Good Biography of Lamar Hunt

huntDespite an uninspiring writing style this is a very solid biography of Lamar Hunt.  Better yet, I learned a good deal about Lamar Hunt I didn’t know.  Most readers will recognize Lamar Hunt as one of the found fathers of the American Football League which competed directly with the well-established National Football League.  After a rather successful half decade the Hunt was then instrumental in the merger of the two leagues, creating the modern, NFL we know today.

Lamar Hunt was born not with the proverbial silver spoon in his mouth, but many golden spoons.  His father was a billionaire and Hunt inherited a vast amount of wealth that allowed him to pursue his own dreams and goals with little concern about the financial consequences.  He fell in love with football in college and as an adult desperately wanted to own an NFL team but was spurned by the old guard.  So Hunt did the next best thing, he found a group of like-minded men and created his own football league.

While getting a professional football league up and running and successful against the established, old school NFL was a daunting challenge, Hunt managed to do just that.  And despite eventually having to move his inaugural Dallas franchise to Kansas City, his team and his league thrived.  So much so, that eventually the NFL was compelled to merge with the AFL to avoid escalating player salaries and competition for television viewers.

The most interesting thing about Hunt through all this was his decency and humanity.  Unlike many who didn’t earn but were handed vast amounts of wealth who slid into slovenly habits and narcissism, Hunt was considered by his peers to be very nice, decent man and one who worked hard at his passion – sports.  Even during the intensive rivalry with the NFL’s expansion franchise the Dallas Cowboys, he managed to stay friendly with Dallas’s other billionaire football owner Clint Murchison.

The other amazing thing about Lamar Hunt was the other sports he was passionate about and some he helped get off the ground.  For example he was an original minority owner of the NBA’s Chicago Bulls.  He helped create the modern open era tennis by co-founding the World Championship Tennis circuit and is in the International Tennis Hall of Fame.  Finally, Hunt is instrumental in first bringing professional soccer to the United States as an owner of a Dallas professional soccer franchise, despite it rankling owners in the NFL.  While the league eventually collapsed, it was the precursor to today’s Major League Soccer.

The story of Hunt and the AFL-NFL merger is well told in other places but this biography also does that seminal event justice, while expanding ones knowledge of just how instrumental Hunt was in the sports world in general.

While the writing lacks a lot to be desired, the content is worth the effort.

Lamar Hunt: The Gentle Giant Who Revolutionized Professional Sports

Review of The Mannings

This book about the Manning family is execrably written, so much so that I frankly wanted to quit reading the book because it was horribly annoying. There are way too many times the author imputes emotions to individuals when he has no idea what the person was actually feeling. Worse, he constantly makes juvenile analogies that are trite to the point of making the reader cringe. It is a very amateurish writing style and a rather amateurish book.

While this is an advanced reading copy, two other items that were irritating is in one chapter Archie’s father is 5 foot 6, and in the next he’s 5 foot 7. In most instances it’s his father’s words, “just be a nice guy,” that drove Archie and his nice guy charm and demeanor, one that was not fake or a put on. But in one instances this is attributed to his mother. These are trivial in terms of the overall narrative, but noticeable and distracting nonetheless.

With that said the book did have some redeeming qualities which, overall, made it barely worth reading. First, I never fully understood the level of fame that Archie Manning had throughout the South, especially in his home state of Mississippi and adopted state of Louisiana. He was nearly a household name after his college stint at Ole Miss as its starting quarterback. Second, the book does an excellent job of describing how Archie’s stern but beloved father and his suicide drove Archie to want to excel on the field and in life, and later how it drove him to spend as much time as he could with is sons and tell them how much he loved them. Archie’s background and family history in a small Mississippi town to become regionally famous paints a clear picture of how Archie handled himself when in the pros, a very good quarterback playing for a horrible team. He kept his head up and marched on.

The book also does a good job of telling the story of Cooper Manning and how, while not a great athlete, would have very likely had a solid college career as a receiver at Ole Miss and how his discovery of a spinal condition that forced him to quit football drove his younger brother Peyton to strive to greatness and professional football to fulfill Cooper’s unfulfilled dreams.

