Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
America's Game: The Epic Story of How Pro Football Captured a Nation Hardcover – October 26, 2004
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
Customers who viewed this item also viewed
From Publishers Weekly
MacCambridge's sweeping history of pro football starts just before WWII, when the National Football League was still largely a regional organization, and ends with Janet Jackson's wardrobe malfunction at Super Bowl XXXVIII. Though there are plenty of vivid descriptions of remarkable games, what sets this chronicle apart from a slew of other recent football books is the depth and breadth of its stories about players, coaches and owners. The centerpiece of this personal approach is the extensive portrait of the career of Pete Rozelle, who became the NFL's commissioner at 33 and initiated many of the measures that ensured the sport's cultural ascendancy, including a television deal that distributed revenue equally among all teams. MacCambridge (The Franchise: A History of Sports Illustrated Magazine) zeroes in on two sideline projects that might have made the greatest difference in football's rise over baseball: NFL Properties, which brought a consistent standard of excellence to fan paraphernalia; and NFL Films, which solidified the myth of the game as an epic struggle through the instantly recognizable narration of John Facenda. MacCambridge also considers the sport's track record regarding race relations, noting that the NFL's first black players were on the field months before Jackie Robinson, while highlighting the roles played by great African-American athletes like Paul Younger and Jim Brown. Though some fans may be disappointed that their favorite teams and players aren't extensively covered, this magisterial history is a fitting acknowledgment of the sport's legacy.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
*Starred Review* Football is the professional sport of choice in America today, evidenced by the fact that its championship game, the Super Bowl, is an undeclared national holiday. MacCambridge, author of the extraordinarily informative and very entertaining The Franchise: A History of Sports Illustrated (1997), picks up the struggling National Football League immediately after World War II, when the team owners were a ragtag collection of squabbling entrepreneurs. The owners pulled together somewhat to squash a rival league and usurp its best team, the Cleveland Browns, but the NFL's ascendancy really began in the 1950s, coinciding with the growth of television. MacCambridge tracks the history in a thoroughly readable narrative, devoting plenty of space to the 1958 overtime championship game between the Baltimore Colts and the New York Giants--a game that mesmerized a national television audience and created the momentum that would carry the league--under the visionary leadership of commissioner Pete Rozelle--through the merger with another rival, the American Football League, and the start of the Super Bowl phenomenon. MacCambridge also offers revealing profiles of the front-office figures who played key roles in the growth of the league--Rozelle, Paul Brown, Al Davis, and Lamar Hunt--as well as gleaning the insights of former players and coaches such as Jim Brown, Bill Walsh, and John Madden. This is a classy, carefully researched, and very enlightening overview of a uniquely American sports enterprise. Wes Lukowsky
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
Having said that, and despite giving it five stars, a couple of things bothered me. First, I think, at times MacCambridge comes across as an NFL propagandist. In his quest to show that the NFL is really America's game, he denigrates other sports too much. In particular, after reading the book, you would think no one ever attends a baseball game. No doubt the NFL has been far better run than MLB but the implication that this is why football eclipsed based is, I think, a bit misleading. Simply put, football is a far better game on TV than baseball and the NFL's growth coincided with TV. MacCambridge acknowledges this but I think he downplays that fact in suggesting that the NFL was so incredibly far-sighted.
The other thing that bothered me about the book is his seeming apologia for the owners. He spends little time on how the Rozelle Rule kept down salaries. Rozelle was clearly a great commissionet and comes across in the book as a good guy, but I suspect he was not as well loved by the players. He, like every other commissioner in sports, is hiref to work for the owners and to protect and advance their interests at the expense of the players if necessary. In fact, I would argue that the entire rationale of the merger with the AFL was to reduce salaries. The implication in the book is that, without the merger, there could have been no Super Bowl, but that's not true. There is no reason the leagues could not have competed on the field without being financially tied together. But, of course, the owners would not have made as much money; more of the profits would have gone to the players, who were, as we see, crippling themselves to largely profit the owners. And, no, I am not suggesting that the owners should not have made any money. But, for most of it's history and, really, even today, it's the owners that share most of the profits and the players make do. And without the strikes, the players would not have gotten that. I think MacCambridge should have done more with that. He made the NFL seem like a commonwealth of interests in which the players and owners are partners, but that's just not true.
The last point is a corollary to his dismissal of baseball. The book came out well before concerns about concussions and player safety came to the fore so you can't really fault him for not being able to predict this as an issue. And he does, to some extent, address issues of player conduct; but again, this was long before the Ray Rices of the world came along. I don't blame him for not being prescient, but there seems to be a suggestion that the NFL is invincible, at least so long as the owners continue to focus on the league itself rather than their individual interest-which seems to be a slap at Jerry Jones. But, as we see, nothing is inevitable and while I don't expect the NFL to decline like boxing or even like baseball, it has significant problems and the future of the league is not necessarily as bright as it once was.
Meanwhile, baseball has its own problems, of course, what with an aging demographic and so on, but no one is suggesting that kids should stop playing baseball in order to avoid being drooling slobs when they get older.
Despite these criticisms, I do think this is a great book and a real gem for anyone that likes sports history, especially, of course, the NFL.
The book starts out with the Baltimore Colts defeat in overtime of the New York Giants on December 28, 1958 in the National Football League championship game. The game was televised and is called the Greatest Game Ever Played, partially because it catapulted the NFL into the national spotlight and sent the league on its way to be the dominant sport in American culture.
For the most part this is a very linear history of the Nation Football League, and a very well done one. While it is about the game itself, it's more about the business of professional football and the importance of decisions made by those who ran it leading to a thriving game and a thriving business enterprise. Much is discussed about the first commissioner Bert Bell who held a motley collection of owners together and strived for parity in the league, and Pete Rozelle who help reap millions in television revenue, fostered the revenue sharing agreement between big market and small market teams keeping competitive balance, and maintaining relative labor peace compared to other sports.
Another very interesting and pivotal part of NFL history was its competition with the American Football League in the 1960's and how a group of maverick owners created a rival, viable league of its own and how the eventual merger of the NFL and AFL came about. Interestingly, Lamar Hunt, late owner of the Kansas City Chiefs, was the pivotal figure in both the creation of the AFL and the eventual merger. The merger, in fact, made the NFL even stronger.
There are a few key themes in this book about why professional football became the dominant sport it is today. First, and foremost, is television. The game of football, more so than baseball, is a sport made for television. Television thrust the game into the national spotlight and keeps it there. Second is parity. While there have been some dominant teams in the league and a few dynasties, the revenue sharing, scheduling, and now salary caps which keep the teams on a somewhat even playing field has helped maintain interest in the game. Third, labor peace, relative to other sports, has also helped the game thrive. And finally, the owners and commissioners who have lead the league have been visionary. In these pages you meet the legendary coaches and owners like George Halas, Paul Brown, Vince Lombardi, Wellington Mara, Art Modell, Art Rooney, and others who made the NFL what it is today.
Overall, this is an outstanding history of the modern NFL and I highly recommend it.