Saturday, February 05, 2011

Book Review: The Ultimate Super Bowl Book

Sitting on my shelf for the past year and change has been The Ultimate Super Bowl Book by Bob McGinn, and with the Steelers and Packers squaring off tomorrow, I thought I'd finally get round to reading it. Having done so, it's time to write a review.

Ultimate Super Bowl Book is really forty-three chapters, one on each of Super Bowls I through XLIII, plus random lists of superlatives scattered throughout, generally in a relevant place. That something is a collection of connected associated material rather than an actual book is a common complaint of mine in my reviews, but here it's perfectly appropriate. Ultimate Super Bowl Book is really a reference work rather than a book, and it's perfectly fine for it as what it is. In putting together the chapters, McGinn did an impressive amount of research, interviewing no fewer than four people associated with every single Super Bowl and reading enough about them to tell a coherent story about each one. Each chapter also includes a full box score, plus the starting lineup and lists of reserves for every game, which is very useful information that is not collected in any single book I have. My one complaint about the information is that each game has list of scoring plays, but as in the case in P-F-R's box scores, the time of each scoring play is not listed.

One interesting thing that comes out occasionally is the recriminations players or coaches have about how things came out. You hear the obvious stories, about Rams players angry at Mike Martz for not running the ball enough against the Patriots, but they're a common story. Take, for instance, the five Super Bowls preceding that game:
XXXI (GB-NE): Bill Parcells leaving the Patriots screwing up preparations;
XXXII (GB-DEN): Holmgren's failure to adjust protections, letting the Broncos score in part because of a down mixup, and calling a rarely-used play on the crucial fourth-down call at the end;
XXXIII (ATL-DEN): Eugene Robinson's arrest and subsequent decision to play him;
XXXIV (STL-TEN): Titans offensive coordinator Les Steckel throwing Kevin Dyson under the bus for running his route at the wrong depth; and
XXXV (BAL-NYG): Giants defensive players blaming coordinator John Fox for unnecessarily complicated defensive calls against an unthreatening offense.
Obviously, pretty much any game story could include these kinds of recriminations, but the seem more prevalent in this book than they normally are. Mind you, this isn't a criticism of McGinn's work, more a comment about what my impression was.

One other note is I read it in fits and starts over about a week. It's a much more enjoyable read browsing a chapter or two at a time than trying to read through in chunks. I can't see myself ever reading it straight through again, but it will be on my end table tomorrow during the game and I can easily see myself picking it up whenever I need or want to read more about any non-recent Super Bowl. Recommended for what it is.

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