World War II was a devastating time in American history and the drain of manpower had significantly dire consequences for professional sports. The fact professional sports even survived the war is a testament to the gutsiness of the well off owners of sports teams, and the “luck” of those not able to serve for one reason or another.
The National Football League was still not a very established professional sport as World War II hit but it survived by some deft moves by many owners. One of those moves was the combining of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Philadelphia Eagles into the “Steagles” since neither team, especially the Steelers, were likely to be able to field a full compliment of players.
This book is about that year, 1943, when owners like Art Rooney and Bert Bell of the Steelers and wealthy Lex Thompson, owner of the Philadelphia Eagles, set aside egos for the survival and betterment of the game. It tells the story of the colorful cast of misfits that made up the team, who for one reason or another were not inducted into the military. Some were old veterans, some newcomers, but all merged into a single team with two coequal head coaches that didn’t get along.
The book is beyond just about football, however. It is also a bit of social history of the time told through the eyes of sports. And it also brings to light the importance sports had to take people’s mind off the war and sacrifices at home. And finally, it’s about the survival and perpetuation of the National Football League through one of the most trying times in the nation’s history.
This is mostly a well written account of the Steagles, who for what it’s worth posted a winning record in 1943. While not as scintillatingly told as some accounts of professional sports in that era, it does give a glimpse into pro football of during the war and introduces us to a quirky and usual team in the most unusual of times for professional sports.