Our selection of 10 essential reads about America’s national sport. Have you read them all?
Professional football in the last half century has been a sport marked by relentless innovation. For fans determined to keep up with the changes that have transformed the game, close examination of the coaching footage is a must. In The Games That Changed the Game, Ron Jaworski, pro football’s #1 game-tape guru, breaks down the film from seven of the most momentous contests of the last 50 years, giving readers a drive-by-drive, play-by-play guide to the evolutionary leaps that define the modern NFL.
You’ll never watch NFL football the same way again!
Return once again to the enduring account of life in the Mojo lane, to the Permian Panthers of Odessa — the winningest high school football team in Texas history. Odessa is not known to be a town big on dreams, but the Panthers help keep the hopes and dreams of this small, dusty town going. Socially and racially divided, its fragile economy follows the treacherous boom-bust path of the oil business. In bad times, the unemployment rate barrels out of control; in good times, its murder rate skyrockets. But every Friday night from September to December, when the Permian High School Panthers play football, this West Texas town becomes a place where dreams can come true.
High school all-American Neely Crenshaw was probably the best quarterback ever to play for the legendary Messina Spartans. Fifteen years have gone by since those glory days, and Neely has come home to Messina to bury Coach Eddie Rake, the man who molded the Spartans into an unbeatable football dynasty.
Now, as Coach Rake’s “boys” sit in the bleachers waiting for the dimming field lights to signal his passing, they replay the old games, relive the old glories, and try to decide once and for all whether they love Eddie Rake or hate him. For Neely Crenshaw, a man who must finally forgive his coach, and himself, before he can get on with his life, the stakes are especially high.
A corrupt football team fights to become the sport’s dominant franchise The Texas Pistols never should have been. The league had no business awarding a team to dying Park City, but it only took a little pressure, financial and otherwise, to bring the expansion franchise to town. At first, they’re worthless, playing in an empty stadium for slack-jawed fans, but the owners have a plan. Five years to financial security. Five years to complete domination of the sport. Five years to the Super Bowl, and it starts with Taylor Rusk. But Rusk, the finest college quarterback of his generation, is no fool, and he realizes quickly that all is not honest in Park City. He doesn’t want to stop the corruption; he wants a piece of it, and for a price he will lead his new team to glory. In Texas, football is life, but in Park City, it can mean death, too.
A Few Seconds of Panic unveils the mind of the modern pro athlete and the workings of a storied sports franchise as no book ever has before.
Drawing on rare access to an NFL team as players, coaches, and facilities, the author of The New York Times bestselling author of Word Freak trains to become a professional-caliber placekicker.
As he sharpens his skills, he gains surprising insight into the daunting challenges — physical, psychological, and intellectual — that pro athletes must master.
Gavin Grey is everyone’s All-American. A star running back at the University of North Carolina in the late 1950s, he graces the covers of “Time” and “LIFE” magazines and appears on the “Ed Sullivan Show.” Everyone wants a piece of him or to be around him to bask in his glory, including his nephew Donny, who narrates the story and is Gavin’s only real confidant.After college, Gavin goes on to the NFL where he has a solid career. As his playing days wind down and the cheering stops, however, he finds the adjustment to life as an ex-athlete difficult to accept. His wife “Babs” goes off to work and becomes the primary breadwinner for the family while Gavin continues to trade on his memories of old times, when he was everybody’s All-American.
Beyond the Friday night lights, this book is an engrossing portrait of a community mired in a shameful past and uncertain future but with the fierce will to survive, win, and escape to a better life.
Muck City tells the story of quarterback Mario Rowley, whose dream is to win a championship for his deceased parents and quiet the ghosts that haunt him; head coach Jessie Hester, the town’s first NFL star, who returns home to “win kids, not championships”; and Jonteria Willliams, who must build her dream of becoming a doctor in one of the poorest high schools in the nation. For boys like Mario, being a Raider is a one-shot window for escape and a college education. Without football, Jonteria and the rest must make it on brains and fortitude alone. For the coach, good intentions must battle a town’s obsession to win above all else.
The young man at the center of this ‘compelling book’ (“The Economist“) will one day be among the most highly paid athletes in the National Football League. When Michael Lewis introduces him to the reader, he is one of 13 children by a crack-addicted mother; he does not know his real name, his father, his birthday or any of the things a child might learn in school – such as how to read or write. Nor has he ever touched a football. He takes up American football and school, after a rich, Evangelical, Republican family plucks him from the mean streets. Their love is the first great force that alters the world’s perception of the boy, whom they adopt. The second force is the evolution of professional American football into a game where the quarterback must be protected at any cost. Lewis’ protagonist turns out to be the priceless combination of size, speed, and agility necessary to guard the quarterback’s greatest vulnerability: his blind side.
Between the Immaculate Reception in 1972 and The Catch in 1982, pro football grew up. In 1972, Steelers star Franco Harris hitchhiked to practice. NFL teams roomed in skanky motels. They played on guts, painkillers, legal steroids, fury, and camaraderie. A decade later, Joe Montana’s gleamingly efficient 49ers ushered in a new era: the corporate, scripted, multibillion-dollar NFL we watch today. Kevin Cook’s rollicking chronicle of this pivotal decade draws on interviews with legendary players — Harris, Montana, Terry Bradshaw, Roger Staubach, Ken “Snake” Stabler — to re-create their heroics and off-field carousing. He shows coaches John Madden and Bill Walsh outsmarting rivals as Monday Night Football redefined sports’ place in American life. Celebrating the game while lamenting the physical toll it took on football’s greatest generation, Cook diagrams the NFL’s transformation from second-tier sport into national obsession.
This is not a celebrity tell-all of professional sports. Slow Getting Up is a survivor’s real-time account of playing six seasons (twice as long as the average NFL career) for the San Francisco 49ers and the Denver Broncos. As an unsigned free agent who rose through the practice squad to the starting lineup, Nate Jackson is the talented embodiment of the everyday freak athlete in professional football, one of thousands whose names go unmentioned in the daily press. Through his story recounted here — from scouting combines to preseason cuts to byzantine film studies to glorious touchdown catches — even knowledgeable football fans will glean a new, starkly humanized understanding of the daily rigors and unceasing violence of quotidian life in the NFL. Fast-paced, lyrical, and hilariously unvarnished, Slow Getting Up is an unforgettable look at the real lives of America’s best 20-year-old athletes putting their bodies and minds through hell.