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  #1  
Old 03-22-2016, 09:41 AM
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TanksAndSpartans TanksAndSpartans is offline
John
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Default Top 100 Pro Football Books of All-Time By Chris Willis, NFL Films

100-81: http://nflfootballjournal.blogspot.c...=1458503604530

80-61: http://nflfootballjournal.blogspot.c...l-time_95.html

60-41:http://nflfootballjournal.blogspot.c...l-time_18.html

40-21: http://nflfootballjournal.blogspot.c...l-time_19.html

20-1: http://nflfootballjournal.blogspot.c...l-time_20.html

I thought this might give us some good discussion - all collectors are motivated differently, but for me learning about the players, the teams, the times, etc. especially from the eras that predate my memory and/or birth is a big part of what sparks my passion for collecting. And heck, with the prices and difficulty in obtaining some of the out of print books, an argument could be made that the books themselves are collectable.

I’m definitely going to use Willis's list to find some future reading. Here are the ones I’ve knocked out already:

88) The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game
87) The Games That Changed the Game: The Evolution of the NFL in Seven Sundays
86) Monster of the Midway
74) Passing Game: Benny Friedman and the Transformation of Football
69) The First 50 Years/75 Seasons
46) Headslap: The Life and Times of Deacon Jones
37) The Scrapbook History of Pro Football
36) Red Grange and the Rise of Modern Football
26) The Sunday Game: At the Dawn of Professional Football
18) Pigskin: The Early Years of Pro Football
16) Pro Football's Rag Days
10) The Game That Was
7) Fatso! Football When Men Were Really Men
3) What a Game They Played

I’ll add comments on just a few for now, but I’m always happy to discuss further. I consider 87 a great unexpected find - I bought it for the Xs and Os, but its much more than that - fun to read, good history, great player analysis etc. I recommended 18 to a fellow board member because I think it’s a fantastic historical overview, the kind of book I would say read this one first and go into specific areas from there depending on what sparks your interest. 7 is the only one I can’t recommend - probably it’s just my taste, but I didn’t enjoy it and took exception to a few of the things said like Chuck Bednarik can’t block. Really? Finally, I stumbled on 26 as a result of a Kindle search - I like it so far, but I’m still pretty early on and it isn’t the only thing I’m reading, so its going to be a while before I finish.

Last edited by TanksAndSpartans; 03-22-2016 at 09:43 AM. Reason: typos/grammar
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  #2  
Old 03-22-2016, 05:35 PM
th38larg th38larg is offline
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I just read #4 When Pride Still Mattered this past fall. It paints a fascinating portrait of Lombardi and is really well written. I highly recommend the book whether you are interested in football or not.
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Old 03-22-2016, 06:39 PM
revmoran revmoran is offline
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the list is incomplete because Chris Willis is too modest to post any of his own books on it - the Joe Carr book the Dutch Clark book and at least one other he wrote would be in my top 40.
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Old 03-22-2016, 06:46 PM
jefferyepayne jefferyepayne is offline
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Interesting, John. I've knocked off six of the top 20 but to me there's some glaring omissions in this list unless I missed them.

Bob Carroll's books are scattered throughout but I didn't see The Early History of Professional Football. It is my go to book for pro football history prior to the NFL.

Also didn't see The Man Who Build the National Football League. It's about Joe Carr and is excellent.

Finally, no Breaker Boys! Can't have a list of football books without this epic about the Pottsville Maroons.

jeff

Last edited by jefferyepayne; 03-22-2016 at 06:48 PM.
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Old 03-22-2016, 07:00 PM
pariah1107
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jefferyepayne View Post
Interesting, John. I've knocked off six of the top 20 but to me there's some glaring omissions in this list unless I missed them.

Bob Carroll's books are scattered throughout but I didn't see The Early History of Professional Football. It is my go to book for pro football history prior to the NFL.

Also didn't see The Man Who Build the National Football League. It's about Joe Carr and is excellent.

Finally, no Breaker Boys! Can't have a list of football books without this epic about the Pottsville Maroons.

jeff
Great list, thank you John.

100% agree with the unfortunate omission of the Breaker Boys and their stolen Championship. Great book!

Last edited by pariah1107; 03-22-2016 at 07:06 PM.
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Old 03-22-2016, 09:36 PM
Hot Springs Bathers Hot Springs Bathers is offline
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Great list, thanks for posting John. I have over 500 football books both pro and college and have about 80 of these.

The thing that struck me this afternoon while looking at the list was --yes, there are some great books here-- but there are also some really bad books on the list. Poorly written and researched. I have to agree with George Plimpton, the smaller the ball the better the books. Golf and baseball as a whole offer a much deeper run of really good books.

