The equinox has passed, autumn is in the air, bones are broken and brains contused against the skull--America's most popular sport has returned for another glorious season. While here at Green Apple, books on America's past time have proven more commercially viable than those on America's more violent Sunday showdowns, a few great titles concerning professional football have arrived this fall, to wit--
Best of Rivals by Adam Lazarus is an in-depth report on the days when Steve Young backed up Joe Montana during the 49ers glory years. Thankfully, the local eleven are quite strong this year, so the media isn't dependent on digging up old news to satisfy local fans. Nevertheless, having two #1s at your most important position is a good problem to have, except for the #1 who ends up sittin'. However closely one may have followed this story, there will be something new discovered in this exhaustive work.
The Last Headbangers by Kevin Cook is mis-titled, as many heads are banged, hammered and slammed in the modern game. To be fair, the violence of today's NFL is in many aspects quite tuned down from the legalized muggings of the 1970s. Cook begins his story with the 1974 Oakland-Pittsburgh Divisonal playoff, immortalized as "The Immaculate Reception" in the Steel City and remembered less charitably by East Bay devotees and sympathizers. Miami and Dallas figure in as powers of the time, and the end of '70s style pro football is marked here by "the Catch," the January '82 Dwight Clark reception heralding the rise of 49ers dynasty.
The Code by Ross Bernstein purports to explicate the "unwritten rules" of the game and the penalties enforced by other players on those who cross them. In practice it's a compilation of anecdotes about the culture of physical intimidation on the field. No one wants to injure anyone, they just want to hit them so hard they stop playing. Well then.
The National Forgotten League by Dan Daly covers the early days of pro football, ending with the birth of the AFL in 1960. This book is also a collection of anecdotes, but darn, there are some good ones. The first professionals were regarded by the general public as thugs too undisciplined to work for a regular criminal enterprise. The fans were held in even lower regard, being largely immigrant single men who spent the Lord's day gettin' drunk and gambling on the aforementioned thugs. Football is a rough game today, but it's nothing like the Coal Leagues of Western Pennsylvania, where nationally renowned referees had to be imported to prevent fans who bet on the losing side from rioting.
The professional football season is only five months a year, so let those of us who care, care deeply, and let's use the power of reading to broaden our historical knowledge. It would be a shame to run out of things to yell about.