Lists

Football Reading for Fanatics to Skeptics

I’m a girl who loves football. Every Sunday during football season you’ll find me settled on my couch, snacks, computer, and craft projects just an arm’s reach away while whatever game is on broadcast plays on tv. While being a football-loving lady would would make me quite a catch for most men, my football-hating boyfriend sees it more as an annoying/charming quirk than anything to write home to mom about. Can’t win ‘em all, I guess.

When I’m not watching football, I also love to read books about football (shocking, I know!). My football reading list has ranged from books for hardcore fans to books on the “It’s About Football But It’s Not Really About Football” spectrum. Since we’re currently just over half way through the regular NFL season, I figured now was as good a time as any to suggest a couple of football books — one for the fanatics and two for the skeptics.

My first book suggestion is Badasses: The Legend of Snake, Foo, Dr. Death, and John Madden’s Oakland Raiders by Peter Richmond which just recently came out in paperback (celebrate!). As the delightfully descriptive subtitle suggests, Badasses is a book about a very particular team at a very particular time, and, to a lesser degree, a look at how professional football has changed since the badasses were around.

This book is basically a love letter from Peter Richmond to the 1970s Oakland Raiders, the team of his childhood that he grew up loving unabashedly. If you love a different football team as much as Richmond loves the Raiders, you might find this book a little hard to stomach — he wastes no love on the Raiders’ biggest rivals at the time (the Steelers and the Dolphins, mostly). And there’s no denying that this is very much a book about football and a love for the game. It is a book for fanatics, hands down.

Then you have a book/franchise like Friday Night Lights by Buzz Bissinger. Whenever people talk about a sports story that isn’t really about sports, Friday Night Lights inevitably comes up… for good reason. This 1990 book is about a lot more than a single high school football season in Texas. The story is more of an investigation and critique of life in small-town Texas and the impact that a football team can have on a town.

If you’re not interested in the book, there are many other ways to experience the magic that is Friday Night Lights — the 2004 movie starring Billy Bob Thorton or the absolutely wonderful television series starring the amazing Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton. Bissinger’s book is a little darker and more critical than the television show, but I’ve loved this story in all formats.

You could say the same sorts of things about another very popular football/not football book — The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game by Michael Lewis, the story of a homeless black teenager named Michael Oher who become a football star after being taken under the wings of a wealthy white Memphis family. Although most people probably know the story because of the 2009 movie starring Sandra Bullock, the book is equally (if not more) excellent and delves more into what was happening as the game of football evolved that made Oher such an exceptional player.

Football is not a sport for everyone, as my home life makes abundantly clear, but that doesn’t mean there are some great reads out there for the fanatics and skeptics alike.

What is your favorite sports book or you favorite “It’s About Sports But Not Really About Sports” book?