Peyton’s personality has a hard worker, studier and leader comes through strongly in the book as well. His vast knowledge of football, football history, and studying the playbook are legendary. The contrast with the demure Eli Manning is very interesting. Much has been made of Eli’s laid back demeanor, shyness, and some would argue lack of leadership. But it turns out that Eli has been shy and laidback since he was a child. And he never studied football, at least its history, like Peyton did. But he has been successful in his own way nonetheless.

The insights into the personalities of the Archie, Peyton, Eli, and Cooper, along with their family history are very interesting and shed a lot of light on this famous football family.

I do have a few more complaints about the book, however. This book seems to be more about Archie Manning than this two football playing sons. Peyton Manning gets a lot more airtime in detailing his recruitment to the University of Tennessee and his years in college and the pros than Eli. Eli, in some respects, especially his college and professional career, seem almost an afterthought.

Two controversial issues that did not get enough detail or interpretation include the sexual assault allegations about Peyton Manning when he was at Tennessee, and the “forced” trade of Eli Manning from the San Diego Chargers to the New York Giants when he was drafted number one overall by the Chargers.

In the first instance the author does, again, a very amateurish job reporting the incident. He basically takes some things he heard in the media and throws them in the book to check off the box. And some of what is stated in the book is disputed in other media outlets. It’s a really sloppy job of reporting the event.

And very little is detailed about all the behind the scenes actions that lead to Eli being traded from the Chargers to the Giants after he was drafted, with Archie and Eli essentially saying he would not play for the Chargers. Odd given the Chargers were not that bad of a team at the time. There is a big gap in the book on this issue.

The book concludes with Peyton’s ultimate retirement after Super Bowl 50 and does decent job of describing the proud Manning family and the difficulty but inevitability of Peyton’s decision.

While this book has some redeeming qualities, that it’s poorly written and structured makes it a bit frustrating. The Manning’s deserved a better chronicler of their journey.

http://amzn.to/2b7eGZY

 

 

Troy Brown: Patriots for Life

5182Gc8256L__SX332_BO1,204,203,200_This is a very workman like autobiography of Troy Brown.  And that’s fitting, because Troy Brown was a very workman like special teamer and wide receiver for the New England Patriots for 15 years.

The first few chapters Brown tells about his life growing up very poor in South Carolina and sports being his primary outlet.  Being on the smaller side he had to work hard and out compete other players to get ahead.  His entire football career is defined by that.

While he had a standout career in high school, he was not highly recruited and ended up playing junior college.  Luckily he caught the eye of a coach at Marshall University in West Virginia and received one of the last scholarships.  He went on to have an excellent career at Marshall winning the 1992 Division I-AA National Championship as a receiver and kick returner.

Troy Brown was drafted in the 8th round by the New England Patriots in the 1993 draft and almost didn’t even make the team.  He was cut at the end of Preseason and thought his football dream was dead, but luckily for the Patriots, Coach Bill Parcells re-signed him in October.  He spent most of his first seven seasons with the Patriots primarily as a kick returner, and slowly got a chance to start getting in the rotation as receiver as time went on.

His first year as a full-time starter was 2000, when new coach Bill Belichick saw something in his work ethic and talent that he really liked.  It was the right call.  In 2001 Brown had 101 catches and a pivotal role in the offensive as New England went on to upset the St. Louis Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI.  He also had an excellent year in 2002.

But, when 2003 rolled around, Troy Brown was relegated to a lesser role in the receiving care.  He had been in the league 10 years at the point and the younger, fresher legs of the likes of Deion Branch were highlighted.  But Brown played a pivotal when New England went on to win back to back Super Bowls in Super Bowls XXXVIII and XXXIX.

Troy admits being upset that he didn’t start in the Super bowl XXXVIII against the Panthers but he played a pivotal role catching eight passes for 76 yards.  The following year Brown spent larges amounts of time playing defensive back because of injuries and again played a pivotal role in Super Bowl XXXIX covering the Philadelphia Eagles slot receivers.  He is a jack of all trades.

Troy Brown certainly didn’t want to retire after his 15 years in the league but father time caught up with him.  He had a great career as a lifelong New England Patriot.

This book will give the reader lots of insights into the character of Troy Brown and what it was like to be on championship winning teams and what it means to persevere.  In this case the underdog comes out on top.

