Political journalist Mark Leibovich has authored a new book that looks at the NFL like few ever have, can, or will. Big Game: The NFL in Dangerous Times is definitely worth your time (and money), if you want to develop a better understanding as to how the most popular and successful sports league in America works, or as the case may be doesn’t.
But the NFL isn’t really sweating it. As one league source recently remarked, there are no “bombshells” or other major problems for the league lurking in the book. Sure, the portraits painted of several key league figures (including Cowboys owner Jerry Jones) aren’t flattering, but if anything the anecdotes tend to humanize the billionaires who run pro football, showing that amassing a giant pile of money doesn’t inoculate against pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath, and/or sloth. (The answer to the age-old question of “what’s in the box?!?” apparently is, in relation to Jones, a brand new pair of shoes.)
That’s a fair assessment of the book. Remember the stir created by Mike Pereira’s memoir for its story about a certain future Commissioner shoving the author into a door? There’s no specific, jarring moment like that in Leibovich’s book.
This doesn’t make the book any less worthy of your time (and money). As far as the NFL is concerned, however, there’s no reason to knee-jerk in response to the book from a New York Times writer in the same way the league once cartoonishly reacted to the New York Times regarding an article linking the NFL and its concussion slow-play to the tobacco industry.
Here’s another reason for the league’s lack of concern: With the book coming out two days before the start of the regular season, the thinking is that the book will be lost in the shuffle. That raises a broader question as to why publishing houses feel compelled to publish football books at the outset of football season. With football season upon us, who is buying football books in order to get their football fix?
The better play would be to release a football book at or about the time of the draft, with the author making the pre-draft rounds on radio and TV to promote it and then having the book available on shelves as wives, kids, etc. are looking for quick and easy Father’s Day gifts. If/when I ever finish my own inside look at the NFL and how I ended up in the highly unlikely spot of covering it for a living on multiple platforms, that’s when you’ll be able to not buy it.