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Big Game: The NFL in Dangerous Times

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From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of This Town, an equally merciless probing of America's biggest cultural force, pro football, at a moment of peak success and high anxiety. Like millions of Americans, Mark Leibovich has spent more of his life than he'd care to admit tuned into pro football. Being a lifelong New England Patriots fan meant growing up with a stead From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of This Town, an equally merciless probing of America's biggest cultural force, pro football, at a moment of peak success and high anxiety. Like millions of Americans, Mark Leibovich has spent more of his life than he'd care to admit tuned into pro football. Being a lifelong New England Patriots fan meant growing up with a steady diet of lovable loserdom. That is until the Tom Brady/Bill Belichick era made the Pats the most ruthlessly efficient sports dynasty of the 21st century, its organization the most polarizing in the NFL, and its fans the most irritating in all of Pigskin America. Leibovich kept his obsession relatively private, in the meantime making a nice career for himself covering that other playground for rich and overgrown children, American politics. Still, every now and then Leibovich would reach out to Tom Brady to gauge his willingness to subject himself to a profile in the New York Times Magazine. He figured that the chances of Brady agreeing to this were a Hail Mary at best, but Leibovich kept trying, at least to indulge his fan-boy within. To his surprise, Brady returned the call, in the summer of 2014. He agreed to let Mark spend time with him through the coming season, which proved to be a fateful one for all parties. It included another epic Patriots Super Bowl win and, yes, a scandal involving Brady--Deflategate--whose grip on sports media was as profound as its true significance was ridiculous. So began a four-year odyssey that has taken Mark Leibovich deeper inside the NFL than anyone has gone before. Ultimately, this is a chronicle of what may come to be seen as "peak football"--the high point of the sport's economic success and cultural dominance, but also the moment when it all began to turn. From the owners meeting to the NFL draft to the sidelines of crucial games, he takes in the show, at the elbow of everyone from Brady to Cowboys owner Jerry Jones to the NFL Commissioner, Roger Goodell, who is cordially hated by even casual football fans to an extent that is almost weird. It is an era of explosive revenue growth, as deluxe new stadiums spring up all over the country, but also one of creeping existential fear. Football was never thought to be easy on the body--players joke darkly that the NFL stands for "not for long" for good reason. But as the impact of concussions on brains became has become the inescapable ear-ring in the background, it became increasingly difficult to enjoy the simple glory of football without the buzz-kill of its obvious toll. And that was before Donald Trump. In 2016, Mark Leibovich's day job caught up with him, and the NFL slammed headlong into America's culture wars. Big Game is a journey through an epic storm. Through it all, Leibovich always keeps one eye cocked on Tom Brady and his beloved Patriots, through to the end of the 2017-1018 season. Pro football, this hilarious and enthralling book proves, may not be the sport America needs, but it is most definitely the sport we deserve.


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From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of This Town, an equally merciless probing of America's biggest cultural force, pro football, at a moment of peak success and high anxiety. Like millions of Americans, Mark Leibovich has spent more of his life than he'd care to admit tuned into pro football. Being a lifelong New England Patriots fan meant growing up with a stead From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of This Town, an equally merciless probing of America's biggest cultural force, pro football, at a moment of peak success and high anxiety. Like millions of Americans, Mark Leibovich has spent more of his life than he'd care to admit tuned into pro football. Being a lifelong New England Patriots fan meant growing up with a steady diet of lovable loserdom. That is until the Tom Brady/Bill Belichick era made the Pats the most ruthlessly efficient sports dynasty of the 21st century, its organization the most polarizing in the NFL, and its fans the most irritating in all of Pigskin America. Leibovich kept his obsession relatively private, in the meantime making a nice career for himself covering that other playground for rich and overgrown children, American politics. Still, every now and then Leibovich would reach out to Tom Brady to gauge his willingness to subject himself to a profile in the New York Times Magazine. He figured that the chances of Brady agreeing to this were a Hail Mary at best, but Leibovich kept trying, at least to indulge his fan-boy within. To his surprise, Brady returned the call, in the summer of 2014. He agreed to let Mark spend time with him through the coming season, which proved to be a fateful one for all parties. It included another epic Patriots Super Bowl win and, yes, a scandal involving Brady--Deflategate--whose grip on sports media was as profound as its true significance was ridiculous. So began a four-year odyssey that has taken Mark Leibovich deeper inside the NFL than anyone has gone before. Ultimately, this is a chronicle of what may come to be seen as "peak football"--the high point of the sport's economic success and cultural dominance, but also the moment when it all began to turn. From the owners meeting to the NFL draft to the sidelines of crucial games, he takes in the show, at the elbow of everyone from Brady to Cowboys owner Jerry Jones to the NFL Commissioner, Roger Goodell, who is cordially hated by even casual football fans to an extent that is almost weird. It is an era of explosive revenue growth, as deluxe new stadiums spring up all over the country, but also one of creeping existential fear. Football was never thought to be easy on the body--players joke darkly that the NFL stands for "not for long" for good reason. But as the impact of concussions on brains became has become the inescapable ear-ring in the background, it became increasingly difficult to enjoy the simple glory of football without the buzz-kill of its obvious toll. And that was before Donald Trump. In 2016, Mark Leibovich's day job caught up with him, and the NFL slammed headlong into America's culture wars. Big Game is a journey through an epic storm. Through it all, Leibovich always keeps one eye cocked on Tom Brady and his beloved Patriots, through to the end of the 2017-1018 season. Pro football, this hilarious and enthralling book proves, may not be the sport America needs, but it is most definitely the sport we deserve.

