My love for football and great narrative sports writing have come up a couple of times on the blog, which makes today – the first game of the NFL season – the perfect day for a Narrative Nonfiction 5 on pro football.
Come tonight, I’ll be settled in with my roommate watching the Minnesota Vikings take on the New Orleans Saints and cheering for the team that consistently breaks my heart. I can’t wait.
If you like football at all, I think any one of these books would add to your appreciation of the sport and just how complicated it can be.
The Blind Side by Michael Lewis
This is probably the most famous book on the list, given that it was such a successful movie last year. The Blind Side tells two stories – one about Michael Oher, a poor kid from Memphis taken in by a wealthy white family that helped turn him into a football prodigy. The second storyline is more specifically about football – the development of the left tackle position to be the second-highest paid player on a team (because the left tackle protects the teams most valuable player, the quarterback). The left tackle sections are a little stats heavy, but the inspiration of Michael Oher’s story more than makes up for that. (My Review)
A Few Seconds of Panic by Stefan Fatsis
The subtitle of this book pretty much sums it up – Stefan Fatsis wanted to find out what it’s like to be a player in the NFL, so he convinced the Denver Broncos to let him join the team for mini camp and training camp as a kicker. The book follows Fatsis’ progress as a kicker and what it means to be a player in the NFL – how fickle and complicated and unstable the whole enterprise can be. This is another pretty football heavy book – like The Blind Side – but one I really enjoyed. (My Review)
Paper Lion by George Plimpton
This 1966 book was the inspiration for A Few Seconds of Panic. During the 1963 football season, Plimpton, a sports writer, joined the Detroit Lions with the impression that he was trying to be the team’s third-string quarterback. The coaches were aware, but the players didn’t know right away. The stunt showed how difficult it would be for an average person to play in the NFL, which only got more difficult by the time Fatsis tried it.
The Draft by Pete Williams
In this book, sports business writer Pete Williams looks at the NFL selection process, starting with the fall 2004 college football season through the April 2005 draft. The book covers the history of the draft, the preparation for the players, and what happens in the “interview process” of professional football. I haven’t read this, but reviews say the book is a little infomercial-esque. Still, I think it’d be an interesting primer to the football season.
Next Man Up by John Feinstein
This book covers the 2004 Baltimore Ravens’ football season, focusing pretty heavily on the lead-up to the season. Again, a book I haven’t read, but from what I’ve read it makes a pretty persuasive argument that professional football is the most dramatic of American sports and deserves our attention.
In doing research for this post, I found a few books on high school football that I wanted to include but didn’t quite fit the theme. They looked awesome though, so the’re here as a bonus.
Carry the Rock by Jay Jennings is about the football team in Little Rock after integration in 1957. It looks a bit like Remember the Titans.
Got any plans for NFL opening weekend? What’s your favorite football team? Any other favorite football books?