Coming Sunday: How football explains America


That’s the title of the book published recently (Triumph Books, 211 pages, $24.95), authored by Sal Paolantonio in a very thought-provoking manner that fits the pieces of football’s evolution on both the college and pro scale to how the country came together and continues to press upon its ideals forward.

Find it (at this link).

Mark Bowden, author of the new book, “The Best Game Ever: Giants vs. Colts, 1958, and the Birth of the Modern NFL,” probably offers his explanation of Paolantonio’s book on the jacket cover: “So it turns out that Sal Paolantonio doesn’t just talk about football on television, but he really thinks about it! His book is a breezy, conceptual tour through the history of America and of football, showing they are, in fact, one and the same. From war to jazz, from racism to integration, from immigrant waves of Scotch-Irish to Tonga islanders, from dioramas in the display windows of newspapers to ‘Monday Night Football,’ from Jim Thorpe to Eli Manning, the story of the game mirrors the story of our country. Who knew? All those lazy Sunday afternoons on the couch were really anthropological research.”

Paolantonio says he got the idea for this book after reading Michael MacCambridge’s “America’s Game: The Epic Story of How Pro Football Captured a National” and realizing that as good as the book was, it never really explained the “How” in the title. He also notes the Franklin Foer best-seller, “How Soccer Explains The World,” and found a template for the way he could explain football’s impact on America.

We caught up with SalPal for an on-line Q-and-A during his ESPN assignments, asking him to draw some comparisons to today’s United States and the sport. An excerpt:

Q: What does Thanksgiving, the true American holiday, mean to football and visa versa, with examples you’ve used in the book as well as others you may think of this time of year, maybe of giving thanks for health and family and duty to country?

A: Well, the marriage of Thanksgiving and football started purely as a commercial idea — a way to sell tickets to games and advertising in Chicago newspapers. And like most everything else in this country, it has become mythologized. (See Christmas. Macy’s basically created the idea of shopping and giving on a grand scale on Christmas — commercializing it.) But what I like about Thanksgiving is how it helps explain America through football. With local Turkey Bowl games all over the country, Americans have taken ownership of the tradition. We’ve democratized it, just like Fantasy Football has democratized the NFL. Used to be that you would bet on a team put together by somebody else — a coach or general manager. Now, you invest financially and emotionally on teams you have assembled in your fantasy leagues (and I do mean plural). People of have taken ownership of the mythology. That is how football explains us as a people.


A link (here) to the history of Amos Alonzo Stagg helping to form the Chicago-Michigan game back in the late 1890s.

More Sunday …

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