A collection of some of the zaniest off-the-field and behind-the-scenes stories out of the National Football League.
Increasingly, the world of professional sports finds itself toeing a thin line between athletic competition and Hollywood entertainment, with athletes often gaining as much recognition (and notoriety) for non-sports-related headlines and legal problems as on-field excellence. Sportswriter Rand (Fields of Honor, not reviewed) has assembled a hodgepodge of anecdotes, stories and incidents in an attempt to focus on the entertainment aspects of professional football, or the “No Fun League,” as it has been dubbed by pundits. Included are entries on recent prima donnas such as Terrell Owens, whose outrageously selfish and bizarre antics have dominated headlines the past few seasons, and rough-and-tumble players of the past, such as Dick Butkus and the Oakland Raiders of the 1970s. One of Rand’s primary goals is to show that even in a sport where helmets remove much of the individuality of the competitors, characters still abound, an endeavor in which he largely succeeds. There’s the ongoing trash-talk battle between mammoth defensive tackle Warren Sapp and ironman quarterback Brett Favre, the prank-filled career of Steve DeBerg, and quotes from former Tampa Bay coach John McKay, who, when asked about his team’s “execution” during a winless season, replied, “I’m in favor of it.” There’s also the story of the onetime media-savvy and coolly confident Joe Namath drunkenly slurring, “I wanna kiss you!,” to sideline reporter Suzy Kolber in 2003, and an appearance from the darling of wrestling entrepreneur Vince McMahon’s now-defunct XFL, Rod “He Hate Me” Smart. While these stories span the league’s history, many of them are well-known, making it mostly skimmable for football fans. As an overview, however, it does present a number of amusing and interesting tales.
Good reading during commercial breaks on fall Sundays.