However ridiculous [the premise] might sound, the book functions as a powerful, intelligent, and entertaining entry into the Literature of Masculinity ... The Throwback Special reads with the clarity of a weekend viewed through the lens of a brilliant documentarian, an insider equipped with a hand-held camera moving unfettered from hotel room to lobby to parking lot to football field. Bachelder catches glimpses and scenes, a panorama of masculine ego, insecurity and camaraderie, skewering the men in their absurd struggles while also acknowledging that the struggle is real, that sometimes 30 years isn't enough time for broken bones to heal.
...when Bachelder steps right up to the edge of the sentimental while remaining in full control of his tone, The Throwback Special conjures the rewarding melancholy of Richard Ford’s Frank Bascombe novels. But whereas Ford’s books are deep dives into a single consciousness, The Throwback Special is about how groups of men interact with one another in a way that nearly subsumes their individuality. What Bachelder is after, and often captures, is akin to the noise he describes at one point emanating from the hotel lobby: 'waves of masculine sound, the toneless song of regret and exclamation.”'
Radically non-hierarchical in its presentation of character and splintered among multiple points of view, The Throwback Special refuses to furnish any simple conclusions to readers ... I found his rule-breaking admirable, his insistence on the paradox of ritual wise, and his pages often witty, but when compared with the very best sports novels The Throwback Special is ultimately a bit facile, and its reenactment weekend can seem a convenient place to deposit mini-stories about male malaise.