30 review for Big Game: The NFL in Dangerous Times

  1. 5 out of 5

    Richard de Villiers

    Let's start with the good stuff. Leibovich is an engaging writer, even when his subjects have little to say he still makes it interesting. The last four years, the time he dedicated to writing this book, have been chock filled with controversy in the NFL so there are no shortage of issues or stories to cover. Finally, the book is filled with characters that even the casual fan knows. Overall it's a book that goes down easy and serves as a rather pleasant distraction. Unfortunately I have plenty Let's start with the good stuff. Leibovich is an engaging writer, even when his subjects have little to say he still makes it interesting. The last four years, the time he dedicated to writing this book, have been chock filled with controversy in the NFL so there are no shortage of issues or stories to cover. Finally, the book is filled with characters that even the casual fan knows. Overall it's a book that goes down easy and serves as a rather pleasant distraction. Unfortunately I have plenty of gripes, some of which Joe Nocera covered in his review of the book in the Washington Post. As Nocera noted, sure there is plenty to cover but there seems to be no point to the Big Game. There is no overarching theme; it's just a compendium of stories. A major flaw of the book is that Leibovich, a self proclaimed Masshole and diehard Pats fan had originally intended to write about the Patriots. He doesn't get around to saying it but it becomes evident why he chose to broaden his scope - the Patriots are boring. Kraft recycles stories and says little that we haven't heard before. Tom Brady spends more time pushing his TB12 lifestyle than anything else. If he touches on another topic he deflects and speaks in cliches. As for Belichick, he doesn't say hardly anything at all. Trudging through the sections on the Pats can be tough. Leibovich would have been better served having more "visits" with Jerry Jones. I am hardly a fan of Jones but every mention of him is pure literary gold. Rex Ryan appears for about a paragraph and a half and it is more memorable than anything that happens around Belichick . Another challenge is that Leibovich is trying to do for the NFL what he did with DC in "This Town." The problem is that he'd been covering DC for years. His cynicism came from knowing the characters and the habitat they populated. Even his most glib remarks came from something deeper and understanding of what motivated DC players and gladhandlers. Leibovich doesn't really know the folks in the NFL. His takedowns at times seem superficial and unduly mean spirited. Early on he cracks that Chip Kelly could benefit from a procedure to lose weight. Leibovich just seems to be taking shots to entertain the masses not because he really knows what he is talking about. I also don't know who this book is written for. It certainly isn't for the hardcore fan because even the most casual viewer of ESPN or NFL fan will not be surprised with about 90% of what is covered. In addition the book covers well worn issues and controversies - concussions, deflategate, Ray Rice, the national anthem - without adding much to the conversation. Leibovich, Masshole that he is, whines about Deflategate despite insisting that he doesn't want to get into it. I hate being so negative because if I really hated it I wouldn't have read it in about four days. It really is a quick read and it does have its moments. Just don't expect to learn anything new or be enlightened.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Kristina

