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America's Game Paperback – October 18, 2005

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Editorial Reviews


“A gem . . . Amazing. . . . MacCambridge is a master storyteller.” –Sports Illustrated“MacCambridge paints a moving account of the game’s rise in popularity as well as American society at large. For anyone who cares about a good story well told, MacCambridge’s America’s Game hits all the right notes.” –Fort Worth Star-Telegram“An expansive and detailed history of the N.F.L….MacCambridge deftly integrates well-chosen accounts of games with profiles of league visionaries and tales of television negotiations and internal meetings…MacCambridge combines prodigious interviewing and research with a savvy use of anecdotes.”--New York Times Book Review“A thorough, admirably researched and exceptionally interesting account of football’s rise to its present eminence.”--Washington Post Book World“MacCambridge’s sweeping history of pro football starts just before WWII, when the National Football League was still largely a regional organization, and ends with Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction at Super Bowl XXXVIII. Though there are plenty of vivid descriptions of remarkable games, what sets this chronicle apart from a slew of other recent football books is the depth and breadth of its stories about players, coaches and owners…This magisterial history is a fitting acknowledgment of the sport’s legacy.”--Publishers Weekly“America’s Game tells the beguiling story of pro football–from Johnny Unitas’s high-topped shoes to Janet Jackson’s exposed breast. It is both rollicking and scholarly, definitive and distinctive. You will never find more concise or pleasurable portraits of some of the names that are already storied, including Vince Lombardi, Pete Rozelle, Jim Brown, and Joe Namath, and some giants of the game whose luster is harder to recall, including Bert Bell, Kenny Washington, Ed Sabol, and George Allen. It is indispensable to understanding pro football, and a wonderful enhancement to enjoying it.”–SCOTT SIMON, host, NPR’s Weekend Edition Saturday“The authentic story of how the NFL won America’s heart has never been told–until now. Michael MacCambridge weaves a fabulous tale, guiding us through sixty years of professional football. It is a sports story, of course, filled with great games and rich characters. But it is also a big American story. Anyone wondering what makes our vast, violent, adoring, breathless, late-charging, hard-hitting, face-painting, high-fiving, touchdown-celebrating, Super Bowl-partying country tick will find some fascinating answers here.”–JOE POSNANSKI, columnist, The Kansas City Star“Michael MacCambridge’s prologue begins with the 1958 NFL Championship game, the first pro football game I remember. The league is dramatically different now, and MacCambridge captures every essential aspect of that evolution in this revealing history of what is now America’s most popular sport.” -BOB COSTAS, host, HBO's Inside the NFL“Michael MacCambridge has written a lively, highly entertaining book on the ascent of the NFL into the center of America’s DNA. If there is a better book on the subject, I’m not aware of it.”--DAVID HALBERSTAM

About the Author

Michael MacCambridge is the author of The Franchise: A History of Sports Illustrated Magazine, and the editor of the bestselling ESPN SportsCentury. He worked for eight years as a columnist and critic at the Austin American-Statesman, writing about movies, music, and popular culture. He lives with his wife, Danica Frost, and their children, Miles and Ella, in University City, Missouri.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 608 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor; Reprint edition (October 18, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375725067
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375725067
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1.2 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #132,073 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Michael MacCambridge has written about movies, music and popular culture, but he is best known as one of the nation's foremost authorities on pro and college football.

His 2004 book 'America's Game: The Epic Story of How Pro Football Captured A Nation' was published by Random House, and named by The Washington Post as one of the most distinguished works of non-fiction in 2004. The book also won the Nelson Ross Award given by the Professional Football Researchers Association, for outstanding achievement in pro football research and history. The paperback version was published by Anchor Vintage in 2005.

In 2012, he wrote 'Lamar Hunt: A Life in Sports,' the official biography of the American sportsman inducted in the pro football, international tennis and national soccer halls of fame.

His first book was 'The Franchise: A History of Sports Illustrated Magazine,' which was named as a New York Times Noteworthy Book, and described by the Boston Globe as "one of the great sports-book reads of all time." In 1999, he was the editor and a contributing writer for the New York Times bestseller 'ESPN SportsCentury,' a retrospective of sports in the 20th Century that included original essays by David Halberstam, Joyce Carol Oates, Roy Blount, Jr., Gerald Early, and others.

In 2005, MacCambridge edited the critically-acclaimed 'ESPN College Football Encyclopedia,' hailed by Sports Illustrated as "the Bible" of the sport.

In 2009, MacCambridge co-authored 'More Than A Game: The Glorious Present and Uncertain Future of the NFL,' with Brian Billick, the Super Bowl-winning former head coach of the Baltimore Raves. Also in 2009, MacCambridge was one of the contributing essayists to 'A New Literary History of America,' by Greil Marcus and Werner Sollors.

MacCambridge's freelance work has appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Sports Illustrated, GQ, and many other publications. From 1988-95, he was a columnist and critic at the Austin American-Statesman, writing about movies, music and popular culture. He earned a Master's degree from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in 1986. A year earlier, he received his B.A. from Creighton University in Omaha.

