A Collected Miscellany Of Football Books

Day three of our February blogapolooza brings us to Super Bowl Sunday. So in honor of the big game I figured I would hit the archives for some books on football. This helps in two ways: 1) it might give you some reading during the off-season and 2) you get to read a blog post you might have missed [3) I will have posted today].  Not surprisingly  they deal mostly with my favorite teams: The University of Michigan Wolverines and the Pittsburgh Steelers (neither of which exactly covered themselves in glory this season).  But I think the books would be enjoyable for any fan of the game.

Three And Out: Rich Rodriguez And The Michigan Wolverines In The Crucible Of College Football By John U. Bacon

Lloyd Carr retired at the end of the 2007 season and Michigan eventually hired West Virginia’s Rich Rodriguez. In one of those quirks of fate, a former student of Bacon’s worked for Rodriguez’s financial adviser. This connection led to the idea of Bacon’s writing a couple of articles about the spread offense coming to Michigan, and then maybe collaborating on a book.

It is the height of understatement to say things did not work out as planned.

For most Michigan fans (myself included), that makes this book particularly painful. It is like watching a replay of your car accident in slow motion, on repeat. You know both the ultimate end result and the final score of every painful game and yet you force yourself to read the excruciating details as you relive the nightmare.

But if you are simply a fan of college football, or interested in big-time college athletics more generally, it is a fascinating read. Ohio State fans might find it entertaining and strangely cathartic.

The Ones Who Hit The Hardest By Chad Millman & Shawn Coyne

Cover of "The Ones Who Hit the Hardest: T...
Cover via Amazon

This is one of those books where the whole almost seems more than the parts. Not every section works, and all the threads are not neatly wrapped up by the end, but the stories along the way are so interesting that you don’t mind.

In the end what you get is a snapshot history of the NFL in the 1970s through the lens of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Dallas Cowboys with the labor movement of the steel mills as a background. For Steeler fans I think this is a must read – although those with a strong knowledge of the team in the 70s might already be aware of much of the history.

Anyone interested in the NFL or sports history, however, would find this a fascinating read.

Football: An Encyclopedia Of Popular Culture

In just a few minutes of browsing and reading I learned things I hadn’t known and was reminded of things I had forgotten. Football: An Encyclopedia of Popular Culture is a great resource for football fans or those interested in the intersection of popular culture and the game. It would also be a handy reference guide for those who would like to learn more about the game and its history.

War As They Knew It: Woody Hayes, Bo Schembechler, And America In A Time Of Unrest By Michael Rosenberg

War As They Knew It is much more than a sports book. Sure, it is a fascinating story about one of college football’s greatest rivalries and the coaches who put it on the map.  But it is also a valuable look into the time period through the lens of college athletics. You don’t have to be a fan of Michigan or Ohio state football to enjoy the story because the characters and events involved transcend sports.

Of course, if you are a fan of either program and their legendary coaches this is a must read.  And really anyone interested in the history and development of college football would do well to check it out. You will come away with a better understanding of how the schools became the dominant programs in the conference and even the nation at times. And you will understand better the men behind these programs as they faced each other in intense competition on the field and dealt with the tumultuous times outside the stadium and practice field.

Well, I better wrap this up and get ready to head out to my friend’s Super Bowl party. But if you are a fan of the game of football I recommend each of the above books as worth your time.

If you just watch the Super Bowl for the ads, or enjoy the party despite the game, have fun and stay safe.

Kevin Holtsberry
I work in communications and public affairs. I try to squeeze in as much reading as I can while still spending time with my wife and two kids (and cheering on the Pittsburgh Steelers and Michigan Wolverines during football season).

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