    You don’t have to be a rabid fan of football to enjoy Mark Leibovich’s Big Game: The NFL in Dangerous Times. A passing acquaintance with the game is all that is required to be drawn into this book, as long as you enjoy Leibovich’s prose. He is funny, snarky but never cruel, goofy, and manages to sneak a lot of facts into your brain by disguising them as well-written and entertaining writing. After reading This Town: Two Parties and a Funeral—Plus Plenty of Valet Parking!—in America’s Guiled Capi You don’t have to be a rabid fan of football to enjoy Mark Leibovich’s Big Game: The NFL in Dangerous Times. A passing acquaintance with the game is all that is required to be drawn into this book, as long as you enjoy Leibovich’s prose. He is funny, snarky but never cruel, goofy, and manages to sneak a lot of facts into your brain by disguising them as well-written and entertaining writing. After reading This Town: Two Parties and a Funeral—Plus Plenty of Valet Parking!—in America’s Guiled Capital, I decided I would read anything he wrote. Big Game did not disappoint me. The thread that holds the book together is Leibovich’s undisguised fanboy crush on Tom Brady, the superstar, handsome, petulant, quarterback for the New England Patriots—the team America loves to hate. Why do we hate them? Because they’re such arrogant assholes who win all the time. No one loves a persistent winner, no matter what our current president says. Sometimes, the losers really get pissed off at the winners, especially when they’re such douchebags about it—and act like big baby losers when they lose. But maybe that’s just me (full disclosure: the two teams I dislike the most are the Patriots and the Steelers. When the two teams played each other last year, I didn’t know who to root for—I think in the end I just wanted a scoreless tie). Built around the author’s quest to become Tom Brady’s new best friend is the story of the NFL’s biggest personalities, how it’s a huge money machine for the owners, and how it deals (badly) with its latest challenges: the Colin Kaepernick controversy, Trump’s trolling, and the truth about concussions. When Leibovich gets snarky, he is often targeting himself. He knows he is a Masshole (the not-so-flattering nickname for Patriots fans), he knows his love for football in general, and Brady in particular, is unrequited, but he’s okay with this. When he finally gets what his heart desires—a meeting with Tom Brady!—he is nervous, sweaty, and completely sure he is being pranked. Brady told him to come to his apartment at Twenty-third and Madison (in Manhattan), but couldn’t be more specific:I was in the cab on the way there when it occurred to me that any number of homes might be found at Twenty-third and Madison. So I emailed Brady back to ask him for a more precise address. “Hahaha, I wish I knew the address,” he replied. Brady didn’t know his home address? Another point in favor of the prank theory. At the very least, Brady’s casual ignorance of this most basic personal data reinforced the notion that he did not dwell in the pedestrian realm of slobs who must remember street addresses. (58) The discussion of how players are viewed by the owners and the majority of fans is not entirely surprising, but still sounds somewhat shocking when you realize how true it is. Athletes who speak out (about concussions, about racial inequality) are breaking the rules. Eric Winston, then playing for the Kansas City Chiefs, was disgusted when fans cheered because the team’s (current and disliked, apparently) quarterback was led off the field, injured and likely concussed. He made the comment that it was “fucked up” so many people cheered about a player being knocked out because even if he’s a not a great quarterback, he’s still a person. When Winston’s comments went viral, fans became defensive and he was criticized. Comments Leibovich:Athletes are never supposed to criticize fans like this, especially home fans. According to the settled norms of pro sports, customers should enjoy full absolution for any form of verbal abuse they perpetrate, by the power vested in them by their status as “fans who spend their hard-earned money”—always hard-earned—“to buy their tickets and come to games.” They pay the players’ salaries, dammit. (187)I’ve heard the comparison before that the draft is a lot like slaves being sold at auction; the owners are primarily old white wealthy men and the players are African-American. The players are “bought” based on their bodily strength and skills—it’s not too much of a leap to see well the comparison works. Leibovich does not go quite that far in his book, but he does say that it is disturbing to hear newly drafted players refer to their coaches and the team owners as their “owners” because it’s so close to the truth: players, no matter their contract, can be traded (sold) away to another team without their permission. The aforementioned Eric Winston came to realize (as other players do) that fans consider him to be “merely a dancing elephant paid to perform” and don’t care about him as a human being, but only as a football player. “The prevailing sentiment Winston heard from fans during that time was that players were paid well; they should just shut up and play” (187-188). Where have we heard that before? To get a full picture of Trump’s unrelenting trolling of the NFL and Colin Kaepernick, you need to realize two things: 1) Trump’s a racist asshole and 2) He carries a huge grudge against the NFL because the owners wouldn’t let him join the Membership. The Membership, of course, are the team owners. The author describes them this way: There is much about the Membership that is “inadvertent,” starting with who gets to join this freakish assembly. They are quite a bunch: old money and new, recovering drug addicts and born-again Christians and Orthodox Jews; sweethearts, criminals, and a fair number of Dirty Old Men. They are tycoons of enlarged ego, delusion, and prostate whose ranks include heir-owners like the Maras, Rooneys, and Hunts, of the Giants, Steelers, and Chiefs, respectively, whose family names conjure league history and muddy fields, sideline fedoras and NFL Films. There is also a truck-stop operator whose company admitting to defrauding its customers in a $92 million judicial settlement, a duo of New Jersey real estate developers who were forced to pay $84.5 million on compensatory damages because, according to judge, they “used organized crime-type activities” to fleece their business partners, an energy baron who funded an antigay initiative, a real estate giant married to a Walmart heiress, tax evaders, etc…Trails of ex-wives, litigants, estranged children, and fired coaches populate their histories. (29) “The NFL had long factored in Trump’s well-documented Wannabe Complex: his craving for acceptance from the real billionaires and real tough guys whose ranks he desperately wanted to join…Trump did not come close to passing muster with the Membership. He was, for starters, not considered sufficiently solvent or transparent to proffer a serious bid. Football owners, as it turns out, get a much closer look at a candidate’s finances than electorates do” (231). I’ve included a lot of quotations from the book and that’s because the author’s prose is fun. It’s also because I finished reading this book about two weeks ago and haven’t had the time till now to write the damn review, so any kind of coherent summary I had outlined in my head dissipated long ago. This is a fun, interesting look at the NFL and its myriad problems and personalities. While I think the author tackles serious issues the NFL faces, I wouldn’t say this book is a serious, in depth exposé of the business and sport as a whole. If you enjoyed the quotations I inserted and have even a mild interest in football, I’d say read the book. If you want a more serious take on the NFL, I’d say look elsewhere.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Jim Cooper

    This book gets 5 stars from me because it's so well-written. This really isn't a book about the NFL, so much as it is a peek behind the curtain of the people who run it (the commissioner and the owners), and it's also about Tom Brady. So it's a weird setup but the stories are all great and it's interesting to get an insider view into some of the big news stories the NFL has had over the last couple of years. Leibovich is a great writer.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Gina Boyd

