Friday, July 10, 2009

Book Review: Pro Football Chronicle

Ah, the long-delayed book review, for The Pro Football Chronicle: The Complete (Well, Almost) Record of the Best Players, the Greatest Photos, the Hardest Hits, the Biggest Scandals & the Funniest Stories in Pro Football by Dan Daly and Bob O'Donnell. I picked this up upon the recommendation of Travis, who also suggested I do go ahead and read John Madden's books, and he was once again on the money. Pro Football Chronicle, which was published in 1990, isn't so much a book as a massive data dump on the NFL's first seven decades that lives up to its impressive-sounding subtitle. Daly and O'Donnell clearly put a massive amount of research into the book, and it covers everything from the boat that sunk that George Halas was supposed to be on to John Brodie's failure to qualify for the US Open in 1960 to box scores for the 1982 AFC-NFC games put on during the strike by the NFLPA.

Oh, and after they go through each decade, they have yearly stats, including game logs, for some of the greatest offensive players of all time. Want to know Jim Brown's biggest game in 1958? You won't find it on the linked PFR profile, but it is in Pro Football Chronicle (34 carries for 182 yards and 3 TDs at home against the Cardinals in Week 3). Once they go through those 40 players, they show the best years of 39 more offensive stars, along with commentary on each player. Then, after that, there's "stuff you can never lay your hands on." Some of it, you can now, but it's still a useful compendium of information you might want to know, like ownership history for every NFL team and 100 reasons football is better than baseball.

Then, you have the raisin in the sausage end, a bibliography longer than my sidebar and my spreadsheet put together, and the bibliography is:

Dedicated to New York Giants general manager George Young, who, when asked if he'd read Lawrence Taylor's controversial 1987 autobiography, LT: Living on the Edge, remarked "I never read a book without a bibliography."

That may be a little bit extreme of Mr. Young-I don't think The Brothers Karamazov would be improved much by a bibliography-but dangit, using that quote is a sign you're in the right place. Oh, and there's an Index, too, but that would be more conspicuous by its absence in a book like this one.

Ah, but nitpicker that I am, I have two complaints about Pro Football Chronicle. First, stuff has happened since 1990. We could use a new edition, maybe after the 2009 season. Second, the book is almost too much of a data dump. A story is rarely more than 2 or 3 pages, but these are big, 8 1/2" x 11" pages. When I mentioned this book, I said I was reading it in a very episodic manner-reading 20 or 30 pages at a time is nothing for most books, but here you're being assaulted with information. This is a book for browsing and delving, not for mass consumption, but it's still an incredibly impressive data dump, the likes of which you won't find elsewhere on the sidebar. Strongly recommended to people to whom that sort of book sounds interesting.

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