Friday, February 18, 2005

Good Strong Sports Books

I received this email yesterday:

Hey can you give me some suggestions for any good strong sports books?


Seems like a reasonable request. Let me make a list of some good strong sports books that I really like. But first, you should know that generally, my favorite books are all likely to be football books. It is a topic that I cannot get enough of.

Cotton Bowl Days – John Eisenberg

I have said it before, and I will say it again. If you are a Cowboys fan who has not read this book, you might not be a Cowboys fan. This is gold! It is basically the story of the Dallas Cowboys from the time they were born in 1960 until the time they moved to Texas Stadium. This covers plenty of ground of course, as the Cowboys went on the historic run from being winless in 1960, to being “next year’s champion”, and finally to winning Super Bowl VI in New Orleans. During this entire story, the author weaves his own personal family history through the fabric of the Cowboys story. It is quite well done, and maybe the one book that I would recommend anyone who enjoys football history and is a Cowboys fan.

Going Long – Jeff Miller

Miller, who is actually a writer with the Dallas Morning News wrote a great historical account of the AFL. Perhaps you should make sure you care about this renegade league that changed so much of how football is played on and off the field, but if you do, he allows all of the main players to speak in his book. Much of it is written almost as a transcript of interviews with the hundreds of characters, allowing them to tell the stories, but from 1960-1969 the stories are amazing and intriguing, and another of my favorite books.

America’s Game – Michael MacCambridge

This book is only a few months old. It is maybe the best football book I have ever read. If you have any appreciation about how the NFL became the NFL, and how it caught and passed baseball in the race for America’s hearts, then read this book! It is amazing. I cannot recommend this book enough at it takes you from 1945 as the league was hanging on for dear life in the wake of World War II all the way until present day NFL. Every story is touched on, from how the revenue sharing came to pass, to the story of the 1963 gambling scandal that saw Paul Hornung and Alex Karras suspended, to the merger with the AFL, right to last season. This may be a book I read twice, I love it so much.

Seasons in Hell – Mike Shropshire

I honestly feel this is one of the most underrated sports books ever written. It was written about the early years of the Texas Rangers, 1972-75. To call it hilarious is an understatement, and again, as a fan of the Texas Rangers, check it out and get an entertaining look at how things used to be when the Rangers were really a joke.

A few others include: October 1964 – David Halberstam, the baseball book about the pennant race of 1964 (obviously), Raw Recruits – Armen Keteyian and Alexander Wolff, the basketball book that opened my eyes to recruiting and the cheating that goes with it (written in the early 1990’s), North Dallas Forty – Pete Gent, the fictional/non-fictional tale of life in the NFL in the 1960’s, The Boys of Summer – Roger Kahn, about the Brooklyn Dodgers of the 1950’s, Run to Daylight – Vince Lombardi, where Lombardi spends one week in 1963 explaining everything about everything for a game versus Detroit, and Of Ice and Men – Bruce Dowbiggin, a fine look at top players and the craft of hockey.

I am sure I am forgetting some, but a quick look at my bookshelf last night brought these to mind, and I will add more if they occur to me later. I imagine they are all available at


HOMER CALL AUDIO HERE …And a very nice write-up from our new best friend, Sports By!

WOW, Mavs beat Phoenix …This has been a very impressive week. Another day, another gutsy win.

Down to nine healthy players, the Mavericks got superior efforts from Josh Howard, who had a career-high 30 points, and Michael Finley, who tossed in season-high-tying 33. Combined with a big rebounding night from Dirk Nowitzki, the Mavericks offset a monster performance by Phoenix big man Amare Stoudemire.
"An incredible road trip,'' coach Don Nelson said. "This just capped off a perfect week.''

Jerry vows to have a better spring

Michael Westbrook in the steel cage?

Former Washington Redskins receiver Michael Westbrook received medical clearance yesterday to participate in a martial arts mixed cage match against Jarrod Bunch in Cleveland on Feb. 25.

CP claims players still negotiating to save hockey …I just pass on what I read…Don’t roll your eyes at me!

Modano wonders about his Union

Mariotti on Wirtz

How to phony-up your biography…By Reggie Fowler

Roy and Kelly – together again?

DEI healthy at Daytona ….