    I can’t express how much I enjoyed this book. It’s smart and funny and gossipy and solemn and the Leibovitz has enough sense to share his sheepishness about being a Masshole. I loved reading about The Membership and its junior high issues. I loved learning how much Tom Brady curses (maybe he’s not a robot?). I loved learning about the power and the money. And most of all, I loved reading the section about Pittsburgh and Dan Rooney. I got to gawk at Rooney’s funeral from my office across the stre I can’t express how much I enjoyed this book. It’s smart and funny and gossipy and solemn and the Leibovitz has enough sense to share his sheepishness about being a Masshole. I loved reading about The Membership and its junior high issues. I loved learning how much Tom Brady curses (maybe he’s not a robot?). I loved learning about the power and the money. And most of all, I loved reading the section about Pittsburgh and Dan Rooney. I got to gawk at Rooney’s funeral from my office across the street from the church, and it it’s fun for me to know that Leibovitz was there, and that he wrote about things I saw. If you’re at all interested in looking at the ways the NFL intersects with (and smashes into) our culture, give this a read.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Bobby Frederick

    Seemed disjointed and repetitive in some parts. Enjoyed some of Leibovich's roasting, but a lot of it felt forced and too snarky. Second half of the book was much better than the first.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Alex Hairston

    Thought the sound bites or excerpts I read in the press were all I really needed to know. I also didn't realize how New England centric this book was before I read it.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Jolene

    Rich people suck. Jerry Jones is a cartoon. The Lambeau Leap is one of the greatest traditions of human achievement. Ultimately, this book didn't really SAY anything, but I was endlessly entertained.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Brian Calandra

    For a guy who spent four years embedded with NFL owners and athletes, Leibovitch came out with very little in the way of anecdotes except for getting wasted on Jerry Jones's bus and seeing Giselle Bundchen congratulating the Eagles. Almost all of this is stuff that anyone could have written after reading ESPN NFL coverage for a few years and then summarizing. And he's got nothing but loathing for the beat writers who cover the game. Most irritating is the author's smug, arch tone -- he's an avid For a guy who spent four years embedded with NFL owners and athletes, Leibovitch came out with very little in the way of anecdotes except for getting wasted on Jerry Jones's bus and seeing Giselle Bundchen congratulating the Eagles. Almost all of this is stuff that anyone could have written after reading ESPN NFL coverage for a few years and then summarizing. And he's got nothing but loathing for the beat writers who cover the game. Most irritating is the author's smug, arch tone -- he's an avid football fan, but takes pains to emphasize that the game is stupid, fandom is infantile, the owners are craven fatcats and the athletes are exploited idiots. And what is with all the fat shaming and calling people ugly? It's like a mean girl spent a day covering the NFL and the only thing that made and impact was the bad facial hair and obesity. I know that billionaires need no one to protect them, but if I ever happen to be in the same room with Mark Leibovitch, I know he'll be sniggering about my beard and belly. Leibovitch's aloofness, superficial coverage and affected self-deprecation gives away the real purpose of the book -- this is NOT a book for football fans. If you follow the game you already know all of the stories here and know a bit more about what the owners were thinking about deflategate and the flag fiasco. Instead, this is a book for people who read "This Town," but who don't know anything about football. Leibovitch is here to summarize the last four years in the game for someone who doesn't follow football. He wants these people to know that it's all stupid and they're not missing anything, and if he was any smarter he'd stop paying attention too. This was a real disappointment -- fans should just reread Michael MacCambridge's "America's Game" (which Leibovitch cites liberally). It does what Leibovitch is trying to do with the mean girl attitude.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Mark Miano

    Around the dinner table one night we got into a discussion about Thomas Jefferson and whether it was fair to judge him today as a hypocrite for penning the phrase “all men are created equal” while being the owner of slaves. (I believe it is fair to make this judgment) I asked my sons if they could think of anything that we were doing today that people 200 years from now might similarly brand us as hypocrites for continuing to do, even though we knew it was wrong. We came up with two examples: dr Around the dinner table one night we got into a discussion about Thomas Jefferson and whether it was fair to judge him today as a hypocrite for penning the phrase “all men are created equal” while being the owner of slaves. (I believe it is fair to make this judgment) I asked my sons if they could think of anything that we were doing today that people 200 years from now might similarly brand us as hypocrites for continuing to do, even though we knew it was wrong. We came up with two examples: driving gasoline powered cars despite evidence of climate change, and watching football despite evidence of the crippling brain damage the game inflicts upon its players. CTE and the concussion issue is just one of several things happening in professional football today that make Mark Leibovich’s book so aptly named: BIG GAME: THE NFL IN DANGEROUS TIMES. Other controversies span race, culture, wealth disparity, politics, and more - a wide ranging narrative that covers everything from Deflategate, to Trump blasting kneeling football players, to clueless billionaire owners, to the much hated commissioner Roger Goodell. This is the second book I’ve read by Leibovich. I also read - and loved - THIS TOWN, which detailed the grotesque behavior of Washington insiders in the media, political, and lobbying worlds. As he did in his first book, Leibovich comes across as kind of a dick. He’s funny to read, but there’s also something uncomfortable about the way everyone seems to be fair game for a takedown. He seems to enjoy it a little too much. Another strike against him is that he’s an unapologetic New England Patriots fan. So I’d say yes, Leibovich definitely is a dick. But I also admire his journalistic chops and his take no prisoners approach to describing everyone as he sees them, no matter if they’re Jerry Jones, Roger Goodell, or the G.O.A.T.(Greatest Of All Time) hero Tom Brady. This is a book that will appeal to football fans and football haters alike. Leibovich is becoming one of those can’t-miss nonfiction writers, in the vein of Michael Lewis, who cover whatever interests them: sports, politics, Wall Street, etc. Wherever they seem to look, they find subjects that reflect back the good, bad, and ugly of America today. As Leibovich himself notes about football: “There is something about this sport that brings the story back to its most fascinating self. I would always tell people that whenever they would ask how I could keep watching football, despite everything I saw and everything we were learning. I say this every time: the best thing football has going for itself is football.”

