In my family, it’s a running joke how my brother Reid, a former high-school football star, is big on football metaphors. We don’t meet; we “huddle up.” We don’t manage; we do “basic blocking and tackling.” Sometimes we throw a Hail Mary. So reading all about pro football, the metaphors flying like coolers of Gatorade, was a homey experience. Enlightening too. I cheered my head off at Reid’s games decades ago (“Beat ’Em, Bust ’Em, That’s Our Custom!”). Two weeks back, I cursed the Pats’ loss to those evil Ravens. And today, Super Bowl Sunday, I’m going to blitz you (sorry) with some super football books.
Let’s start with the modern classic “America’s Game: The Epic Story of How Pro Football Captured a Nation” (Random House, 2004). The great sportswriter Michael MacCambridge explains how football displaced baseball as America’s most popular sport. Baseball is what we wish we were. But football is who we really are: energetic, speedy, territorial, team-spirited, violent. There’s a reason its rise paralleled the post-World War II years; football fed the warrior need of returning soldiers-turned-civilians. Indeed, Johnny Unitas called it the “closest thing there is to all-out war.” In our age of concussion-related lawsuits and Bountygate, this rings unnervingly true.