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Bigger Than the Game: Bo, Boz, the Punky QB, and How the '80s Created the Celebrity Athlete Paperback – August 2, 2011


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Bigger Than the Game: Bo, Boz, the Punky QB, and How the '80s Created the Celebrity Athlete + Bread and Roses: Mills, Migrants, and the Struggle for the American Dream
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Gotham (August 2, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1592406378
  • ISBN-13: 978-1592406371
  • Product Dimensions: 7.7 x 5.8 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,322,252 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The mid-1980s introduced an unapologetic athlete archetype that captured headlines and airtime, taking advantage of a 24-hour news cycle and America's newfound appreciation of flashy, independent-minded heroes both real and fictional such as Ronald Reagan and Rocky Balboa. Weinreb expertly tracks this evolution via a quartet of athletes from that era: Chicago Bears headband-wearing, antiauthority quarterback Jim McMahon, who was more successful as a zeitgeist marketing tool than as a player; multi-sport star and Heisman Trophy winner Bo Jackson, who viewed his legendary athleticism as an investment; college basketball star Len Bias, whose fatal cocaine overdose hardened a sports-loving nation and led to its misguided obsession over illegal drugs; and flamboyant college football star Brian "The Boz" Bosworth, whose quest for publicity led him to the University of Oklahoma, where he consciously constructed an outrageous persona. In this lively and smart blend of essay and reporting, Weinreb (Game of Kings) details with conviction how seismic shifts in society and pop culture--soon-to-be behemoths Nike and ESPN were just hitting their strides--forever changed the conditions for attaining fame in sports, paving the way for the media-savvy athletes we know and (sometimes) love today.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

If the amalgam of athlete/pop icon was not created in the 1980s (Babe Ruth, anyone?), that era did produce a unique version juiced up by TV exposure and big money, with rebellion and drugs thrown in—traits all still found on pro rosters. Sportswriter Weinreb profiles four of the signature athletes of the day—former Bears quarterback Jim McMahon, University of Oklahoma standout linebacker Brian “The Boz” Bosworth, pro running back and All Star outfielder Bo Jackson, and Celtics first-round pick Len Bias, who died from a cocaine overdose the day after the draft. If they were their own men, they were also products of their times, and Weinreb does a fine job showing the symbiotic relationship between those athletes and the unfettered capitalism encouraged during the Reagan years. --Alan Moores --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Michael Weinreb is the author of Season of Saturdays: A History of College Football in 14 Games, which will be released in the Fall of 2014 by Scribner. He is also the author of The Kings of New York (paperback title: Game of Kings), which won the Quill Award as the Best Sports Book of 2007, was named one of the best books of the year by Publishers Weekly, Amazon.com and The Christian Science Monitor, and was a New York Times Book Review Editor's Choice; Bigger Than the Game: Bo, Boz, the Punky QB, And How the '80s Created the Modern Athlete; and Girl Boy Etc., a short-story collection. He has been a regular contributor to a number of newspapers and magazines, including The New York Times, ESPN, GQ, Grantland, and Sports on Earth. His work has also been anthologized in the Best American Sports Writing collection. He lives in San Francisco.

Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Sara Barnes on September 1, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a book about sports, but like all the best books about sports, it really isn't a book about sports. For those of us who came of age in the 1980s (or for thinking Americans of any age), this is a book about the profound cultural changes that shaped who we were then and who we have become: a generation of free agents for whom celebrity is currency, mass media is oxygen, and shrink-wrapped pop heroes are a drug of choice. Fascinating, and brilliantly written.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By C. Baker VINE VOICE on March 20, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Bigger than the Game is an outstanding treatise on the self-aggrandizement of the modern athlete. The author chose the year 1986 as somewhat of a watershed year. 1986 saw: Bo Jackson play two professional sports, a steroid laden and overrated linebacker at the University of Oklahoma, Brian Bozworth, become the face of the college football, the cocaine induced death of University of Maryland basketball star Len Bias, and the crowning of the Chicago Bears as NFL champions behind the brash quarterback Jim McMahon, the outspoken coach Mike Ditka, and everyone's darling 330 plus pounder William "The Refrigerator" Perry.

The theme of this book is how the modern athlete in the media age has become bigger than the sports they play. It's about narcissist self promotion, the breakdown of the team concept where there is only "I" not "we." Or, as the dust jacket says, it was "the era when athletes evolved from humble and honest to brash and branded." There is certainly a little hyperbole to this description as there are scores of athletes in all eras that fit this mold, but there was not a 24 hour news cycle and the Internet for any but the greatest superstars to rise to such fame (or infamy).
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By WS on August 26, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Thoroughly enjoyable. My favorite sports book of the year. As with Michael Lewis's The Blind Side, I don't think you need to be a sports junkie to enjoy it: The stories and connections to society/pop culture make it a fun read for even a casual sports fan. If you are a sports junkie, though, you're sure to be captivated.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By J. Hamlin on January 24, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Michael Weinreb has produced a brilliant read on a topic that binds all modern day sports fans.

Tracing the origin of the modern day sporting superstar back to the mid eighties and the existance of 4 key athletes - Len Bias, Bo Jackson, Brian Bozworth & Jim McMahon.

You couldn't get 4 better stories and Weinreb researches them all and intertwines them with great skill (maybe a little too light on Boz - of who i to this day know the least about..)

The drugs and especially Cocaine use was one of the key factors of 80's sports and is covered in detail - culminating in the death of Bias.

The fact that the 4 biggest stars of the decade all had their careers cut short and ultimately didn't create the legacies they were expected too isn't really covered (guess we know this and it isn't the point)

A classic. Couldn't put it down
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By David Rosenblatt on January 10, 2011
Format: Hardcover
This book by Michael Weinreb, is a great read! Those of us at Auburn University during the 1980's are especially interested in the Bo Jackson chapters. Weinreb's story on Bo's retirement is an inspiring one; as are the chapters on 'The Boz'[not willing to be interviewed for the book], Jim McMahon, and Len Bias.

I wish that the Michael Jordan story was covered here, as he was the first king of self promation in sports during the 1980's.

This book captures the American times [both in sports, and in the nation]. Even President Ronald Reagan's story is a good part of the book. I am not sure that Reagan's connection with the athletes profiled here is as great as this book maintains.

"Bigger Than the Game" provides for all of us who were around in the 1980's (and those who do not have any first hand experience of the decade) a historical starting point in understanding this important sports era.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By SportsWriterJones on October 25, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
If you grew up in the mid-1980s this book is for you. I read the electronic version and just couldn't stop reading it - my phone, the iPad, etc. - it was like getting extra helpings of dessert. Weinreb's writing is at times brilliant and I couldn't help but be nostalgic for the '85 Bears, Nike's Bo Jackson "Bo Knows" campaign, and the college football rebel that was Brian Bosworth. But the best reporting came on the topic of Len Bias, his use of cocaine, and the role his death played in the "Just Say No" culture established in the Reagan era. Weinreb's access to Bias' mother leads to a halting passage that leaves the reader questioning the myths we have enjoyed as sports fans.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By HuntleyMC on June 17, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book was recommended to me and I really enjoyed reading it. I remember the athletes and games but was really to young to realize or care about the events that were going on during this period of time. It is interesting to read how everything came together at the same time to shift the sports world in such away to become what seems normal today. if you enjoy sports I think this book will be an interesting look at when sports changed in America.
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