Bart Starr and the Rise of the National Football League
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An admiring tribute to Bart Starr, who led the Green Bay Packers to NFL Championships in the 1960s and to easy victories in the first two Super Bowls.

Journalist Dunnavant (The Missing Ring: How Bear Bryant and the 1966 Alabama Crimson Tide Were Denied College Football's Most Elusive Prize, 2006, etc.) feigns no objectivity, offering a throwback 1940s-era sports biography that seems to have slipped through a time warp. The narrative begins with the observation that the efficient, stolid Starr has been underrated and then moves to his early life in the mid ’30s. Born to a militaristic father, Starr grew up in a home characterized by competition. Starr’s father encouraged his sons to compete with each other, favored Bart’s brother (who died in boyhood of tetanus) and only grudgingly came to deem worthy the athletic accomplishments of his surviving son. Dunnavant credits the elder Starr’s harsh household for Bart’s moral and athletic growth and throughout rails against the permissiveness of the ’60s. Continually, the author inserts Wikipedian updates on American culture in various years and decades, a technique that soon grows wearisome—as does his fondness for single-sentence paragraphs that seem designed to emphasize but instead add only white space to the narrative. Dunnavant dutifully and unremarkably chronicles Starr’s progress as a player through high school, the University of Alabama and the Packers—at each stage no one expected that he would excel—noting his assiduousness, praising his character (his devotion to his wife, his philanthropy) so often that he sounds like a doting press agent. The author tries to sugarcoat Starr’s later problems as a head coach and GM and, fittingly, ends with the words “thunderous ovation.”

A fawning fan letter.


Pub Date: Sept. 13th, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-312-36349-9
Page count: 368pp
Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 2011


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