≡ Menu

Nonfiction November: Become the Expert (on Football)

nonfiction november 2014

Hooray, it’s the second week of Nonfiction November! Your official host this week is Leslie (Regular Rumination), so make sure to link up your posts on her blog.

Our topic this week is a repeat from last year and was probably my personal favorite week:

Be The Expert/Ask the Expert/Become the Expert: Three ways to join in this week! You can either share three or more books on a single topic that you have read and can recommend (be the expert), you can put the call out for good nonfiction on a specific topic that you have been dying to read (ask the expert), or you can create your own list of books on a topic that you’d like to read (become the expert).

Anyone who has read this blog for a length of time knows that I really love to watch football. I wasn’t always a fan, but as I watched more and started to better understand how the game works, it grew on me to the point where I regularly watch games and participate in two fantasy football leagues. I think, when played well, the game is elegant and complicated and really interesting to watch.

This year, though, it’s been really hard to be a football fan – especially a female football fan. The fact that the National Football League can go nuts in support of breast cancer awareness, but refuses to deal rationally with the epidemic of domestic violence among players is just the worst. I’ve been so down much of this season because it’s just been sad to think about the incompetence of the organization that oversees the game. To try and understand the League, as well as broader football culture in the United States, I’ve put together this reading list:

against footballAgainst Football: One Fan’s Reluctant Manifesto by Steve Almond

In this book, out just this fall from Melville House, football fan Steve Almond explains why he has given upon the sport after 40 years as a fan. In the book he looks at many of the negative aspects of football – tolerance for violence, greed and homophobia; the effect of money on teams and players; and the increasing scientific evidence that playing football can lead to long-term physical and mental problems for players. Fellow book blogger Florinda (The 3Rs Blog) read the book and recommended it to me, so it’s high on my list.

why football mattersWhy Football Matters: My Education in the Game by Mark Edmundson

Also out this fall, I think Why Football Matters will be a good counterpoint to Against Football. In this book, essayist Mark Edmonson looks specifically at the lessons of youth football, using his own experience as a high school athlete as well as the experiences of his football-playing son. I’m interested in this book specifically because I think the questions about football extend beyond the professional level – I want to read more about the potential value of football to young people, especially those who never go on to play in college or at a professional level.

america's cameAmerica’s Game: The Epic Story of How Pro Football Captured a Nation by Michael MacCambridge

Despite the popularity of football today, it hasn’t always been the dominant sport in the United States. As I was digging around for books on the history of the game, Michael MacCambridge’s comprehensive history of football from post-World War II to the present, seemed widely recommended. The book looks at the game’s reception after World War II, how labor disputes and controversies in the 1980sna d1990s threatened the game, and how the sport came to dominate contemporary culture. I think this one will provide good context for the arguments made in other books on this list.

fantasy lifeFantasy Life: The Outrageous, Uplifting, and Heartbreaking World of Fantasy Sports from the Guy Who’s Lived It by Matthew Barry

The idea of fantasy football – picking players from various teams for your personal team, to play against other fictitious teams – is pretty ridiculous. But I’m also a little addicted to it, even when my teams are terrible. According to the jacket copy for Fantasy Life, more than 35 million people in the United States and Canada participate in fantasy sports leagues. That’s a little nuts. In this book, Matthew Berry, senior fantasy sports analyst for ESPN (I can’t believe that’s a real job), looks at the range of the fantasy sports world and tries to explain why it’s a national pastime.

So there you have it – my reading list for becoming an expert on American football culture. I’ve got a lot of reading to do.

Programming Notes

  • Bex (An Armchair By the Sea) is organizing a nonfiction book swap in conjunction with Nonfiction November. Check out that post for more information.
  • Our readalong posts for The Restless Sleep and Cleopatra: A Life will go up on Wednesday, Nov. 19. Follow this link to find out more about the readalongs.
  • Our Nonfiction November Twitter hashtag is #nonficnov. The conversation there is awesome.
  • A big shout out to my co-hosts: Leslie (Regular Rumination), Katie (Doing Dewey) and Rebecca (I’m Lost In Books). Again, Leslie is your host this week so make sure to link up your discussion posts and reviews there.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Heather November 10, 2014, 7:10 am

    I love football too, though mostly college. I’ll have to check out some of your suggestions.

