Gridiron fans of all stripes will find this a fascinating exercise in the collision of money, entertainment, politics, and...

FOOTBALL FOR A BUCK

THE CRAZY RISE AND CRAZIER DEMISE OF THE USFL

Scathing, action-packed account of the rise and fall of spring football in the 1980s, with a familiar villain to the piece.

In 1961, writes Pearlman (Gunslinger: The Remarkable, Improbable, Iconic Life of Brett Favre, 2016, etc.), a New Orleans–based art dealer and entrepreneur named David Dixon wondered why it was that the National Football League was so resistant to expanding outside of its existing franchises. His solution: to build a league for play in the “vast sports wasteland” of spring in those years before March Madness. Five years later, the United States Football League was born, though it would take another decade and a half before anything substantial came of it. The newborn league had rules meant to level the field among rich and poor teams, including caps on salaries and limits on how they were distributed among star players and workhorses. Said one team owner at the time, “we had a gentleman’s agreement,” adding, “of course, that’s only OK as long as you have gentlemen agreeing.” Enter Donald Trump, owner of the New Jersey franchise, who immediately began breaking those agreements and demanding that other owners subsidize him even as he revealed the depths of his ignorance about the game. Trump also began to press for the USFL to play not in spring but in fall, going up against the NFL and prompting speculation that he was really after an NFL franchise to call his own. In the end, the USFL collapsed—though, as Pearlman notes, it lives on in unexpected ways, including Trump’s arrival in the White House. “Thirty-three years after insisting his fellow owners would pay for Doug Flutie,” writes the author, “he was insisting Mexico would pay for a border wall.” If nothing else, Pearlman’s fluently told story provides context for why the sitting president holds the NFL in such contempt—and why the sentiment should be richly returned.

Gridiron fans of all stripes will find this a fascinating exercise in the collision of money, entertainment, politics, and ego.

Pub Date: Oct. 11, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-544-45438-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: July 29, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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Thus the second most costly war in American history, whose “outcome seemed little short of a miracle.” A sterling account.

1776

A master storyteller’s character-driven account of a storied year in the American Revolution.

Against world systems, economic determinist and other external-cause schools of historical thought, McCullough (John Adams, 2001, etc.) has an old-fashioned fondness for the great- (and not-so-great) man tradition, which may not have much explanatory power but almost always yields better-written books. McCullough opens with a courteous nod to the customary villain in the story of American independence, George III, who turns out to be a pleasant and artistically inclined fellow who relied on poor advice; his Westmoreland, for instance, was a British general named Grant who boasted that with 5,000 soldiers he “could march from one end of the American continent to the other.” Other British officers agitated for peace, even as George wondered why Americans would not understand that to be a British subject was to be free by definition. Against these men stood arrayed a rebel army that was, at the least, unimpressive; McCullough observes that New Englanders, for instance, considered washing clothes to be women’s work and so wore filthy clothes until they rotted, with the result that Burgoyne and company had a point in thinking the Continentals a bunch of ragamuffins. The Americans’ military fortunes were none too good for much of 1776, the year of the Declaration; at the slowly unfolding battle for control over New York, George Washington was moved to despair at the sight of sometimes drunk soldiers running from the enemy and of their officers “who, instead of attending to their duty, had stood gazing like bumpkins” at the spectacle. For a man such as Washington, to be a laughingstock was the supreme insult, but the British were driven by other motives than to irritate the general—not least of them reluctance to give up a rich, fertile and beautiful land that, McCullough notes, was providing the world’s highest standard of living in 1776.

Thus the second most costly war in American history, whose “outcome seemed little short of a miracle.” A sterling account.

Pub Date: June 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-7432-2671-2

Page Count: 656

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2005

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