Here is my tribute to Troy Brown written the day I heard he was announcing his retirement:  https://cdbaker.wordpress.com/2008/09/21/tribute-to-troy-brown/

Patriot Pride: My Life in the New England Dynasty

 

Brady v Manning

51qiixUsGEL__SX326_BO1,204,203,200_Tom Brady and Peyton Manning will go down at as two of the greatest quarterbacks ever to play the game. In fact, the past 15 year era of professional football will be most remembered as the era of Brady and Manning. Much like Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, they will forever be intertwined.

This book details the career trajectory of both Brady and Manning, gives accounts of their history against each other and in the playoffs, and provides some nice anecdotes about their personalities and approaches to the game. One thing they have in common, however, is their love for the game, attention to detail, and dedication to succeed.

But there are also some stark differences between the two, in some ways making Brady’s narrative a little more attractive. Peyton Manning comes from a football family and was almost immediately successful in college and was the number one overall pick in the NFL draft. By contrast, Brady had to fight and claw his way to a starting position in college, and wasn’t even always the full-time starter as a senior at Michigan. Then he was drafted in the sixth round, and potentially could have gone completely undrafted. This clearly gave Brady a huge chip on his shoulder and even more determination to succeed.

Manning had a rocky first few years in the pros but clearly was on a path to success. Brady, while not lighting the world on fire, came on in relief in his second year for an injured Drew Bledsoe and never looked back, winning Super Bowl XXXVI over the heavily favored St. Louis Rams.

Both have been very successful in their careers and are in fact good friends and have a lot of respect for each other.

Hearing anecdotes from teammates of the two players and their interaction with their teams was also well done in this book, especially stories about practical jokes and pranks. It’s also clear that most of their teammates have a great deal of respect and admiration for them.

So who’s the best quarterback? The author does an even handed job of laying out the arguments for both quarterbacks.

For Brady it is his record in the playoffs, four Super Bowl titles, and frankly having done it, for the most part, with inferior talent at the wide receiver position pre-Randy Moss.

For Manning it’s his incredible passing records during the regular season with his offensive consistently being one of the tops in the league. The downside for Manning is his teams, and it’s usually not all his fault, choke in the playoffs. When this book was published Manning had only one Super Bowl to Brady’s four. He has two now that Denver has won Super Bowl 50 but that was led by Denver’s defense.

Really it hardly matters who was best but I am a New England Patriots fan and biases so I say Brady is the greatest ever because the hardware (championships) matter.

This was a very well done book.

Brady vs Manning: The Untold Story of the Rivalry That Transformed the NFL

The 1980’s Washington Redskins

51cjO8uF3zL__SX329_BO1,204,203,200_This is well done history of the Washington Redskins during their heyday from 1981 to 1992 in which Joe Gibbs lead the team to three Super Bowl victories with three different quarterbacks.

While I am not a Redskins fan I was an admirer of the team during that period of time with its run oriented offense and tough defenses.

There certainly were a cast of colorful charters starting with running back John Riggins and the offensive linemen known as the Hogs, to the Fun Bunch which is what the wide receivers are known as.  The author provides an excellent portrait of how this cast of characters were melded into championship teams.

A few themes emerge about the history of the Redskins at this time.  First is the perseverance of Joe Gibbs. It took some time to start winning and he thought he was going to be fired before he turned the team around.  But turn the team around he did for a decade of success.  He luring John Riggins back out of retirement is an interesting story as you have the straight laced Joe Gibbs cajoling the drinking, carousing, curiosity known as John Riggins.  But Riggins was an integral part of the Redskins success and Gibbs knew it.

The creating of The Hogs – offensive linemen – and the Fun Bunch – wide receivers was also enjoyable to relive.  The Hogs particularly became a marketing sensation as well for the normally unknown offensive line.

There are more stories here as well, from Doug Williams up again, down again ride until his Super Bowl victory, the flair of Joe Theisman, the curmudgeonly Jack Kent Cooke, and the excellence of Darrell Green.

And finally, Joe Jacoby, the left tackle on this team, belongs in the Hall of Fame.

For a Redskins fan wanting to relive the glory days this is a must read.

Hail to the Redskins: Gibbs, the Diesel, the Hogs, and the Glory Days of D.C.’s Football Dynasty