Steve Pederson, yes, the same Steve Pederson who crashed the proud legacy of the Nebraska Cornhuskers football program into the side of the proverbial mountain, quietly released his debut novel, Lost in Ambition.
Spanning a brisk 197 pages and a stupefying 38 chapters, Lost in Ambition is a first person story of a football coach at a crossroads in both his life and career. We’re taken on a journey from his humble beginnings as a high school football player in small town Ohio to the sideline where he’s coaching a major college football team in the National Championship game.
When a writer tries to squeeze several decades into fewer than 200 pages, the end result is that there really isn’t much room for character development, story, or any sense of nuance that makes reading a novel an enjoyable endeavor.
To put it another way, Lost in Ambition is a pile of smoldering garbage.
Somehow, someway, Steve Pederson has managed to produce an end product that is worse than the wreckage he left behind as Nebraska’s athletic director.
I’m normally not one to take a big steaming dump on someone’s art but if a person has the delusional audacity to publish a novel that would get them laughed out of a Learning Annex class AND they happen to be the guy responsible for setting the Nebraska Cornhuskers back a solid decade, then the gloves come off. Reading this turd took three hours off my life and I’m going to get every minute back.
What follows is every best worst passage from Lost in Ambition.
This is how the story begins. Captivating isn’t it?
As the clock ticks closer to kickoff, our coach isn’t worried about the big game but the drunks in the stands. But there isn’t time to dwell because we have to go on a 190 page flashback.
It doesn’t take long for the swipes at Nebraska to begin. Nine games? That’s certainly not a random number. Turns out our fictitious (and unnamed) coach was a college quarterback himself and won nine games in each of his three years at a starter. In his mind, winning nine games is the pinnacle of mediocrity.
A few pages later, our anonymous coach is back to ranting about nine games.
The first profound quote. At least we know Bill Callahan wasn’t cheating.
IS THAT AN HOMAGE TO CARL PELINI!?! Within a few confusing paragraphs, our protagonist has gone from small time graduate assistant to becoming the running backs coach at “Birmingham State.”
It’s not long before our hero discovers the seedy underworld of ‘crootin’.
This is like the whip cream bikini scene in Varsity Blues if it were reenacted by Maude and Ned Flanders. (WARNING: Wherever you are, turn up your A/C because things are going to get even steamier.)
Our second profound quote. Considering it was bad coaching by Billy C. that got Stevie P. fired so I’m not sure how this computes. At this point in the story, three seasons breeze by and our still unnamed coach takes a leap to the Power 11 Conference to become the running game coordinator at “McNally University,” located somewhere in the frozen tundra of Michigan.
Illicit blow jobs from boosters’ wives are a McNally University specialty.
Actually, I didn’t remember, Steve. When you take a stab at writing your next novel, try to include more details that will make your characters memorable.
#SidePieceSunday is in full effect at McNally University.
Even the head coach is DTF at McNally University!
Ladies and gentlemen, the most dramatic moment in Lost in Ambition!
I think this might be another thinly veiled swipe at Nebraska.
This is the summary of McNally State’s entire regular season but a big twist is lurking in the bushes as the team heads into the Rose Bowl.
Our still unnamed coach is getting an interview to be the head coach at “Florida A&I.” We never find out what the A&I stand for.
After a clandestine first interview in an airplane hangar, our hero sneaks back to the football offices to continue prepping for the Rose Bowl and discovers his head coach is DTF anytime, anywhere.
ABC… Always Be Crootin’. That is how you win a natty.
Mansions and money. What is this? Dynasty?
Vodka with cranberries? WTF? I have a feeling this reporter is a mashup of Steven M. Sipple and Lee Barfknecht.
And the second order of business is meeting your future sidepiece.
It’s about to go down! (If you haven’t noticed, Steve Pederson loves using exclamation points!)
This is how long our coach with no name dwells on cheating on his wife. Why is he doing it? We never find out. He never answers his own question.
Zeke Bradshaw (one of the better character names if you can believe it) is going to be the arm that will put Florida A&I over the top!
At page 140, our big discovery is finding out that our still nameless coach is only 33-years-old.
If only Hugh Freeze could have read this book…
Zeke’s big campus visit was successful in more ways than one.
But things are rocky on the home front. Someone is one Harley ride away from ruining it all.
Uh oh. Here comes the Lawrence Phillips character to ruin a dream season.
At least some details were changed. At first, Alonzo gets kicked off the team but is hurried back onto the field after Florida A&I loses two games in a row.
But all that drama turns out to be a moot point because a few short pages later, it’s a new season and Alonzo has cleaned up his act and he and Heisman Trophy winner Zeke have led Florida A&I into the National Championship game against Stanford.
This is the most unbelievable part of the entire book.
At this point were 196 pages deep into a 197 page book. Everything has been building towards the National Championship game and these two sparse paragraphs are all we get.
Then one page later comes the most shocking twist of all in the very last sentence. Coach Tim Greene (way to steal the Mr. Big reveal from the Sex and the City series finale) is calling it a career with no remorse, except for the part where he spent the entire book telling us how remorseful he is about all the bad things he’s done as he’s worked his way up the coaching ladder.
And that, friends, is everything you didn’t want to know about Lost in Ambition.