Saturday, August 02, 2008

Book Review: Going Long

As a fan of the Houston Oilers, and a fan more generally of people who attack arrogant monopolies, I've long been a fan of the AFL. But, seeing as my existence in this world began after the merger with the NFL, I can't really say that I felt like I knew too much about it. Thankfully, I have now read Jeff Miller's Going Long: The Wild 10-Year Saga of the American Football League in the Words of Those Who Lived It, and that gap in my knowledge has been filled. I admit, I'm not a big fan of the oral history genre, but Miller does a very good job of taking you through the key events of the AFL through the eyes of many, many, many of the people who were involved, including players, journalists, team staffers, NFL people (including Gil Brandt, who always ends up in these books), etc. The other thing an oral history like this has to deliver is, of course, fun anecdotes. And, thankfully, Miller has those covered in spades. A couple of my favorites:
--Sid Gillman cut short his halftime speech at the 1963 AFL championship game so he could watch the Grambling marching band.
--Characters like Cookie Gilchrist and Wahoo McDaniel
--The tumultuous story of the Oakland franchise
--Leon Wismer, the Jets' first owner
--The AFL Secret Draft of 1961, hidden even from AFL Commissioner Joe Foss
--The wars over talent, and the extent teams went to to hide and find players
--The league's closing and arguably moment, where the man with the vision and a lot of the money, Lamar Hunt, claimed the Lombardi Trophy

Enthusiastically recommended to anybody who enjoys enjoyable sports books.

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