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How Football Explains America Hardcover – September 1, 2008

4 out of 5 stars 31 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Paolantonio, a television football correspondent, opens with an intriguing question: Why does conventional wisdom say that it was television that made football so popular, when other countries that have television are not the slightest bit interested in the game? What if the truth was exactly the opposite—football helped make television? The book relates the evolution of the sport to the evolution of the country: just as America declared its independence from England, so American footballers redesigned the game and made it independent from the British import, rugby. And just as immigrants to the U.S. helped build the country, so various ethnic groups helped build football. The parallels between football and combat are obvious, but Paolantonio doesn’t hammer at them, preferring instead to talk about the way the sport captured the interest of its fans to a degree that few recreational pursuits ever equaled. The hyperbole of its title aside, this volume has surprisingly insightful things to say about football as a sociocultural phenomenon. Expect some interest beyond football fans. --David Pitt

From the Publisher

"So it turns out that Sal Paolantonio doesn't just talk about football on television, he really thinks about it! His book is a breezy, conceptual tour through the history of America and of football, showing they are, in fact, one and the same. From war to jazz, from racism to integration, from immigrant waves of Scotch Irish to Tonga Islanders, from dioramas in the display windows of newspapers to Monday Night Football, from Jim Thorpe to Eli Manning, the story of the game mirrors the story of our country. Who knew? All those lazy Sunday afternoons on the couch were really anthropological research. I'm giving this book to my wife!"
--Mark Bowden, author of The Best Game Ever: Giants vs. Colts, 1958, and the Birth of the Modern NFL and Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War

"Sal Paolantonio's How Football Explains America is brimming with excellent reporting, intellectual breadth, personal insight, and a deep affection for our real national pastime. This is fascinating stuff."
--Mark Kriegel, author of Namath: A Biography, and national columnist, FOXSports.com

"I have been a student of football my whole life, and this book gave me a completely original perspective on the game we call our national pastime. Sal Paolantonio has captured the essence of why we love football."
--Ron Jaworski, analyst, ESPN's Monday Night Football

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Triumph Books; First Edition, 1st Printing edition (September 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1600780466
  • ISBN-13: 978-1600780462
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 5.2 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #966,791 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I knew I was in for a bumpy ride when I flipped this book open at the library and learned that the US accepted the Japanese surrender at the end of WWII on the deck of the USS Yorktown. Really? I would think a book that equates NFL greatness with American greatness would get the fact that the surrender was actually signed on the USS Missouri. Any writer worth his Victor Davis Hanson quotes who asks the reader to discard lefty "political correctness" and embrace conservative rah-rah about American exceptionalism (ie, Manifest Destiny is all good) needs to get the history right. Maybe I'm wrong, maybe video of "The Catch" (or whatever your favorite football moment is) really does dwarf the famous images of surrender on a US battleship in Tokyo Bay. If only MacArthur had known about NFL Films :-)

Not the best football book, either, by far. I know Paolantonio intends to gloss over college football in order to genuflect at the altar of the NFL, but his sweeping history of the game seems to miss "Pop" Warner entirely. Maybe Warner's innovative game of passing and misdirection plays, which brought obscure Carlisle Indian School to national prominence, didn't mesh with his Manifest Destiny schtick. Don't get me wrong, though - college football is a deeply corrupt industry and deserves another book.

Still, the football-is-America thesis has some merits. He should have gone into the history of drugs in the NFL and how this most authoritarian sport is just like our hypocritical drug war in real life. That would've been good. Like when Johnny U. went to the Chargers, where the fabled white ethnic toughness was out, and drugs ruled the locker room. Somewhat amazingly, the NFL ***still*** doesn't have drug problem like those rotten baseball players do </sarcasm> - sportswriters seem to be under solemn oath to protect The Product.
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Format: Hardcover
It's easy to answer any number of questions about America's (real) national pasttime: What is it about the game that so captivates people every Sunday? Why do 100 million people watch the Super Bowl each year? How did the game get so...big? But Sal Paolantonio ups the ante by searching for -- and finding -- the answer to the most meaningful and revealing question of all: Why America is the only place in history football could be. "How Football Explains America" is at once a history of our game and a reflection on our country. It's a book born out a love for the sport that millions and millions of Americans have shared. But at its heart it's a patriotic work -- a glimpse at how football has become a perfect expression of the best the United States of America has to offer.
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Format: Hardcover
A great new book. An excellent new book. A magnificent theme.

This book should be used in history classes throughout the United States. Sal Paolantonio shows how the best qualities and leaders in the course of our country's history have impacted football -- and how the structure of football has benefitted therefrom. Teddy Roosevelt and Bill Parcels; General MacArthur and Bill Walsh; John Coltrane and Johnny Unitas -- all in one book (and rightly so).

Sal Paolantonio deserves acclaim. He crystallizes for us how shared commitment, shared sacrifice, and shared determination are the hallmarks of football, just as they have in other major episodes throughout course of U.S. history.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This might very well be the most literate sports book I have ever read. If you like football, you will love it. If you like history, you will be fascinated. If you like politics, there is something there for you as well. How Football Explains America is the ONLY sports book I have ever brought into the house that my wife has enjoyed!
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
There are some good football stories, but he takes some liberties to prove his thesis. As a Patriots fan, I did not like the recurrent efforts to disparage the team and Belichick with constant reminders of the failed effort to win Super Bowl XLII; I'm not sure why the author felt the need to introduce this into EVERY chapter. I skipped over any sections that talked about that game and just focused on the book itself. The history of football and the efforts to grow its brand are interesting.
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Format: Hardcover
An entertaining read, although it did not live up to my expectations. To be sure, there are elements of American culture and history that help explain how the game of football evolved and why the game enjoys such a following in the United States versus the rest of the world. However the author too often makes large claims of causation without much proof besides correlation. There are a number of "just-so stories" used to explain the relationship between football and America. Unfortunately, the author does not use a consistent amount of rigor across each chapter. Additionally, some chapters simply ramble on, meandering far from the author's stated purpose. There are interesting stories and anecdotes to be sure, but overall the book lacks coherence. There are a number of quite interesting chapters, but overall it is a decent, not great, book.
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Format: Hardcover
After writing The Paolantonio Report last year, Sal Paolantonio has done it again. I read 'How Football Explains America' and it is amazing to see how the creation of football and the concepts associated with football are truly American. This is a must read for ANY football fan! As a fan of American history and a football fanatic, I couldn't put it down.
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