An unabashed fan of professional football offers a spirited defense of a sport besieged by controversy.
While the book isn’t likely to convert anyone who considers the sport unconscionably violent, it offers comfort to fellow fans that the sport deserves their attention and even their love. “In today’s NFL, there’s much not to like,” writes former ESPN.com and current Atlantic columnist Easterbrook (The King of Sports: Football's Impact on America, 2013, etc.), who decries taxpayer subsidies of franchises worth billions and children being introduced to playing the sport before either their maturity or their bodies can deal with the risks. “There is also a lot that’s terrific, creating a love-hate relationship so many Americans feel with the national game.” The author praises the example it sets of teamwork, of putting the common goal above the individual accomplishment, of the way that the sport can revive and rally community spirit. He discusses the symbiotic relationship of pro football and TV, though he rails against the ineptitude of most cliché-ridden TV announcers and says that fans without access to a radio broadcast might be better with the TV sound off. He makes much of the sport’s masculinity, verging on boorishness in the process: “Increasingly the media elite look down on manhood, depicting male behavior and male impulses as things to be ashamed of.” But he also has a lighter attitude toward the game, and he devotes more space than warranted to a strategic argument against punting. On more substantive issues, Easterbrook insists that football players know the risks of concussion and are paid accordingly, that violence toward women is no more common among these high-profile athletes than amid the public at large, and that “the commissioner penalizes players not for being unethical but for causing bad publicity.” Hence, “Deflategate,” a “matter too trivial to discuss, let alone to activate such a national ruckus,” with a quarterback’s suspension overruled by the judiciary since this book was written.
A breezy read that provides cultural context to accompany another football season.