  10. 4 out of 5

    Dave

    Leibovich is a political writer who produced a book about the NFL at a cultural crossroads. The reviews I read said that this book covered a league besieged by political crosswinds, criticism for its mishandling of domestic abuse, and reeling from new information about the danger of concussions for its players. But I found this book to be too personal by half--it was mostly a tale of the author's affection for the New England Patriots. Leibovich did manage to get a great deal of access, to the NF Leibovich is a political writer who produced a book about the NFL at a cultural crossroads. The reviews I read said that this book covered a league besieged by political crosswinds, criticism for its mishandling of domestic abuse, and reeling from new information about the danger of concussions for its players. But I found this book to be too personal by half--it was mostly a tale of the author's affection for the New England Patriots. Leibovich did manage to get a great deal of access, to the NFL commissioner, several NFL owners, and Tom Brady. But he produced an underwhelming book from all that access. I would have liked to see more revelations about what the league is like on the inside, but all I got was a wild tale of what it is like to drink Johnnie Walker Blue with Jerry Jones on Jones's bus.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Becky

    If you are interested in professional football, you will find, Big Game: the NFL in Danferous Times an interesting read. One caution, I did not realize it centered so much on Tom Brady & the Boston Patriots. The author’s adoration of Tom Brady does become repetitive and overstated. For a look into how professional football operates this book is informative.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Dylan Scott

    The same biting sense of humor and keen judgment of character that made THIS TOWN such a delight is back — and the subject might be even better suited to Leibovich’s talents. You walk away feeling like you really do understand the NFL better but all the more baffled that these yahoos run the biggest entertainment brand in sports.

  13. 4 out of 5

    David

    Could not have enjoyed reading a book anymore than I did this one Leibovich has a keen eye at studying other humans. Fortunately he is able to share these keen and witty observations with us mere mortals. I loved this book and can hardly wait for his next offering.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Emily Dittmar

    I enjoyed how this book explores the moment in time in the NFL. It was an almost outsiders look into how the NFL functions as an organization and on a team level. He shares his time interacting with executives and with players. It kept me engaged the entire time.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Chris Jaffe

    This was a disappointment. Leibovich is a good writer, but he really doesn't have much to say. It's supposed to be an examination of the NFL, but this is a series of bits and pieces where the whole is less than the sum of its parts. This comes off less like analysis and more like tourism. Leibovich recounts the conversations he has with various NFL people - Jerry Jones, Tom Brady, Robert Kraft, etc - but the focus of the book is who would talk to Leibovich and what they said to him, not about an This was a disappointment. Leibovich is a good writer, but he really doesn't have much to say. It's supposed to be an examination of the NFL, but this is a series of bits and pieces where the whole is less than the sum of its parts. This comes off less like analysis and more like tourism. Leibovich recounts the conversations he has with various NFL people - Jerry Jones, Tom Brady, Robert Kraft, etc - but the focus of the book is who would talk to Leibovich and what they said to him, not about any of the issues the NFL is facing these days. It's an exercise in navel-gazing. That Leibovich is a respected national correspondent is depressing, as he's living up to a negative media stereotype here as someone more interested in access than in the story he's supposedly reporting on. Also, Leibovich let's his Patriots-fandom get in the way of things. He's more interested in talking to Tom Brady than he is in most of the issues that are supposedly central to the book. Some parts of interesting and Leibovich is, as noted already, good at stringing sentences together. But this book is far closer to two stars than to four stars.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Mark