Don't get me wrong I love football and the goods news is that I think unlike those other two sports football is just now coming upon some really good books like the two Chris has done mentioned above. Let's hope we have a bright future on the shelf with football books.
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Old 03-22-2016, 11:16 PM
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TanksAndSpartans TanksAndSpartans is offline
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Awesome! - I’m glad you guys liked this. And I enjoyed reading all of your points as well. I had a few follow up observations too:

-Jeff and Mike M. pointed out one of the same books - Willis’s own bio of Carr. Like Mike M. said, probably due to modesty, Willis didn’t include any of his own books, but several were deserving in my opinion. I thought his oral history book Old Leather was just as good as the 3 oral history books that made the top 10 for example.

I checked my own bookshelf and found these:

-Home & Away by Carl M. Becker: Given its basically a book about the Tanks and the Spartans, its in my top 5 easily, but Willis may have felt it to be too focussed to include.

-Vagabond Halfback - The Life and Times of Johnny Blood McNally: I’m guessing since Willis already had a lot of bios, he had to leave some out. My argument in favor is that this one is unique since it went out of its way to do some myth busting - I’d include it.

-Pro Football Championships Before the Super Bowl A Year by year History, 1926-1965: Now I know Mike M. doesn’t like this one because there is an obvious flaw. The first year ideally would have either been 1920, 1932, or 1933. By choosing 26, one might buy the book to read about the Yellowjackets and find the Quakers and Yankees on the first page! 1920 would have been a great year to start in my opinion. Even though there weren’t official championships, we all know that each year there was usually a game or two that was a defacto championship. That being said, this book is top 5 for me since I find myself referencing it more than any other book I own. What surprised me is that there seems to be a very similarly focused book by Jerry Izenberg on Willis's list. Does anyone have this one: http://www.amazon.com/Championship-c.../dp/B0007HL4J2?

-Breaker Boys: I was expecting to see this one on the list as well. The only thing that has always nagged at me was that I could’t find support for all the great things Grange said about Latone. Does anyone have the original 1954 “Grit Magazine” article?

Last edited by TanksAndSpartans; 03-23-2016 at 08:17 AM.
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  #8  
Old 03-23-2016, 07:37 AM
jefferyepayne jefferyepayne is offline
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Good catch on the Joe Carr book! I didn't even notice that the person who wrote it was the same person who wrote that article LOL. His name sure looked familiar when I saw it!

jeff

Last edited by jefferyepayne; 03-23-2016 at 12:52 PM.
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  #9  
Old 03-23-2016, 12:25 PM
pariah1107
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Went over the list after writing down the books I have in my library. I only have 8 on the list, out of 25 books on football. I like modern autobiographies, so many of my favorites are not listed such as "Quiet Strength" by Tony Dungy and Nathaniel Whitaker. One I did not see that I really enjoyed was : "The Heisman" by Bill Pennington, a collection of stories about past Heisman winners.

As far as lists go, an excellent one. Though I have a hard time including "Paper Lion", but not "North Dallas Forty" (technically semi-pro fiction I guess).

Last edited by pariah1107; 03-23-2016 at 06:29 PM.
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  #10  
Old 03-24-2016, 01:22 PM
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Bored5000 Bored5000 is offline
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I have read No. 20 on the list, "Native American Son: The Life and Sporting Legend of Jim Thorpe." I am surprised to see this book on this list because it is not really a "pro football book." Only a small portion of the book deals with Thorpe's pro football endeavors.

The book is the most detailed Thorpe bio I have read, however. Most Thorpe bios deal simply with the 1912 Olympics, losing his medals and his time at Carlisle. Kate Buford's book is different, however, in that she also deals extensively with Thorpe's Indian genealogy, his baseball career with the New York Giants, his time as a B-movie actor in Hollywood and his sad descent into alcoholism/being unable to hold a job over the last two decades of his life.

For me, the most revealing fact I learned in the book is that the famous "Thanks, King" reply that Thorpe supposedly uttered to King Gustav V during the medal presentation at the 1912 Stockholm Olympics never actually happened.

The book is meticulously sourced and provides a fair portrayal of both Thorpe's positives and negatives. His generosity and kindness to people he didn't even know is thoroughly detailed. On the other hand, his inability to hold a job, drinking problems and lousy job as a father are also detailed. A couple items that really stood out to me in the book were Thorpe's son Bill calling him "...one mean son of a gun" and son Jack also saying, "As a father, he wasn't worth a ****."

The impact of Thorpe being stripped of his 1912 Olympic medals is emphasized throughout the book. It was hard not to feel sad when reading Thorpe's somber wishes that he wanted his Olympic medals brought to Carlisle if they were ever returned to him posthumously, "I was happy there, for a little while" he sadly lamented.

Last edited by Bored5000; 03-24-2016 at 08:28 PM.
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