Is the quest for a place in the UEFA Champions League comparable to liberating a faraway kingdom from a terrible dragon?
That might be a good question for Tottenham and US national team star Clint Dempsey, who is one of many English Premier League players taking part in “Premier League Reading Stars,” a commendable project intended to develop and encourage reading skills among children in the United Kingdom.
Deuce's favorite book? J.R.R. Tolkien's fantasy classic The Hobbit, which he enthusiastically describes as “a good read” and “a story about personal growth” in a video for the project.
“It's being able to go outside the comforts of your own home, and go out into the real world and see what's out there,” said the Texan as he explained why he loves the 75-year-old tale. “And even though it's going to be tough, and it's going to be ups and downs, it's about the adventure that you would've never got if you'd never left home. Without putting yourself outside your comfort zone, you don't know what you're capable of doing.”
As Dempsey narrates the harrowing adventures of Bilbo Baggins and his colleagues, it's not hard to see parallels with Dempsey's own professional journey from an unheralded rookie with the New England Revolution to USMNT captain and standout performer in one of the world's toughest leagues.
“He was able to find that he had a lot of strength inside himself and that there were a lot of things he could accomplish,” said Dempsey of Baggins. “I think it's a great story about how you find strength from within, and strength from putting yourself in uncomfortable situations sometimes and being able to prevail.”
Though he's since moved on to become Toronto FC's head coach, Ryan Nelsen is also featured in “Premier League Reading Stars” with footage recorded during his final season as a player with Queens Park Rangers.
Nelsen picked a slightly different book, one from his five-year-old son's current rotation: Chicka Chicka Boom Boom.
“It just has a good buzz and wording to it, you can kind of sing it or you can read it,” said Nelsen. “My son absolutely loves it."