The best way to spend NFL Downtime before training camps is to read a book like Michael MacCambridge’s America’s Game
With the NFL in “Downtime” until training camps start in late July, many league followers only news at this time seems to be mostly negative. Yes, there are still positive stories like “The New York Jets won the NFL’s Offseason”, “Donovan McNabb Returns to Philly to hold his annual camp” and “Carolina receiver Dwayne Jarrett has finally turned the corner” that briefly dot league news sources.
However…Thanks to recent events involving Philadelphia Eagles backup QB Michael Vick (shooting at his 30th B-Day Party), Pittsburgh Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger (Bar hopping gone array in Milledgeville, GA), Tennessee Titans QB Vince Young (misdemeanor assault citation after allegedly punching a guy for an upside down hook’em Horns sign), Cincinnati Bengals RB Cedric Benson (just charged for a bar fight with a bouncer) and the ever present NFL Personal Conduct Policy – just celebrated its 3rd birthday — the league’s negative news “Blotter” has been working overtime.
But I for one usually like to accentuate the “real” stories of the NFL and the 1500 or so other players that are “Doing the Right Thing” – So I have one suggestion for everyone during “NFL Downtime”….PICK UP A BOOK.
Right now I am reading the heartwarming book, The Marrow in Me, which tells the stories of the many people who are battling leukemia daily and how each of us can do our part in helping them continue their fight. Author Kevin Walsh, an anchor for Comcast Sportsnet in Boston and my junior high’s former quarterback, does a great job of showing just “how” important one person can be far beyond their wildest dreams. I highly recommend the book, even if it is not “football” related :)
For those looking to cure their football fix, I have listed my Top 5 Pro Football related books
- Three Bricks Shy of a Load by Roy Blount Jr – A great book that brings the NFL’s premier team from the 1970’s, the Pittsburgh Steelers, to life. Blount was practically a member of the Steelers as he gave the best insight that I have ever read on the building of a championship level team from training camp to the playoffs. And to say the least this book is filled with colorful real-life “characters”.
- Third and a Mile: The Trials and Triumphs of the Black Quarterback by William Rhoden – Alright, I will start with the disclaimer that I was a key contributor to this book. But this masterpiece truly is special. This yarn not only tells the sociological aspects of the African American Quarterback’s journey, it also has more “first hand” knowledge and stories — from the people that lived it — than any book that I have ever read. From early pioneers like Fritz Pollard to Doug Williams to Donovan McNabb it is all there in graphic oratory form.
- America’s Game: The Epic Story of How Pro Football Captured a Nation by Michael MacCambridge – This book is living and breathing history. MacCambridge starts by talking about the “Greatest Game Ever Played”, the 1958 NFL Championship, and then fills in the gaps in every way imaginable from Bert Bell and the league’s early innovators to the monumental AFL/NFL merger to today’s megawatt billion-dollar version.
- Tailgating, Sacks, And Salary Caps by Mark Yost – Some may think this book is too money driven, but if you want to learn the business, economics, history, and collective bargaining aspects of the NFL, this is the book for you — And let’s face it, we all know that the NFL is all about big bucks. Yost lives up to his Wall Street Journal pedigree by telling the story of the NFL from the perspective of the league’s front office, television execs, merchandisers, new stadium constructors, fantasy football geeks and much more.
- Sports Illustrated Monday Morning Quarterback by Peter King – Some may not enjoy Peter King’s weekly NFL news and notes column, but I am a big fan. King, a veteran pro football scribe and coffee aficionado, gives great information and facts in his light hearted stories that come from his many years working the league’s beat. The stories are genuine plus this SI vet is probably the most plugged guy in the NFL. The book is filled with quirky league history and notes…of course wrapped around some talk about family and traveling in the NFL’s ever-moving caravan.
Other books to consider: The Philadelphia Eagles Encyclopedia by Ray Didinger and Bob Lyons; Outside the Lines: African Americans and the integration of the National Football League by Charles Ross; Pigskin: The Early Years of Pro Football by Robert W. Peterson; and The Thinking Man’s Guide to Football by Paul “Dr. Z” Zimmerman