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Monster of the Midway: Bronko Nagurski, the 1943 Chicago Bears, and the Greatest Comeback Ever Hardcover – October 1, 2003

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Bronko Nagurski is arguably the best name ever for a football player. Or maybe it just seems that way now, because we associate the name with the accomplishments of a legendary athlete. Born in International Falls, Minnesota, of immigrant parents, Nagurski became an All-American at the University of Minnesota and joined the Chicago Bears of the fledgling National Football League in 1930. He and penurious Bear owner George Halas clashed over his salary, and he left football to become a wrestler after the 1937 season, returning to the Bears in 1943 to lead the team to a championship. Dent interviewed many of Nagurski's friends, relatives, and former teammates. They reveal a taciturn man motivated by fierce pride and a work ethic based on a concept of a day's pay for a day's work. This serviceable biography fills in the details behind a fascinating chapter in early pro football history, but there are no great revelations. Nagurski was a regular fellow who happened to be an extraordinary athlete (with a great name). Wes Lukowsky
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"Fills in the details behind a fascinating chapter in early pro football history."
--Booklist

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books; 1st edition (October 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312308671
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312308674
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.1 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,837,852 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jim Dent is a New York Times bestselling author who has written nine books.
His latest, "Courage Beyond The Game: The Freddie Steinmark Story,'' was selected as one of the best nonfiction books of 2011 by Kirkus Reviews. It was also named one of the top eight biographies of the year. The book focuses on the life of Freddie Steinmark, who started nineteen straight winning games at the University of Texas and was an All-Southwest Conference performer on the 1969 national championship team. He played that year with an excruciatingly painful osteosarcoma in his left thighbone. Still, Steinmark left the field only once in the final regular season game against Arkansas. Texas defeated Arkansas 15-14 in the "Game Of The Century'' and went on to defeat Notre Dame in the Cotton Bowl. Steinmark's story has been compared to "Brian's Song'' and is expected to reach the big screen in 2012. Another one of Dent's bestselling books, "Twelve Mighty Orphans,'' is also slated for movie theaters before the end of the year. For more information on Dent, check out Facebook, along with his "Courage Beyond The Game'' page that includes two video documentaries on Steinmark's life. You might also want to read "The Junction Boys,'' that was adapted into an ESPN movie in 2002. Dent is currently working on his tenth book, along with producing the movie on Steinmark.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Frederick Haulenbeek on October 5, 2003
Format: Hardcover
On the strength of Jim Dent's other books, I preordered "Monster Of The Midway". The story of Bronko Nagurski, the early years of the Chicago Bears and the NFL is fascinating. However the book is much more. Dent's exhaustive research is evident. He has artfully woven the Nagurski story with a lot of the history and characters of the day. The birth of the NFL, George Halas, prohibition, Al Capone, gambling, the depression, Red Grange, college football and much more are included. Each page creates vivid word pictures that take you back in time and let you experience places like International Falls, Minnesota and Wrigley Field of old as you become acquainted with legends, their incredible stories and a captivating portion of upper Midwest history. Highly recommended.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By B. Burns on November 13, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Readers looking for objective history here will be disappointed. Dent is not interested in presenting a critical biography of a public figure. Rather, *Monster of the Midway* is hero worship in its grandest form. Bronko Nagurski is depicted as the toughest man in a world of tough men. Even when hobbled with arthritis in his mid-30s, Nagurski is shown as a intimidating, powerful football player capable of dominating younger, better-conditioned men through sheer force of will.
Dent's use of voice in this book adds to both its realism and its characterization of Nagurski and his cohorts. The author's voice is very formal, disdaining the casual language often found in sports biographies. On the other hand, when quoting football men, Dent uses the gruff, unpretentious, occasionally crude dialect that we usually associate with aggressive, masculine athletes. The contrast here is effective. Dent does not try to be "one of the guys", and his implied acknowledgement of the distinction between authors and football players is refreshing.
Dent also makes good use of liberal tropes in presenting Nagurski and his Bears as heroic figures. The Bears' 1943 quarterback, Sid Luckman, endured disgusting Anti-Semitic epithets from both opposing fans and players. Dent shows Nagurski and the other Bears exacting retribution for these taunts, with Nagurski himself facing down a bench full of Anti-Semitic spectators in Henry Ford-era Detroit. Their fight against bigotry adds a moral thread to Dent's heroic portrayal of Nagurski's Bears, and it plays well here.
Through all this idealization, Dent is never overtly dishonest.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 24, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Bronko Nagurski's comeback with the Chicago Bears in 1943 is just one of the greatest sports stories ever--reading the chapter in which he wins the final regular-season game for them to get into the championship game gave me goosebumps, I swear to God. But I also loved the wonderful atmosphere of the period Dent evokes here, and the many colorful characters--even Al Capone plays a part.
If you've ever read the great Junction Boys, you know what a wonderful writer Jim Dent is. This is his best since that book. I highly recommend it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Jason VINE VOICE on March 29, 2011
Format: Paperback
Whether all minor details of Jim Dent's biographical retelling of Bronko Nagurski's career are accurate is as difficult to verify as it is inconsequential to the story. Nagurski was Paul Bunyan in a helmet, a wrecking ball running back standing 6ft. and weighing 225 lbs. - average offensive linemen of the time weighed slightly less and were considered overweight at 235 lbs. He was legendary from the moment he was "recruited" to play for Minnesota, where his future coach would tell tall tales of a man with extraordinary strength and drive who could lift a plow with vise-grip hands full of fingers requiring 19.5 sized rings. Bronko Nagurski was a man who lived up to the reputation, and often exceeded it.