    I expected to enjoy this book more. I have both a professional and personal interest in sports business and I find Leibovich an entertaining and engaging writer so I figured this book was bound to be right for me. But it missed somehow. Maybe it was his subject matter; ultra rich people just aren’t that interesting I suppose. The book became very repetitious - the stories may have been slightly different but the characters were the same , the interactions with Leibovich were the same and the int I expected to enjoy this book more. I have both a professional and personal interest in sports business and I find Leibovich an entertaining and engaging writer so I figured this book was bound to be right for me. But it missed somehow. Maybe it was his subject matter; ultra rich people just aren’t that interesting I suppose. The book became very repetitious - the stories may have been slightly different but the characters were the same , the interactions with Leibovich were the same and the interactions with each other were the same with Tom Brady became tiresome very quickly. All in all, while they were scattered nuggets of interesting tidbits of interesting information about various NFL owners and assorted others, pun intended, there just wasn’t enough to carry the book as a whole. You were not left with a clear picture of the league or the crisis it is truly undergoing, although he alluded to it’s problems many times, without really delving into the owner’s attempts to address any of them. If that was his point, he didn’t make it very well.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Sabra

    As someone who is not a fan of football, I found this surprisingly enjoyable

  18. 5 out of 5

    Kyle

    Gets a little too one-note as it goes on, but it is a good reminder that rich people are the absolute worst.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Jose Vitela

    Occasionally you come across a book (show or movie) that is bad but for some reason you're able to power through only to wonder why you didn't cut your losses early. I felt this way with this book. No offense to the author, I haven't written a book (yet) and have respect for the process but this should have been a much shorter article (or series of articles) and not a book. It might have been more beneficial to write exclusively about Jerry Jones and America's team within the context of the NFL Occasionally you come across a book (show or movie) that is bad but for some reason you're able to power through only to wonder why you didn't cut your losses early. I felt this way with this book. No offense to the author, I haven't written a book (yet) and have respect for the process but this should have been a much shorter article (or series of articles) and not a book. It might have been more beneficial to write exclusively about Jerry Jones and America's team within the context of the NFL of the last 20 years. Or a book about the effectiveness and nearly universal hatred of Roger Goodel. Or a book on the unbelievable 10 year dynasty the Patriots have built and an insight into the Patriot machine. Anyway, this book was trying to be all of that and as a result did not render much of anything other than a feeling of precious time wasted.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Chris Pippin

    I heard Leibovich discuss his book on a podcast and was really looking forward to reading it. Unfortunately, as you'll discover very early on, Leibovich is a Pats fan. This wouldn't be a problem on its own, but he spends a good third of the book relitigating Deflategate, and spends the remainder of the book coming to grips with his own feelings about Tom Brady and Bob Kraft. The best parts of the book are the nuggets about Arthur Blank, Woody Johnson, and the other owners, but those nuggets are I heard Leibovich discuss his book on a podcast and was really looking forward to reading it. Unfortunately, as you'll discover very early on, Leibovich is a Pats fan. This wouldn't be a problem on its own, but he spends a good third of the book relitigating Deflategate, and spends the remainder of the book coming to grips with his own feelings about Tom Brady and Bob Kraft. The best parts of the book are the nuggets about Arthur Blank, Woody Johnson, and the other owners, but those nuggets are too few and far between to recommend.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Aidan Renaghan

    Meh. I loved his last book "This Town," but I found this very underwhelming. Not a lot of new information about the NFL. Just reinforces the idea that the owners are greedy madmen who are destroying the league for their own self interest, that the league has no interest or ability to deal with the existential threat of head trauma, and the race politics of football are problematic and a huge rift between players and fans. If you watch football and didn't know any of this, it's likely because you Meh. I loved his last book "This Town," but I found this very underwhelming. Not a lot of new information about the NFL. Just reinforces the idea that the owners are greedy madmen who are destroying the league for their own self interest, that the league has no interest or ability to deal with the existential threat of head trauma, and the race politics of football are problematic and a huge rift between players and fans. If you watch football and didn't know any of this, it's likely because you dont want to know. The book has some great Jerry Jones stories though.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jack Goodstein

    Disappointing..a little snark, and little that's new.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Darrell

    Some interesting nuggets about what the "Membership" (NFL Owners) are like, but mostly this book is just a dreary march through tailgates, stadiums, owners meetings, and parties.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Jim

