Four Books on "The Game"

Today will mark the 110th meeting of Ohio State and Michigan football teams otherwise known as “The Game.”  As a lifelong University of Michigan fan I have to admit I am not looking forward to it.  The utter collapse of the Wolverines offense has sucked all the joy out of the season. The fact that Ohio State’s new coach Urban Meyer has not lost a game and looks to notch its 24 straight win in Ann Arbor makes it all the more painful.  But in this game anything can happen and every Michigan fan in the country is hoping against hope that somehow their team pulls an upset for the ages.

As a way to mark this occasion I figured I would provide an opportunity for those of you unfamiliar with the history and tradition of this storied rivalry to read and learn about it.  Since I have reviewed a number of books on the subject here over the years, herewith a recap:

Three and Out:

Rich Rodriguez and the Michigan Wolverines in the Crucible of College Football

by John Bacon

Three and Out sm

Buy It

My Review:

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.


War As They Knew It:

Woody Hayes, Bo Schembechler, and America in a Time of Unrest

by Michael Rosenberg


Buy It

My Review:

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.

The Ten Year War:

Ten Classic Games Between Bo and Woody 

by Joel Pennington

Ten Year War

Buy It

My Review:

Pennington’s The Ten Year War is not a complex or overly detailed history of the schools, the seasons, or even the coaches during this period. The focus is on The Game. Each chapter gives you enough information to know the key players, personalities and events leading up to to the game. The heart of each chapter is in essence a drive by drive, and sometimes play by play, account of the game. Pennington isn’t a particularly elegant prose stylist but that doesn’t really matter. What is important is the game itself. Combining the play-by-play element of the game, he weaves in the commentary of the time as well as the memories of the players and coaches looking back on these epic battles. Their passion and loyalty comes through.

The 100-Yard War:

Inside the 100-Year-Old Michigan-Ohio State Football Rivalry

by Greg Emmanuel

100-yard war

Buy It

My Review:

The 100-Yard War: Inside the 100-Year-Old Michigan-Ohio State Football Rivalry by Greg Emmanuel is a fast paced pop culture look at the history of this storied game. It traces the history, tradition, culture, and popularity of one of the greatest rivalries in all of sport.

How can a regular season college football game stake a claim to such a label? In The 100-Yard War Emmanuel outlines a few reasons: history, tradition, quality, and intensity.

Read any of these four books and you will have insight into college football and one of the bigger rivalries in sports. Read all four and you will have a good start as a historian of The Game.


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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