Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
At a time when the reputation of the National Football League is under siege, Easterbrook (The King of Sports), a contributing editor at the Atlantic and the Washington Monthly, defends the sport but scolds its governing organization, which he calls "broken and needing reform." Easterbrook examines the public fallout stemming from the New England Patriots' "Deflategate" scandal, the chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) lawsuit and its massive cash settlement for ailing veteran players, the domestic assault debacle involving former running back Ray Rice, and various changes to rules in order to safeguard current players. He describes how the ambitious NFL empire brings in billions in revenue for the major TV networks and cable systems, yet he blasts the diminishing power of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, calling him "a water boy who makes eight figures." In a series of familiar arguments, Easterbrook speaks of football as a sport of civic pride, a way to lift boys out of poverty, and a game that mirrors America's obsession with violence and organized mayhem; some segments, such as the dull poetic bits and hastily assembled highlight reel of memorable moments, feel like filler. (Dec.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review
Easterbrook (The King of Sports) is a political writer who, for many years, has written an online column about football. In many ways, this latest book is an abbreviated update of the themes of The King of Sports. The author finds football distinctly American, and that it holds a mirror to American culture and society regarding gender, health, drugs and economics. While Easterbrook believes football's combination of strength, speed, power, and thinking make it the best of sports, this is less a defense of the game than a validation of the author's reform plan for the sport. For example, to address brain injury, he advocates for no youth football before middle school, less practice time, and no three- or four-point stances for linemen. However, he is most engaged when railing about the unholy alliance among the National Football League (NFL), government, media outlets, and advertisers that lead to tax breaks for billionaires to build stadiums and advantageous tie-ins for large corporations. "Bonus" appendixes reprise familiar elements from his columns, such as his aversion to punting and his silly use of haiku in discussing the game. VERDICT With a distinct voice, -Easterbrook makes important observations about the game that will have a broader appeal than just football fans. © Copyright 2015. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review
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 clich-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. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.