Love and Blood: Footballers, Fans, and Freaks
An optimist sees Jamie Trecker's first effort, Love and Blood: At the World Cup with Footballers, Fans, and Freaks as value for money because it is essentially four different books in one. The casual reader may find this characteristic confusing at best and frustrating at worst, so this review serves to separate the jumbled and intertwining themes while also pointing the reader toward the entertaining and informative sections.
The first section deals with the part of the title concerning the author's experiences with the "fans and freaks". Trecker paints the organisation, landscape, and local resident reactions of each World Cup with a broad brush, but the descriptions are usually generated for comedic value and written with a good spirited tone.
The author moves from reflecting upon a surprise encounter in their German apartment complex to spending time observing a group of Australians joking with a bemused German policewoman, and his anecdotes provide a few chuckles and an idea of the wide range of fans and entrepreneurs who gather for one of the world's greatest sporting events.
Interspersed with this light hearted commentary is the second section of the book: an over-long and heavy handed history lesson concerning the major countries in Europe.
Trecker makes very liberal and very unnecessary use of postscript throughout the book, even going so far as to include an entire page of nothing but postscript. Even more baffling, the author mixes his own opinions with historical references, and rarely cites sources for factual information. In fact, the book would be half its length without the historical explanations, and twice as readable.
If the reader can manage to make it this far, they will be pleased to see the author includes information about the subject he knows best: American soccer. Jamie Trecker is one of the few American sports journalists who deal almost exclusively with soccer, and he is well placed to provide accounts of the birth of soccer in the United States, the rise and fall of the New York Cosmos, the current state of Major League Soccer, and the hype leading up to Team USA's appearance at the 2006 World Cup.
The section concerning American soccer should be a book by itself, as it is by and large the best written and most informative portion of Trecker's manuscript.
The book seems to lose steam toward the end, so the commentary concerning the World Cup matches is brief. In this final section, the games are glossed over or omitted altogether because the author found them to be pointless (by his own admission).
Overall the book is not a comfortable read because of an apparent lack of editing. The commentary on American soccer is very good, but woefully out of place and, hopefully, Trecker will find time to write on the subject he is most comfortable with for his next project.