After getting a note back from Norm Bass several weeks ago about his sports careers, I knew I had to pick up this book by his son about his life.
I must say there are a couple of reasons one may not want to buy this book. One reason is that it is big! It is a 500 page book, jam packed! You really have to commit to this book! You get your money's worth out of the volume, but you will be busy reading it for a LONG time!
Norm Bass III says openly in the book that he will not sugar coat the story of his father's (Norm Bass Jr.) life. The author is not kidding. No punches are held back. There are some graphic moments- they are honest, but they are graphic.
Those are the only 2 reasons someone might want to pass on this book. There are, however, many reasons to dive in and enjoy.
So many books about athletes give a great account of a players days playing their sport, and maybe some info before their career gets going, and after retirement. Bass covers 3 generations of his family.
In fact, this book is a bit of a history of the the Bass family and their lives pretty much going back to Norm Bass Sr. In some ways, the book feels like three separate biographies tied into one, as many details of each Norm Bass' life are covered. Norm Bass III also talks a lot about his Uncle, football legend Dick Bass, and he covers a lot of history relating to pro football in the 60s.
Something I really appreciate about this book is it's honesty. Norm III obviously admires his father and his grandfather, but he writes about their flaws and hang ups. There was abuse in the family. Norm III had to deal with a violent father, and he had to deal with his father pushing him to be athletic, though he wanted to pursuit art.
The focus of the book, Norm Bass Jr. does have a nice, but too short baseball career, enjoying a successful rookie season with the Kansas Cit Athletics, but things fall apart a bit after that. He hangs on in baseball, but not for long. He plays football very briefly for the Denver Broncos in 1964, then tries to get back into Major League Baseball. He plays in the minors, and after realizing that he likely won't get the call up again, he leaves baseball.
Norm has his sports career after dealing with a very scary episode of meningitis as a kid, almost killing him. Later in life he deals with rheumatoid arthritis. In fact, he sort of finds out after the fact that this had influenced his declining athletic abilities.
Interestingly, Norm Junior and his father become very interested in the church as they get older, and seem to mellow out.
Norm Jr. deals with a failed marriage, a tough relationship with his kids at times, and his health issues. As he matures he still has that competitive athletic drive. He satisfies his need to compete by getting involved in table tennis. Norm practices and joins a group of players, learning everything he can to really compete in this sport.
Norm's obsession with this new sport, and his domination in competition helps eventually get him involved with the 2000 Paralympics, where he won a bronze medal.
Norm III talks a lot about his efforts in acting, trying to get involved with the movie "Ali". Norm III ends up teaching, which he finds rewarding.
Norm Jr.'s baseball career is covered, but it becomes somewhat secondary to the book. The book is so descriptive of the entire Bass family, and many other relatives are discussed. The book comes off more as a social study of the Bass family, with a loose focus on the two pro athlete brothers. This is one of those books where, after reading it, I kind of want an update on the various members of the Bass family!
"Color Him Father" is very detailed. Author Norm III talks extensively about social issues and pop culture occurring at certain times, placing family events into a broader context.
Norm Bass III does an admirable job of giving history lessons. I did not know about the AFL football league in the 60s, and its competing with the NFL. I think I have a pretty good idea about the league now thanks to this book.
Also, I did not know that some black churches would not allow darker members in. Norm III covers all of the race issue stuff you might expect in a book about a black athlete in the 60's while digging deeper than other studies. He compares his father's young attitude about race relations to that of Malcolm's. Later, as Norm Jr. becomes older, he compares him to Martin.
The Bass family crosses paths with many other athletes, musicians, and other characters. Oddly, some of the more interesting stories in the book do not involve 2 generations of the family hanging out with the greatest boxer ever, one meeting a president, or of dates with a legendary singer. The stories about the Norms dealing with church politics, and of Norm III teaching a student some James Brown moves are the ones that you walk away remembering.
In fact, by the end of the book, you forget that you bought it because it is the biography of a baseball player, but you won't care. You just read a good book.