BYU and the University of Utah for five years and not being able to settle on just one major, Connie Lewis decided to be a writer so she could keep studying all things wonderful and new.

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