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Playing to Win: Jerry Jones and the Dallas Cowboys Hardcover – September 1, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap

In 1989 the Dallas Cowboys were struggling to keep their heads above water, both on and off the field. Three straight losing seasons, falling revenue, and the crumbling finances of owner H.R. "Bum" Bright had left "America's Team" a shadow of its former self. That February, Bright announced he had made a handshake deal to sell the team for $140 million to an Arkansas oilman named Jerry Jones. Nearly two decades later, Jones has turned the Cowboys into the most profitable sports franchise in the world; sports three Super Bowl rings won during the 1990s with two different coaches; and has overseen every detail involving the team's new $1.2 billion home in Arlington, Texas, a stadium the likes of which no sports fan has ever seen. Along the way, Jones's aggressive, creative ideas combined with a colorful cast of coaches and players to completely revolutionize the NFL's business model, helping to transform the league into the nation's most popular sport. Acclaimed author David Magee (How Toyota Became #1) was granted an all-access pass to the Cowboys organization, the team's locker room, and to Jones himself. The result is Playing to Win, an unprecedented and compelling look at the inner workings of the Cowboys, the NFL, the business of sports, and the man with the ambition and drive to turn the playing field upside down. Playing to Win is an enlightening, behind-the-scenes narrative featuring the true story behind Jones's purchase of the team; the firing of legendary coach Tom Landry; the fallout between Jones and coach Jimmy Johnson; the team's attitude toward acquiring controversial stars, including Michael Irvin, Terrell Owens, and Adam "Pacman" Jones; and Dallas's approach to merchandising, marketing, and stadium financing. Playing to Win is a must-read for serious football fans and anyone with a desire to understand the modern world of pro sports.

About the Author

David Magee is the author of nine nonfiction books, including How Toyota Became #1 and Endurance: Winning Life's Majors the Phil Mickelson Way. He lives in Lookout Mountain, Tennessee.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Triumph Books (September 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1600781241
  • ISBN-13: 978-1600781247
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.5 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,233,515 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

David Magee is a non-fiction author with 12 books published in the past decade, including bestsellers in Japan and France and top-sellers in the United States and other countries including Brazil.

His most recent book, The Education of Mr. Mayfield (Blair), was named the best non-fiction book of the year in the Southeast in the Independent Book Publisher Awards (IPPY). HIs book How Toyota Became #1 (Penguin) was named a Top 10 Business Book of the Year by the American Library Association.

He was also a literary publisher and editor, acquiring and publishing with national distribution such works as John McNally's Ghosts of Chicago; Beer and Food: An American History by Bob Skilnik; and Forty Acres and a Goat by Will Campbell.

A former award-winning daily newspaper columnist, Magee is also an experienced newspaper editor, serving currently as Director of News and editor of Birmingham magazine for Alabama Media Group, and having served as Managing Editor of the International Business Times, Assistant Managing Editor of the Jackson Clarion-Ledger, and news editor of The Oxford Eagle.

He is also a former city council member in the college town of Oxford, Mississippi, his childhood home where he grew up playing on the grounds of William Faulkner's home. Oxford is the primary setting for The Education of Mr. Mayfield, the true story that has been optioned for a major motion picture.

David Magee is currently working on The Greatest Fight Ever, a story about the John L. Sullivan-Jake Kilrain bare-knuckle championship fight in the late 1800s.

He formerly hosted The David Magee Show, a national radio and television current events talk program aired daily in 21 million American homes on the American Life Network and the Biz Television Network concurrently.

A frequent guest on national news programs over the years, Magee began his media career at a commercial radio station at the age of 18 and became a daily newspaper editor at the age of 24. He began writing books in 2002 and has since made more than 200 media appearances, including NPR, the BBC, the Korean Broadcasting Network, Bloomberg, CNBC, Fox Business, The Wall Street Journal and

As a speaker, he's addressed audiences from Quebec to Japan to Dallas, Texas.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Robert Morris HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 15, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Since relocating to Dallas 1976 and then closely following developments in the Cowboys' organization, I already knew a great deal about Jerry Jones after he purchased the team in 1989. However, until reading David Magee's book, I did not fully appreciate Jones's business acumen nor fully understand why he made several especially important (and controversial) decisions as the Cowboys' owner, president, and general manager. With great skill, Magee fills in the details about why Jones risked his entire net worth when purchasing the team, why he immediately fired Tom Landry as head coach, why he also fired so many other long-term members of the staff (notably Tex Schramm and Gil Brandt), why he hired Jimmy Johnson to succeed Landry, why his relationship with Johnson eventually failed but his relationship with Bill Parcells didn't, why he roams the sideline during games (usually when the team is struggling), and why Jones has in recent years become the most influential team owner, not only in the NFL but in all professional leagues.

Long ago, the NFL adopted policies for revenue sharing that would enable smaller media market teams (e.g. Green Bay Packers) to be competitive with larger media market teams (e.g. New York Giants). The NFL owned all television contracts and as revenue from them rapidly increased, these policies were strictly enforced but were not applicable to control of the stadiums in which games were played. Only a few teams owned their stadiums and most of the other teams essentially rented them. Jones complied with the policies and in fact helped to negotiate ever-larger television contracts but questioned control of team licensing. Magee notes that Jones has always had an uncanny ability to recognize and then take full advantage of underutilized assets.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Sanniyus Suwita on October 17, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If you are an avid professional football fan, let alone a diehard Cowboy supporter, this book may not be for you. The book covers the period from 1989 (when Jerry Jones bought the team) to the end of 2007 season. As a serious football fan, although not of the Cowboys, I was expecting to get plenty of behind-the-scenes tidbits of what contribute into Jones's character, values and his decision making process with the players, coaches and organization, that haven't been covered by media.

Instead, the book reads more like a collection of scrapbook snapshots from the time span rather than detailed inside stories retrieved from a personal diary. This is despite the author's claimed unlimited access to Jones and his organization. Most football fans who followed the Cowboys during their '90s glory days would easily recall 60-80% of the contents of this book.

To his credit, the author presents his materials in an easy-read, quick-flow format. He can do away with repeated uses of complete people references throughout the book, such as "team owner and general manager Jerry Jones". The book is valuable overview for casual sports fans who want to learn more about Dallas Cowboys and its flashy owner. Unfortunately, it leaves the more serious football followers longing for a lot more.

For more comprehensive readings about the Cowboys, I'd recommend the following:
Boys Will Be Boys: The Glory Days and Party Nights of the Dallas Cowboys Dynasty. An inside look into the star players of the Cowboys teams from the '90s and mainly their lives off the field.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Brooklyn Joe on December 19, 2012
Format: Hardcover
This book was great. It is a thorough biography on the owner of the Dallas Cowboys. One gets a great overview on his life and passion for sports. I wouldnt recommned it to a die hard fan as it is more a story of the growth of the team while he was there. On the flip side, for those who hate the Cowboys I still recommned it as there is still a lot to learn about football.

Overall, it is great book and an easy read for the casual sports fan and I highly recommned it.
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Playing to Win: Jerry Jones and the Dallas Cowboys
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