From Publishers Weekly
Bowden (Black Hawk Down
; Guests of the Ayatollah
) tells the story of the 1958 National Football League championship game between the Baltimore Colts and the New York Giants, a legendary game that proved to be a harbinger of the enormous popularity of pro football over the next 50 years. Bowden writes that the game featured the greatest assemblage of talent ever on one field, including 17 future Hall of Fame inductees. He frames the picture with a wide lens, but then focuses on the roles and lives of a few key players, particularly the Colts' obsessive and methodical wide receiver Raymond Berry and the iconic quarterback Johnny Unitas, as well as the Giants' powerful linebacker Sam Huff. The game, played in frigid Yankee Stadium three days after Christmas, stretched into the evening, garnering the largest television audience in the history of the sport to that time. Bowden begins his entertaining and informative narration in the third quarter, and then delves into backstory on the league, players and the buildup, before returning to the gridiron to conclude with a detailed account of the final plays and an epilogue. (June)
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It’s hard to believe, in this era of Super Bowl overkill, but once upon a time, professional football was considered a minor sport. But one game changed all that. It was the 1958 NFL championship between the New York Giants and the Baltimore Colts, which began three days after Christmas on a gloomy afternoon and ended early in the evening under the lights at Yankee Stadium. Bowden, author of Black Hawk Down (1999), provides context for the game, along with a perceptive overview of the socioeconomic forces at work in America at the time, but he tells the story of what happened on the field primarily through the testimony of key players: Raymond Berry, Gino Marchetti, and Art Donovan of the Colts and Sam Huff and Frank Gifford of the Giants. His skill in transferring these interviews to the page, capturing the dynamic personalities of his subjects, provides an immediacy and electricity missing from so many sports histories. These were tough, intelligent men who loved competing, cared for their teammates and coaches, and who recall their roles in the birth of pro football proudly. No tapes of the original broadcast exist, but in many ways, Bowden’s book is better than any tape could be. --Wes Lukowsky