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Dysfunctional Book Review- Paper Lion by George Plimpton: SHEE-IT!!

December 19, 2022

The book Paper Lion by George Plimpton is awesome because it has the earliest printed version of the word ‘SHEE-IT’ that I’ve seen. That’s it. That’s the reason I like it.

I mean, the story of a sports writer trying out for the Detroit Lions in the NFL preseason is kind of interesting, but it doesn’t feel as groundbreaking now as it might have felt when the book was first published in 1966. Back then, there wasn’t as much exposure to the behind-the-scenes stuff that the NFL has right now. If anything, the NFL has way too much exposure today. But since that might not have been the case back in 1966, I can see why Paper Lion was popular back in the late 1960s.

Plus like I mentioned, it has possibly the first printed version of the word ‘shee-it.’ Maybe there was a book published earlier that had ‘shee-it,’ but if there is, I’ve never seen it. The word ‘shee-it’ is even spelled the way I’d imagined it.

There it is…SHEE-it.

For years, my daughter did not believe that the word ‘shee-it’ was real. She thought I was the only person in the entire world to say it. Then she heard someone say it in a movie (I’ve forgotten what the movie was). I was glad to have visual/audio proof of ‘shee-it’ from a Hollywood movie (not that everything in Hollywood movies is real).

Now I have written proof that the word ‘shee-it’ is real and at least as old as I am. I didn’t make it up.

I think ‘shee-it’ should be in Scrabble. If ‘bae’ and ’embiggen’ and ‘listicle’ can be added to the Scrabble dictionary, then so can shee-it.’ But that’s for another blog post.

‘Shee-it’ has a practical purpose too. When I was an English teacher, I used the word ‘shee-it’ to explain third-person nominative case pronouns. I used to say that ‘he, she, it’ were third-person pronouns and that “He, she, it” was also was the redneck way of saying ‘that guy went to the bathroom.’

I’m half-redneck, so I can say stuff like that.

The above page from Paper Lion also has the word ‘negro’ on it, and the term ‘negro’ is kind of frowned upon today, but it was considered the appropriate term back then. I know the appropriate term has changed several times in my lifetime, so I try to go by whatever is considered appropriate at any given time. I don’t know who makes that decision, but I know it’s not I who makes that decision, so I stay out of it.

Paper Lion received some pretty good book reviews at the time, and you can see them prominently displayed on the paperback back cover. If you think the front cover is kind of bland, the back cover makes up for it with bright red surrounding several extremely positive reviews. I think some of these reviews overdo it a bit, but the author of Paper Lion was a sports writer, and journalists, including critics working for the newspapers, have to look out for each other.

If Paper Lion was ever the best book about football ever (as claimed in one of the reviews), I’m not sure that’s true anymore. I liked Friday Night Lights (which came out in the 1980s) a lot better. Yeah, the Friday Night Lights television series is way too melodramatic to be taken seriously, but the book was pretty good, and I don’t believe in punishing a good book because of an over-dramatic television series.

Even without the word ‘shee-it,’ I like Paper Lion. I think it’s better to read this book non-chronologically, though. When I initially got bored with the author’s personal story, I just flipped to a random page and began reading football anecdotes. The book is filled with football stories and background information from the mid 1960s. I like older books because you can get perspectives of history from people who didn’t realize they were living through it at the time.

I’ll probably keep my copy of Paper Lion. I’ll go back to it occasionally and read a page or two. And if I ever play Scrabble again (which I probably won’t) and I need proof that ‘shee-it’ is a word, I have this book as evidence.



What do you think? Is ‘shee-it’ a word? What is the best football book ever written? Have you even read every football book ever written?

  1. Michael F.S.W. Morrison permalink

    Two points, if I may: Plimpton had a record, apparently starting with this book, of participating, as the amateur he was, in various activities, such as, in this case, playing with the big boys in NFL football. And not too long afterward, he had a bit part as a gun-slinging villain in a John Wayne movie. No lines, but he, that is, his character, died spectacularly.
    Second, “negro” was considered “correct” quite some time before this book, but when “Paper Lion” was written and published, the proper term was “Negro.”
    Gods know why that word is now “offensive,” but it is from the Latin, and is still the “correct” term in Spanish. It just means “black.”

    • As much as I like books, dying spectacularly in a John Wayne western is much cooler than writing a book about trying out for the Detroit Lions. And if I got to die spectacularly in a John Wayne western, I’d want my final word to be “SHEE-it!”

      • Michael F.S.W. Morrison permalink

        My preference would be, “Ha-ha! You missed!”

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