  • Leila @ Readers' Oasis November 10, 2014, 7:26 am

    I can’t say I ever watch football–I’m the one in the armchair reading a book when the family puts a game on. 🙂 My husband is a West Point grad, so the Army football games are usually watched in my household (and usually, become a source of great distress). It looks like you put together an essential reading list for football fans!

    • Kim November 16, 2014, 1:55 pm

      I definitely used to be a read on the chair while others watch person, but it’s really grown on me.

  • Leah @ Books Speak Volumes November 10, 2014, 7:38 am

    I don’t like watching football, but some of these books sound interesting regardless!

  • Trisha November 10, 2014, 7:41 am

    The NFL has been ticking me off too. From what I’ve heard, the NBA and MLB are already putting together programs – or at least in talks about them – in response to the NFL’s lack of response to domestic violence. Great list of books!

    • Kim November 16, 2014, 1:57 pm

      I hope that other professional leagues are looking at the issue now. The NFL has really botched it at every step (first not reacting enough to Ray Rice, then overcompensating to address criticism).

  • Lory @ Emerald City Book Review November 10, 2014, 7:49 am

    A lifelong football hater, I should probably read Why Football Matters to stretch my mind around some unfamiliar concepts! Thanks for the list.

  • BermudaOnion(Kathy) November 10, 2014, 8:15 am

    I have Why Football Matters to read – I hope it will restore my enthusiasm for the game.

  • Sarah @ Sarah's Book Shelves November 10, 2014, 11:28 am

    I love this topic!! And – I read a football book as one of my Nonfiction November picks (Striking Gridiron by Greg Nichols…review will be up in the next week or so). I also have a sports books list on my blog and have some great football ones on there…and they’re all different than your list. I think the fantasy one looks interesting – fantasy mania has had such an impact on how people watch games and it was a brilliant marketing ploy!

    • Kim November 16, 2014, 1:58 pm

      I did a list of football books a year or so ago, and they were all different (mostly memoirs and “inside the game” books). Now I’m more curious about the NFL and history of the game, so the list shifted. Clearly, it’s not hard to read a lot about football!

  • Becca Lostinbooks November 10, 2014, 12:44 pm

    I don’t really care about American football, but if I did, this would be an excellent pile of books to add to my TBR pile!

  • bookmammal November 10, 2014, 3:46 pm

    Great list! I enjoy reading sports books, but I usually focus on baseball and basketball. “Against Football” is on my TBR list–just waiting to get to the top of the hold list.
    Have you read “Beer and Circuses”? (The author is slipping my mind) It’s about the commercialization of college sports–including football. Pretty thought-provoking.

    • Kim November 16, 2014, 1:59 pm

      No, I haven’t read that one — thanks for the recommendation! I went to small liberal arts college, so never really got into college sports, but the way that system has been hijacked by money is really interesting too.

  • Holly November 10, 2014, 6:07 pm

    This is completely dorky, but last year I read “Take Your Eye Off the Ball: How to Watch Football by Knowing Where to Look” so that I could get more out of lazy football Sundays with my husband! It’s definitely a strategy book, not a narrative, but it gives interesting background on the development of a team. I’m also partial to “The Blind Side.” I definitely want to check out a few of the books on your list too!

    • Kim November 16, 2014, 2:00 pm

      That’s a great idea! I started to look football more when I started to ask my dad questions about what was happening. Understanding how the game works really does make it more interesting to watch.

  • Jenny @ Reading the End November 10, 2014, 8:15 pm

    I love this post! And I sympathize with you — it’s been a rough season for my Saints, anyway, but even without that, it’s been a crappy year to be a girl and a football fan. I swear if I could slap Roger Goodell’s face, I would do it. It would be so satisfying.

    UGH I wouldn’t really do it, but I would VERY MUCH want to.

    • Kim November 16, 2014, 2:02 pm

      Yup, I 100 percent agree. The Vikings have been frustrating too. I’m trying to prepare myself for this week when the NFL and the team decide what to do about AP again. I’m nervous.