    This book was a mostly interesting but not really too surprising series of anecdotes about the NFL. The two parts of the NFL that have more mostly turned off from it - a) Their lack of grace and caring about the concussion issue, and b) whiny bitches of owners who just want corporate welfare to build new stadiums, were both highlighted in bold relief. Goodell on the risk of the game: "There is risk in life,” Goodell concluded. “There is risk in sitting on the couch.” Oh great, I'll remember that a This book was a mostly interesting but not really too surprising series of anecdotes about the NFL. The two parts of the NFL that have more mostly turned off from it - a) Their lack of grace and caring about the concussion issue, and b) whiny bitches of owners who just want corporate welfare to build new stadiums, were both highlighted in bold relief. Goodell on the risk of the game: "There is risk in life,” Goodell concluded. “There is risk in sitting on the couch.” Oh great, I'll remember that a life-altering injury or a brain-rattling concussion could happen to me if I sit on the couch. Who would've known but Roger? Playing cities off each other for a new taxpayer funded stadium was described as ".. all bribery fodder, essentially, or a... variant on the civic blackmail and corporate welfare model that’s gotten many grand NFL edifices built and paid for. " On the Raiders going to Las Vegas, Leibovich describes this, "Is it the league’s problem that Vegas is willing to shell out three-quarters of a billion dollars to build a stadium even though its schools are underfunded and its roads are medieval?" Why yes... it is. On the Chargers disastrous move to Los Angeles: "NO ONE wanted The 'Los Angeles Chargers' to happen. Not the people of San Diego, who had supported their team for fifty-six years. Not the league or the other owners, who did not want to abandon a loyal fan base in one of the fastest-growing markets in the league.... Los Angeles itself, at least the subset that cared about football, had made its position on the Chargers clear in a number of ways. The new L.A. Chargers logo was viciously booed upon its unveiling at a Clippers-Lakers game at the Staples Center. The team scrapped the logo and vowed to come up with a new one, but that wasn’t quite the point. MESSAGE TO CHARGERS: WE DON’T WANT YOU IN LOS ANGELES was the headline over a column by Bill Plaschke in the L.A. Times.' Goodell figured by awarding stadium rights in L.A. to the Rams, with the Chargers as junior tenants, this would force Dean Spanos to make it work in San Diego, one way or the other. It was a game of 'chicken'. "... So to placate Spanos, Goodell engineered this consolation arrangement in which the Chargers would own a one-year option to become the Rams’ tenant in Inglewood. No one thought Spanos would actually do this. Shockingly, Dean jumped at going to L.A. Dean just seemed so wounded after we voted for Stan, Roger needed to give him something,” an AFC team executive told me after the vote was taken in Houston. “We should have given him a puppy.” The deal that allowed the Chargers to storm the palace represented NFL politics, pettiness, and greed at its worst." My own memo to NFL fans everywhere after reading this book and exercising basic common sense: There were enough stories in this book illustrating that Roger Goddell and the coterie of NFL owners that prop up the league do not care about you or your fellow family and friend fans. They just want your dollars and eyeballs watching... until they don't and realize they can make more money elsewhere. Just ask the fans of Oakland, St Louis, and San Diego, and city X in the future that won't socialize their private profiting product with public Tax Payer dollars. Whatever happened to the Packers model of ownership - where the city owns and controls the team? Well, it's not allowed anymore under NFL bylaws. Because at the end of the day - the NFL does not care about you the Fans. The NFL does not care about it's players. The NFL only cares about money and growing their revenue pie to 25 Billion or more. That's pretty much it, pure and simple. So continue to root for your local NFL team if you have one, the NFL loves best of all one thing - a sucker.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jake

    I am a lifelong football fan and a Baltimore Ravens supporter. When the Ray Rice scandal hit, I swore off the sport for a year because of how poorly the NFL and the Ravens organizations respectively handled the situation. The Rice situation provided me with an excuse to do something I had wanted to do for awhile: watch less football. It’s tough to overstate what a hold the NFL had on my life in my 20s. I’d plan work, break dates, check my phone in bad circumstances to follow the league, both my b I am a lifelong football fan and a Baltimore Ravens supporter. When the Ray Rice scandal hit, I swore off the sport for a year because of how poorly the NFL and the Ravens organizations respectively handled the situation. The Rice situation provided me with an excuse to do something I had wanted to do for awhile: watch less football. It’s tough to overstate what a hold the NFL had on my life in my 20s. I’d plan work, break dates, check my phone in bad circumstances to follow the league, both my beloved Ravens and my fantasy team. But the league’s excesses combined with the knowledge of what concussions do to these people made me feel like I was being complicity in modern day gladiatorial behavior. Plus, from a faith perspective, I could better steward my time and finances elsewhere. I still watch plenty of football, still play fantasy, still root for the Ravens from afar though I don’t care nearly as much as I used to. But in the four years since I made that commitment, I realize I’m not the only one. The game is declining in national attention if not overall interest. Enter Mark Leibovich. A political journalist, Leibovich decided to cover the powers-that-be of the league for a few years and write a book, perhaps trying to get a picture of the NFL in its state of potential decline. It’s an interesting idea but slipshod in its execution. Leibovich is of the mold of writers who are my least favorite, someone that: a. gets off to his own prose, which he sees as clever and b. has no real focus for the subjects he’s covering, instead bouncing around from event to event. So for those reasons, I can’t go higher than three because I think this book struggles to define why exactly it exists and what story it is supposed to be telling. But it’s tough to deny there are some fun parts: particularly around the owners, a group of 32 mostly white, mostly male rich boobs who have no idea how to interact with an average human being. All they can see are dollar signs and Leibovich is clear in his transparency here. I don’t know how anyone could read this and still side with an owner on a stadium deal or a holdout but hey, we live in the Trump era where the truth is a Rorschach test so what do I know? Also, this might be the most candid portrayal of the least candid human being on earth: Roger Goodell. If you’ve always assumed Roger Goodell is basically a robot built by the owners to take public falls for them and make sponsors happy, this book won’t do much to dissuade you of that notion. Goodell seems like the most incompetent person on earth and yet he does a great job of placating the group I affectionately refer to as “the broke billionaires club.” The commish works for the owners and if you think any of these people care about you, the NFL fan, I’ve got some Enron stock to sell you. Lastly, the whole thing with Tom Brady and the water is hilarious. It was out there in other places before the book came out but it’s still funny to see in print. Overall, if you’re curious about this one, check it out but it won’t break any new ground for you.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Mac

