An engaging and informative cultural history, on and off the gridiron.

A rich history of the rise of the National Football League from its virtual obscurity at its genesis in the 1920s to its position as an economic and cultural powerhouse today.

Former Baltimore Sun sportswriter Eisenberg (The Streak: Lou Gehrig, Cal Ripken Jr., and Baseball's Most Historic Record, 2017, etc.) returns with the story of how five owners—George Halas, Bert Bell, George Preston Marshall, Art Rooney, and Tim Mara—refused to give up on the struggling league and lived to see (and cause) its current dominance. Thoroughly researched and gracefully told, the story begins with the background of each of the five, then moves chronologically through the early years of the league—struggles, controversies (among the most significant was the arrival of black players), adjustments (to radio and then TV)—to its full arrival in 1958, when 40 million people watched the Baltimore Colts defeat the New York Giants in the exciting championship game. As the author repeatedly points out, these five were fierce rivals, but they knew that to make the league survive and flourish, they could not destroy one another. So they compromised and changed rules to make the game more exciting; all would live to see the league’s vigorous health. (The final chapter deals with the deaths of each.) Although Eisenberg is admiring of the founders, he also recognizes—and highlights—their weaknesses. Marshall, for example, was a racist, the last to bring blacks onto his team, the Washington Redskins. Although the author provides some details about some key games (and iconic players like Red Grange, Marion Motley, and Sam Huff), the narrative is not a rehearsal of games but of the history of a game, a business, and five men who took a chance, lost money, and then found great success.

An engaging and informative cultural history, on and off the gridiron.

Pub Date: Oct. 9, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-465-04870-0

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Basic Books

Review Posted Online: July 30, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018


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

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



Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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