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When the Grass Was Real: Unitas, Brown, Lombardi, Sayers, Butkus, Namath, and All the Rest : The Best Ten Years of Pro Football Hardcover – September, 1993


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

For gridiron historian Carroll ( The Hidden Game of Football ), the 1960s were the golden age of the pro game. In a sense it was: the decade saw the emergence of the AFL as a successful second league; the number of teams increased from 12 to 26 and the total attendance rose from three million to nine million; televised games, introduced in 1958, became ever more popular and the networks became ever more generous. As for the caliber of play, though, there is some question as to whether the passage of time lends an enchanted aura. Even Carroll, enthusiast for the '60s that he is, seems to suggest that many of the teams of the fledgling AFL were pretty feeble. And surely a 1993 fan may well ask whether the players of 1963 were of the same caliber as the pros of today. It seems doubtful. Still, the book promises to be fun for nostalgia buffs interested in the players and the politics of the era. Photos not seen by PW .
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Kirkus Reviews

An informal retrospective on pro football in the 1960's, skillfully blending facts, figures, and historical analysis with a fan's joyful nostalgia. Though Carroll (The Football Abstract, 1991, etc.--not reviewed) opens with a stumbling account of Lamar Hunt's 1958 decision to found a new league (the AFL) to compete with the entrenched National Football League, he soon hits his stride. Using interviews with former players and coaches (Sid Gillman, Sam Huff, Forrest Gregg, Willie Davis, et al.), as well as profiles of legendary figures such as Vince Lombardi, Gale Sayers, Joe Namath, Jim Brown, and Dick Butkus, the author tells how ``pro football emerged as the game of the '60s.'' As he moves from the AFL's inaugural season in 1960 to Namath's signing for a then-unheard-of $426,000, the merger of the leagues in 1966, and, finally, Hunt's vindication in 1969 (when his Kansas City Chiefs embarrassed the vaunted Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl IV), Carroll recounts key games, championships, trades, franchise moves, bitter draft wars, and the all-around astounding growth of pro football during the decade. Total attendance at regular season games rose from three million in 1959 to nine million in 1969 (although the number of teams rose as well, from 12 to 26; for comparison's sake, Carroll should have offered similar stats from baseball and basketball). Perhaps most significantly, in 1950 the NFL had a $50,000 TV deal for the entire league; by 1963, the deal was for $325,000 per team; by the late 1960's, it was in the millions per team and the Super Bowl had become an ``unofficial national holiday.'' If not ``a Golden Age,'' Carroll writes, ``the 1960s were the age when pro football struck gold.'' Well-done popular history that will delight older fans while providing a solid introduction to newer students of the game. (One hundred b&w photos--not seen) -- Copyright ©1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 302 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; 1St Edition edition (September 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 067173301X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0671733018
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 7.8 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,266,153 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By jim c. on November 26, 2001
Format: Hardcover
If you are in your 40's and loved pro football as a kid in the 1960's, then this is the book to read! It brought back so many wonderful childhood memories of the NFL and AFL that I wanted to weep. I remember some of these game in the 60's better than I do games of a couple years ago. And the author provides much insight into the players and games that I was never aware of.
The early struggles of the AFL are particularly interesting to read about. As I watch the often boring world of the NFL today, I yearn for when pro football was a much more simple game. This book satisfies that longing.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 25, 2004
Format: Hardcover
This is a nice chronological encapsulation of the ten pro football seasons from 1960 through 1969. It's not terribly in-depth, but that didn't seem to be the author's intention.
Each of the ten seasons are summarized (both NFL and AFL), and at the end of the book is a nice table of year-by-year standings, playoff results and all-pro teams for both leagues. The player interviews at the end of each chapter are interesting, too.
Unlike the earlier reviewer, the book includes some tidbits that were new to me, such as the 1964 death of Bears star running back Willie Gallimore in an auto accident, and the "missing fourth down" that cost the Rams a chance to pull out a last-second victory late in the 1968 season.
I didn't care for the frequent smart-aleck side comments made by the author to drive home his points; they are distracting. But overall it's a pretty good review of the ten seasons during which pro football grew from playing second fiddle to baseball (in terms of popularity), to far and away the nation's most popular sport.
It's a good history lesson for fans that want to learn more about professional football in the 1960s.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 17, 2003
Format: Hardcover
The 1960s are, as Carroll suggests, pro football's best decade, but this book doesn't quite bring that assertion to life. It's written rather functionally and relies rather too heavily on facts instead of anecdotes or the author's own assertions. It recites too many stories that the devoted fan already knows, and doesn't quite manage to tell them in an interesting new way. There are interviews with players, some of which are mildly enlightening, and some photographs, most of which I'd seen before.
I was hoping for something which would tell me more about this period of the game which I didn't already know, and less about things I could have looked up in a reference book.
Would give this a marginal recommendation, with a heartier one to those who know little about the decade in question. For those who do, I'd suggest Daly and O'Donnell's "Pro Football Chronicle."
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