Since 1997, he has been an adjunct professor at Washington University in St. Louis, and performed a wide range of public speaking and editorial consulting work. The father of two children, Miles and Ella, he lives in St. Louis.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By C. Baker VINE VOICE on September 22, 2007
Format: Paperback
MacCambridge has written an outstanding history of modern professional football known as the National Football League. The primary theme of the book is how football has eclipsed other sports, specifically baseball, to become America's game.

The book starts out with the Baltimore Colts defeat in overtime of the New York Giants on December 28, 1958 in the National Football League championship game. The game was televised and is called the Greatest Game Ever Played, partially because it catapulted the NFL into the national spotlight and sent the league on its way to be the dominant sport in American culture.

For the most part this is a very linear history of the Nation Football League, and a very well done one. While it is about the game itself, it's more about the business of professional football and the importance of decisions made by those who ran it leading to a thriving game and a thriving business enterprise. Much is discussed about the first commissioner Bert Bell who held a motley collection of owners together and strived for parity in the league, and Pete Rozelle who help reap millions in television revenue, fostered the revenue sharing agreement between big market and small market teams keeping competitive balance, and maintaining relative labor peace compared to other sports.

Another very interesting and pivotal part of NFL history was its competition with the American Football League in the 1960's and how a group of maverick owners created a rival, viable league of its own and how the eventual merger of the NFL and AFL came about. Interestingly, Lamar Hunt, late owner of the Kansas City Chiefs, was the pivotal figure in both the creation of the AFL and the eventual merger. The merger, in fact, made the NFL even stronger.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By D.C.G. on October 26, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a very impressive overview of the history of the NFL. Well researched. Like all good historical books, this places the development of pro football within the larger context of events and attitudes of the times. Very informative stuff particularly with the early murky (and generally long-forgotten) history of the NFL. The league owners have always been a hard to manage alpha male group and commissioners Bell, Rozelle and Tagliabu have done an impressive of keeping the ship in order. I highly recommend this book. I would love to see this author come up with a follow-up; profiles on characters of the game, particularly in the early days to really show the flesh and bones of the players who made it all possible.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Steelers Fan on November 16, 2008
Format: Paperback
Michael MacCambridge's book is a superb research effort. The material on the early history of professional football is especially good, and richly detailed.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Brian Maitland on October 28, 2011
Format: Paperback
Although this book is fantastically well researched, I have to knock it down a star for two glaring omissions and some odd choices of teams the author seems to follow throughout their history despite their irrelevance in the latter part of the 20th century and into the 21st century.

There is not a single mention of the 1985 Chicago Bears Super Bowl winning team. How is this possible given the fact they are often brought up as just as worthy of the title of single greatest season as the undefeated 1972 Miami Dolphins' season? Plus there's the impact coach Mike Ditka had on not just the NFL but culturally (since the book touches on pro football's cultural reach the whole "Da Bears" phenomenon was not even mentioned) as well as defensive coach Buddy Ryan's influential 46 defense let alone the whole Ditka-Ryan dynamic. Throw in the fact William "the Refrigerator" Perry was the forerunner of today's 300+-lb. linemen and was a character in his own right and the author lost me on why this seminal team didn't get even a single page on its own.

The other huge omission is, although this book came out in 2004, there is zero discussion on the Bill Belichick era with the New England Patriots. By 2004, the Pats along with the Colts (who are covered very well) were the two dominant teams in the NFL. Given the author's propensity to cover the Cleveland Browns saga and the fact Belichick started as a head coach there makes it all the more puzzling.

Put it this way, Belichick is mentioned on two pages which equals the total ex-KC Chiefs flop of a coach Gunther Cunningham is cited. I don't get it.

Then because certain teams were incredibly relevant in the history of pro football (i.e.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Peter on June 12, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a tour de force of sports writing. The author has written a tremendous piece of work detailing the history of the NFL up until the modern day.

The book is really indepth but readable. I am saddened that I have finished the book, it was that well-written and interesting to me.

Stories of the influential figures of the NFL abound throughout the book and really there seems to be no stone unturned by the writer.

Highly recommended.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Let me start by saying this is a great book that I could not put down. The discussion of the earlier, struggling years of the NFL is fascinating and the war with the AFL was great.

Having said that, and despite giving it five stars, a couple of things bothered me. First, I think, at times MacCambridge comes across as an NFL propagandist. In his quest to show that the NFL is really America's game, he denigrates other sports too much. In particular, after reading the book, you would think no one ever attends a baseball game. No doubt the NFL has been far better run than MLB but the implication that this is why football eclipsed based is, I think, a bit misleading. Simply put, football is a far better game on TV than baseball and the NFL's growth coincided with TV. MacCambridge acknowledges this but I think he downplays that fact in suggesting that the NFL was so incredibly far-sighted.

The other thing that bothered me about the book is his seeming apologia for the owners. He spends little time on how the Rozelle Rule kept down salaries. Rozelle was clearly a great commissionet and comes across in the book as a good guy, but I suspect he was not as well loved by the players. He, like every other commissioner in sports, is hiref to work for the owners and to protect and advance their interests at the expense of the players if necessary. In fact, I would argue that the entire rationale of the merger with the AFL was to reduce salaries. The implication in the book is that, without the merger, there could have been no Super Bowl, but that's not true. There is no reason the leagues could not have competed on the field without being financially tied together.
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