Everton braces for the return of Rooney Saturday

Phil Esposito ready to get behind new league

Shocker (not) of the day: “Dollar” Bill Wirtz happy about the cancellation of the season

President Bill Wirtz issued a letter of apology to the fans, saying he's "terribly disappointed'' about the cancellation, but insisted it was necessary.

"Our system is broken,'' said Wirtz, making a rare public appearance for the media. "A cost-certainty system is what must be established. As unpopular as it was, we knew we had to have a hard [salary] cap. A hard cap is the only way this league will survive. You can't use vanishing cream to get rid of a pregnancy. You can't deny $350 million in losses.''

Must Read this about Canseco’s credibility …It is laugh-out-loud funny!

Star Telegram loves Napoleon Dynamite

More Email:

One thing you haven't mentioned in either the show or the blog was mentioned by Ray Ferraro on PTI yesterday. One of the main reasons the players didn't accept the 42M dollar cap was that the league was not willing to include a minimum salary amount. Basically, they wanted to limit salaries ala NBA, but they weren't willing to put in a floor amount, which the NBA does. This is a huge problem, obviously, because you could still have the Stars, Rangers, and Maple Leafs at 42M, but have the Coyotes, Blue Jackets and Sabres with payrolls of 15M. I thought it was worth mentioning.

Ferraro also mentioned that he walked up to Bettman, and introduced himself and Bettman had no clue who he was. This is a guy who played for 15+ years and the comish had no clue. It would be like Reggie Miller going up to Stern and him saying "Reggie who?".

Luis in Tucson.

Wow, what a shock! The Smug Midget knows nothing about hockey! That is what we get for hiring someone who did not know Conn Smythe from Dick Smothers…

I can't take it anymore. Listening to Mr. Hicks this morning go on & onabout needing cost certanty, and blaming the rising cost of ticket priceson the players was the last straw. Using his logic, Ranger ticket prices should have come down about 50% in the past 2 years.

Tom Hicks purchased the Stars in 1995 for $84 million. The franchise(assuming the owner's don't kill the sport), is currently valued at approximately $250 million. In addition, he has pocketed at least $7.5 million in expansion fees (Nashville, Atlanta, Minnesota, and Columbus each paid at least $50 million to join the league since 1995, split among the other 26 (Nashville/Atlanta) or 28 (Minn/Columbus) owners.

So he has $7.5 million in expansion fees that don't count as revenue, approximately $165 million gain in franchise value, he owns the TV outlet that controls the broadcasts, but he can't run his hockey team responsibly like his other businesses so he blames the players for his problems.

Why is the league so determined to protect all the bad owners? The league would be much better off is 6 - 8 teams were allowed to fold. If their owners can't build fan support, they shouldn't operate. Why do the Stars or Red Wings want to kill the game so that Pittsburgh, Phoenix, and Florida can keep teams that their fans don't support?

I grew up playing the game, and have followed it since I first watched the Big Bad Bruins of the 70's. One of my best sports moments was being in attendance for game 1 of the Stars/Sabres Cup Finals. I can't guarantee that I'll come back, and for that I'm really pissed at Bettman & the owners, who seem intent on breaking the union, not improving the game.

Keep up the good work. I'll keep on never listening.

Jeff Mega
Celina, TX

And now, one who speaks for the many who disagree with me and my stance…


Bob, you mentioned yesterday that once the season was cancelled, that would be the last you would be talking about the NHL. Would you please stick to this promise? There is absolutely no reason to talk about. Let's face it the season has been done for weeks now and you've said all you can possibly say regarding your viewpoint. I realize you're at a bit of a low point for sports talking points at this time of year, but man I'd rather hear you go through and extensive analysis of the team stats of all NCAA D1 basketball teams before you do another segment on hockey.

Regarding your viewpoint (and this does not mean I want on-air hockey talk), I have always been puzzled by your negative assessment of the owners. Why on earth do the owners have to negotiate? Personally, I find it very refreshing to have a party state their position from the outset and then stick to it. Sure, they carry the bulk of culpability for screwing up the league with poorly planned expansion and letting salaries go the way of the big three pro sports; however, what is wrong with them taking an extremely hard line in trying to correct the situation? The players would never agree to anything that would come close to saving hockey long term if the owners did not take this approach.

