This is probably my favorite football book, and the book that taught me the most about the history of the game.
It is an epic history of the NFL, but what sets it apart from most of the league history that you will already know is that it focuses on the men that usually fly under the radar when it comes to looking back into the NFL’s past. The book focuses less on the great players and teams in NFL history, and more on the men who helped to bring the NFL from a quaint pastime, to the multi-billion dollar industry that it is today – overtaking Baseball as America’s Game along the way.
The book provides an insight into the characters of the NFL who operated largely out of the media spotlight, yet who had the largest influence in the direction that the league took over the last century: the Commissioners, and the band of NFL Franchise Owners, who have spent much of that time operating against their own individual interests and for the good of the league as a whole. Current owners would do well to read the book and understand what made the league great in the first place. This book is a story of how these men fought off numerous challenges from rival leagues, and various other outside pressures, and through their socialist attitude towards their own league, created the NFL we all know and love today.
Michael MacCambridge turns the spotlight onto some forgotten legends of NFL history, men such as Bert Bell – the man who really began to shape the parity-driven league that exists now. Many of the principles of parity that the NFL takes for granted today were first devised and implemented by Bell, yet he receives little acclaim in football annals. The book also documents the rise of Pete Rozelle – from public relations intern, to head of the world’s largest sporting empire, and brings the reader through the myriad challenges that he had to face in his time as Commissioner.
Of course, like all great NFL books, this book is not short on the paramount ingredient: anecdotes. Michael MacCambridge has jammed this book full of anecdotes, which on their own would keep the reader page turning from cover to cover.
The scope of this history is truly remarkable, as it wanders from the league’s pioneer days in the roaring 1920s, with owners who accepted that losing money was part and parcel of owning an NFL franchise, all the way through to the Paul Tagliabu era of monstrous television contracts and multi-billionaire owners, all reaping a massive profit on the back of their franchise’s turnover.
For anybody interested in NFL history this book is a must, as not only does it provide the conventional history that can be found in a hundred books, but it also documents the rise of the NFL in the public’s mind, and shows you the men behind that meteoric rise. The detail in the book is unsurpassed, and it immediately takes its place as the definitive NFL history book. Not only is the scope and detail in the book unrivalled by anything else available in print, but the subject matter is presented to the reader exceptionally well by some magnificent writing, and this book would sit atop my recommendation list to any NFL fan.