  • TJ @ MyBookStrings November 10, 2014, 8:44 pm

    I prefer baseball to football, but America’s Game sounds interesting. Maybe if I read it, the time between the World Series and Spring Training won’t seem so long anymore. 🙂

  • Jay November 11, 2014, 7:21 am

    I’d like to read Against Football. I’ve been an Indianapolis Colts season ticket holder for many years and each year I say will be my last but I keep coming back for more. I mean it every year, too 🙂

    Injuries, money, fan behavior, and player behavior all often make me question why I willingly participate in such a spectacle. Then Andrew Luck hits T.Y. Hilton on a long touchdown pass and I leap up screaming and shouting and high-fiving strangers and forget all about those reasons for a while.

    • Kim November 16, 2014, 2:03 pm

      Right? That’s exactly how I feel. Outside a game the whole thing is terrible, but watching a beautifully executed play in the middle of a close game it’s so great. Blah!

  • Jennifer @ The Relentless Reader November 11, 2014, 12:35 pm

    Oh, football. Oh, how I love and loathe you in equal measure…especially lately. I’ve been a football (Packer) fan since the beginning of my mortal journey 😉 but this year…wow. It’s probably been this way for years (MONEY RULING ALL DECISIONS) but it’s no longer something that can be ignored. I keep hoping that the powers that be will learn from their GIANT mistakes and realize that fans aren’t mindless idiots that don’t pay attention.

    Great post, Kim.

    • Kim November 16, 2014, 2:05 pm

      At least it’s a little easier to be a Packer fan, with the team being publicly owned and really accountable to the fans. I keep thinking the NFL will realize that women can just like football and be fans… but who knows.

  • Jess - A Book Hoarder November 11, 2014, 8:40 pm

    I am admitting right now that I am not a fan of football. Even the Super Bowl is less interesting to me than in the past. When my husband has college football on, I can see more of the draw but I think I have begun to purposely try to not enjoy it because I can see how much time it can suck away. So I will not be reading any of these books, but it’s a bit refreshing to read a post that isn’t overwhelming my TBR list.

    • Kim November 16, 2014, 2:06 pm

      It’s ok to not be a fan 🙂 The boyfriend hates football, so the battle of the TV on Sunday afternoons can get tense.

  • Jennine G. November 12, 2014, 8:30 am

    I bought Against Football when you mentioned it previously. I haven’t read it yet, but my problems with professional sports seem well summed up in that piece you wrote about it above.

  • C.J. November 12, 2014, 8:38 am

    I fell in love with NFL football thanks to my husband, but have decided in light of the recent controversies to not watch this season (although I’ve peeked in at a few games). But I’ve always been interested in learning more about the game and these books sound fantastic!

    • Kim November 16, 2014, 2:07 pm

      I’m still watching, but decided not to give them any more of my money (tickets, merchandise, whatever). It’s not much, since I wasn’t really into those things anyway, but it’s something.

  • Florinda November 12, 2014, 2:17 pm

    Despite having a son who writes about football – and I’d really like to get him to read Against Football and tell me what he thinks – I am adamantly not a fan of the game, and I don’t think reading more about it would change that. But I do like the way your proposed reading list comes to it from a variety of perspectives.

  • Trish November 12, 2014, 2:48 pm

    Hmmm, wonder where Friday Night Lights would fit in. Cuz for some reason that’s on my shelf at home. 😉 Not really a football fan but sounds like there are a lot of great choices other there!

    • Kim November 16, 2014, 2:08 pm

      FNL is such a great book and series. Love 🙂

  • kristin @ my little heart melodies November 13, 2014, 9:48 am

    I love football, but like others here I have issues with it, pretty much those you say are addressed in “Against Football” (which I’m going to have to add to my TBR). The only saving grace for me is that I’m a fan of the Green Bay Packers, which is the only publicly owned, non-profit team in the NFL, and I see just how much the organization does for its community.

    • Kim November 16, 2014, 2:08 pm

      The Packers have always seemed like a good team, making decisions that benefit the fans and community rather than just benefit the owners (cough Vikings cough).

  • Lu November 16, 2014, 6:10 pm

    Ok, I am not much of a football fan, but some of these sound really fascinating. Especially since you included books that are kind of pro-football and anti-football.

  • Katie @ Doing Dewey November 26, 2014, 4:36 pm

    I’m not very excited about football, but these books somehow sound fascinating anyway! It’s strange but I think someone writing a book about something immediately makes that topic more interesting to me. Great list!