The greater majority of Monster of the Midway chronicles how the Bronk terrorized the NFL as a Chicago Bear. Read as a historical account, many commonplace changes and advances of the game took place during his era. The T-Formation, the forward pass, the draw play, all intricately connected to Nagurski. Bizarre substitution rules, leather helmets, and two way players were all common during his rugged playing days that favored a heavy dose of between-the-tackles running. Then more of the same. Men were men; wimps and part time players need not apply. Blood is just uniform decoration and some bones don't really need to be straight. During the Bronk's eight seasons, Dent provides game-by-game highlights of the highpoints, concentrating on the feel and the result rather than the minutiae of yards per carry, time of possession, and the cybermetrics of today.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By tom williams on December 16, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Jim Dent's Monster of the Midway is less a biography of Bronko Nagurski, and more of a historical look at the era in which Nagurski dominated the National Football League.

If you are a sports fan, you may enjoy this book; if you are an NFL fan you will love learning about the story of one of the league's most endearing names and a charter member of the pro football hall of fame. If you are a sports history afficianado like myself, you will enjoy the stories Dent has to tell and appreciate the way he makes this book read like a novel at times. In some ways I even feel this book will translate well to a television movie -- like the Junction Boys.

It took me about two weeks to finish this book which is my average pace of about one chapter per night. Where Jim Dent fails to deliver to the reader is an inside look at the life of Bronko Nagurski. After completing this book, I did not feel as if I had spent those two weeks with Bronko himself, rather, I felt I had just spent the entire time watching old films of the Bears against the Packers and reading old newspaper clips from the Chicago Tribune.

Jim Dent is a good writer, but I would not put his Monster of the Midway in the same league as Jane Leavy's biography of Sandy Koufax: A Lefty's Legacy -- one of my favorite sports books. Leavy's work made me feel as if I had spent a September evening at Dodger Stadium sitting next to Sandy Koufax reliving his glory days. I did not get that type of feeling when I read Monster of the Midway.

Perhaps this is an unfair comparison. Part of the problem that Dent may have faced, primarily is that Nagurski is no longer with us, but also, there probably was not a whole lot said or heard about Nagurski for him to work with.
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