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Moon autobiography keeps reader at a distance

Autobiographies are a slightly strange literary animal.

Someone can have by any definition an interesting life story, filled with overcoming obstacles and making history. Yet that doesn't mean the ensuing book will fascinate.

Exhibit A: Warren Moon.

His book, "Never Give Up on Your Dream," fits that description nicely. The former pro football quarterback races through his life without giving the tale the flavor it deserves.

Moon did his part in football history by helping to break the stereotype that African Americans couldn't play quarterback. He certainly did it brilliantly when he was given the chance. Indeed, the centerpiece of the story is that Moon was the first black quarterback to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

He starts his story with the news that he had been selected to the Hall, and then goes back to growing up in the Los Angeles area. Warren was 7 when his father died. He took on the job of being the only male in what was suddenly an all-female household, and he took that job very seriously. It's fair to say he kept that approach for most aspects of his life for years to come.

Moon's road to the NFL was an unconventional one. He always wanted to be a quarterback, even if high school coaches weren't anxious to give him that chance. He capitalized when he got the opportunity on that level, but passed up the chance at a scholarship because it initially meant switching positions. So it was off to a junior college and then the University of Washington, where he led the Huskies, as a starting quarterback, to the Rose Bowl.

Still, that wasn't good enough for NFL scouts, who weren't sure he'd even get drafted as a quarterback. So Moon audibled, signing with the Canadian Football League's Edmonton Eskimos before the draft. All Moon did there was play on championship teams for his first five consecutive years, reach the playoffs in the sixth, and throw for a total of more than 20,000 yards.

That got the NFL's attention, and he signed the richest contract in football with the Houston Oilers in 1984. Moon played 17 seasons in the NFL, reached nine Pro Bowls, and threw for about 50,000 yards -- all accomplished with racial slurs and death threats thrown at him during games and toward his family. Moon has a lot to be proud about, and he justifiably is.

Still, the story as presented here has a more-than-curious distance to it. There are virtually no good tales told here about teammates, coaches, etc. Laughs are in short supply ,too. The best example of this comes in the portion of the book that Western New York football fans will want to read first.

Does 35-3 sound familiar? That was the score in the third quarter of a playoff game between the Oilers and the Buffalo Bills at Rich Stadium on Jan. 3, 1993. Bills' fans can recite the details of their favorite team's 41-38 overtime win in their sleep. Moon calls it the toughest defeat of his career -- no surprise -- and it does receive about six pages of text. Yet he mostly offers a recitation of facts and no "inside stories" about what went on from a Houston perspective during the game.

Once Moon gets done with his career highlights, he hits a variety of other subjects. The now ex-quarterback writes about the problems in his first marriage that led to a well-publicized spousal-abuse charge -- one that was dismissed in court after 30 minutes of deliberation. There also are chapters on keeping the history of African-American quarterbacks alive, publicizing the effects of concussions, and his distinctive uniform number, No. 1.

It's always good to get the thoughts of a Hall of Famer down on paper, especially a pioneer such as Moon. It's just too bad that he didn't write a bit more colorfully in "Never Give Up On Your Dream" about what was going on around him.

Budd Bailey is a sports copy editor.

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>Never Give Up On Your Dream

By Warren Moon with Don Yeager
Da Capo
252 pages, $25

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