An often overlooked point is the blame that fans should take in all this, after all, they are the ones paying ridiculous amounts for the flawed product and all its absurd by-products (clothing, concessions, parking, etc.) Sure, they bitch and moan, but still plunk down their credit card for a $75.00 ticket, $100 shirt, $35.00 hat, $8.00 burger, and $7.00 watered down draught beer, that, in all likelihood, they can't afford. Attending an NHL game, at least in Toronto, on your own dime is an extremely under whelming and disappointing experience. The Raptors and Blue Jays are the same by the way, but at least the televised product is bearable. My rule of them is that I will go to games in Toronto if the tickets are free and someone else drives. Sabre games are much preferable, but it is still an expensive night that leaves you wondering why you did it the next morning when you assess the damage. The only major team pro games I pay to go see are the Bills - decent tickets and concessions are reasonable and the tailgate experience is as enjoyable as the game.

I sincerely hope the situation extends into next season and that there are some drastic results, such as teams folding. On Norm's show, Matvichuk (sp?) referred to 700 players in the league - out of those 700 there are probably 400 who have legitimate NHL talent. The league sucks. It is a horribly diluted and boring product that was dying a slow death. Even here in Ontario the NHL has been turning diehards into casual fans and casual fans into non-fans. As for new fans, kids are still very much into playing hockey but they are not the fans of the NHL that the kids of the 60's, 70's, and 80's were. The NBA and NFL are what kids are into up here as far as sports goes. I can't imagine what a non-factor the NHL is in the US.

Every time there is a pro sports strike I hope for this outcome because I think it is the first step towards completely revamping pro sports and returning them to the accessible (and family) products they once were. Wishful thinking I know.

I am a huge sports fan but I find the skewed position that pro sports now command in our society a depressing proposition. Maybe its a product of my age (pushing 40) but I am nowhere near the avid fan of my favorite teams that I once was, and I really miss that. The only sport I follow avidly now is golf and I think it's because although the money is ridiculous, these guys still have to perform to earn it and I can cheer for my favorite players for as long as they play - they can't change teams every 2 or 3 years, ie: I can follow players and not management entities which is pretty much what you are doing with the major team sports.

Sorry for the verbosity, but I've been meaning to write you for a while now. I hope you have the time to read it and comment.

Good times,

John McLennan, B.A., C.R.M.

John, it appears we obviously disagree on who should be responsible for making concessions to clean up the owner’s mess. Otherwise, your email is spot on in many areas. I enjoyed reading it, and wanted to make sure many others got to soak all of these emails in as an example of the hundreds I have received on this topic…


Observer said...

I haven't read too many football books, and I appreciate the ones you pointed out. I'm a big book nut myself, so sorry if this beats you down, but ...

To the football list, I would also add a recommendation for H. G. Bissinger's Friday Night Lights.

I totally agree with you on Seasons in Hell. If you follow the link, I have about ten really funny quotes from that book.

Other baseball books I'd recommend would be Ball Four by Jim Bouton and Moneyball by Michael Lewis. Those are pretty well-known.

If poker books count in this category, I know there are a lot out these days. Most of them are fairly derivative of the stories in Doyle Brunson's Super System or the older Biggest Game in Town by A. Alvarez.

Anonymous said...

I would Recommend Bleachers by John Grisham. If you are a former athlete of anykind it is a great story of how cant go back. Has some great good ole day references.

MarkCiz said...

I also recommend Seasons In Hell. It's absolutely hilarious. Another funny baseball book is Little League Confidential by Bill Geist. It's the funniest book I've ever read.

AceMakr said...

Strum, Loose Balls - Terry Pluto

fgoodwin said...

I know my comments are five years after-the-fact, but I just stumbled upon this blog post and wanted to add my thoughts. I agree that "Cotton Bowl Days" is a must-read for Cowboy fans. Many of today's fans have no idea the struggles the team went through in its early years. This book is a very personal account from a fan's point of view and a worthy addition to the bookshelf of every Cowboys fan.

I haven't read "Going Long" but I understand Miller is working on a history of the Cowboys due in late June of 2010. I'm looking forward to it.

Finally, I haven't read "Seasons in Hell" but I have read Shropshire's book "Ice Bowl". It was horrible, ans the Amazon reviews confirm this. Maybe he's better at baseball?