Sports Book Reviews

“Football Nation,” “Their Life’s Work” and Other Fall Tomes
By Harvey Frommer, Contributor
September 23, 2013 Updated: September 23, 2013

It is the time of the year when baseball is going down the home stretch, football is coming on the sporting scene with a vengeance and the subject matter of all other sports is still a part of the publishing mix. So here is a very interesting collection for your reading pleasure.

“Football Nation” by Susan Reyburn (Abrams, $30.00, 256 pages) is sub-titled “Four Hundred Years of America’s Game.” The sub-title is an exaggeration. For many, baseball is still the nation pastime. And the book is a gloss over in words and marvelous images from the Library of Congress of not exactly 400 year’s worth of football. Nevertheless, for football fans, for sports fans, for those interested in history and culture—this is the book for you even though its grasp is survey-like not in depth prose. RECOMMENDED

“Their Life’s Work” by Gary M. Pomerantz (Simon & Schuster, $28.00, 480 pages) is an opposite kind of book from “Football Nation.” In depth, scrupulously researched, carefully edited, the work focuses on the Steelers of the 1970s and updates the now. Pomerantz truly was into his subject, conducting as he says more than 200 interviews and traveling about to various research locales to flesh out his terrific tome. “Their Life’s Work” is wonderful reading and should be required reading for all those who are part of Steeler Nation. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

“Rising Tide” by Randy Roberts & Ed Krzemienski (Twelve, $28.00, 437 pages) is a detail-loaded and academically-tilted tome focused on Joe Namath, northerner and Bear Bryant, southerner and how their relationship forged at the University of Alabama culminated in creating something special for football, race relations and the two men. It probes how college football became big business, how early sports and TV partnered, how civil rights was an agenda item of both politics and football. MUST READ

“The Last Headbangers” by Kevin Cook (Norton, $15.95, 304 pages, paper) is a reprint of the raunchy weirdos, wacky villains, flat out football geeks. It is also prime time NFL narrative 1970s style. It features Roger Staubach, Franco Harris, Terry Bradshaw, Ken Stabler and other “names” from that time who front and center in helping the world of pro football stake its claim as the true national pastime. WORTH A READ

“Relentless” by Tim S. Grover (Scribner, $26.00, 256 pages) is sub-titled “From Good to Great to Unstoppable” and focuses on the work of a legendary trainer who has worked with stars such as Jordan, Wade, Bryant and enabled them, in the author’s words, to become even greater than they thought they could be. Very interesting reading with applicable tips for all.

“Going the Distance” by Michael Joyce (SUNY Press, $24.95, 236 pages, paper) is a novel about baseball and those who love the game. It celebrates the sport, the New York landscape. It also gives us a winning new fictional character–John “Jack” Flynn, pitcher filled with promise who must re-invent himself after an injury. Read on . . .

“The World in the Curl” by Peter Westwick and Peter Neushul (Crown, $26.00, 416 pages) is a fascinating and unconventional historical narrative of the history of surfing. We are there from the Polynesian settlement of Hawaii all the way through the present time’s industry of global surfing. The book reveals the ins and outs, the magic and mystery of a fascinating sub-culture.

Harvey Frommer, a noted oral historian and sports journalist, author of 41 sports books, including the classics “New York City Baseball 1947-1957,” “Shoeless Joe and Ragtime Baseball,” “Remembering Yankee Stadium,” and “Remembering Fenway Park,” is currently working on a book on the first Super Bowl—anyone with contacts, stories, suggestions please contact.