    I like reading Mark Leibovich, and having read This Town and Citizens of the Green Room, I found Big Game to have all of the author's signature moves...and his signature flaw as well. Leibovich's take on the NFL (really his takedown of the NFL) is full of his trademark snark, criticism, irreverence, and hostility. As examples, in the author's eyes, Roger Goodell, the Commissioner, is an inept bumbler (though good at generating revenue), and Jerry Jones, the Dallas Cowboys owner, is a blathering I like reading Mark Leibovich, and having read This Town and Citizens of the Green Room, I found Big Game to have all of the author's signature moves...and his signature flaw as well. Leibovich's take on the NFL (really his takedown of the NFL) is full of his trademark snark, criticism, irreverence, and hostility. As examples, in the author's eyes, Roger Goodell, the Commissioner, is an inept bumbler (though good at generating revenue), and Jerry Jones, the Dallas Cowboys owner, is a blathering idiot (though good at generating revenue). To Leibovich, the NFL top brass consists of rich, self serving, insecure, narcissists. Making money--and pursuing younger girlfriends--is the story here. For some reason, I find all this entertaining reading, a welcome change from the staid sports reporting of the New York Times and ESPN. (Yes Leibovich is a Times reporter, but his books are more Rolling Stone than the "national paper of record." He's more Matt Taibbi than Thomas Friedman or Paul Krugman.) So Big Game is vintage Leibovich fun; it's also vintage Leibovich not adding up to much. Yes, the book chronicles the NFL's "dangerous times," but Big Game is the author's typical series of snapshots (here Super Bowl rings, Hall of Fame weekend, the NFL draft, the owners meetings...), but the snapshots don't aggregate into a coherent whole. Part of the problem is the absence of a comprehensive analysis of the serious issues facing the league. Concussions and "the flag controversy" are mentioned frequently, but I don't know what possible solutions Leibovich would recommend. The book's various fragments remain fragments. Big Game's structure is uncertain as well. Though mostly organized chronologically, the book skips around in time. The analysis of various topics hops from one to another, leading to some repetition and confusion. The book's organization--both chronological and hot topics--reminds me of the old military command, "Line up alphabetically by height." Net, net: Very enjoyable reading. Sketchy big picture. Typical Mark Leibovich.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Richard

    This wasn't the book I was expecting, but that's probably my fault. I was unfamiliar with the author, and I assumed, based on the title and subtitle, that this would be a discussion of the issues the NFL faces "in dangerous (for the NFL) times"and possible solutions. Actually, it kind of was that in a way, like The View might discuss an issue: shallow and catty. Yeah, depending on one's perspective, there are a lot of crappy people in the world. Reading a whole book about their crappiness doesn't This wasn't the book I was expecting, but that's probably my fault. I was unfamiliar with the author, and I assumed, based on the title and subtitle, that this would be a discussion of the issues the NFL faces "in dangerous (for the NFL) times"and possible solutions. Actually, it kind of was that in a way, like The View might discuss an issue: shallow and catty. Yeah, depending on one's perspective, there are a lot of crappy people in the world. Reading a whole book about their crappiness doesn't elevate my life or lead to any solutions. About half of the book is about the Patriots, about a fourth about Roger Goodell, and the other fourth about the rest of the league. Leibovich takes the requisite swipes at Donald Trump, some relevant, some not. The reader does learn, anecdotally, about health issues, notably concussions. We also learn, from the author's Jimmy Kimmel-like perspective, about the unpleasant personal sides of a number of NFL principals... which undoubtedly have major bearing on the league's current "issues". I did enjoy the chapter on the Packers game he went to, where we got a respite from the parade of unappealing people he covers in a lot of the rest of the book. A few specific beefs: (1) The Cardinals' owner's family name is "Bidwill", not "Bidwell". (2) I've seen multiple surveys or stories that claim that most Native Americans do not find the Redskins team name offensive. Leibovich asserts otherwise with no evidence offered other than his own smug opinion. (3) People I know found Kaepernick's disrespect of the flag and the fans to be offensive before it was ever mentioned by candidate Trump. But then, that's a typical difference between those of us in fly-over country and those who live in a Northeast or West Coast bubble. The book probably deserves three stars, but I'm going to apply the same ungenerous standard Leibovich applies to all of his subjects and award only two. Not that he will care.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Scott Martin

    A solid read that offers, or tries to offer, a different perspective on the NFL. Written by a long-time political pundit (and a longer-time New England Patriot fan), Leibovich looks to analyze the NFL, especially in the past few years, looking at the issues the game faces on and off the field. Given the recent intersection of the NFL and the American political scene, perhaps it is just as well that a political writer is trying to analyze the league. Much of his insight is written based on his in A solid read that offers, or tries to offer, a different perspective on the NFL. Written by a long-time political pundit (and a longer-time New England Patriot fan), Leibovich looks to analyze the NFL, especially in the past few years, looking at the issues the game faces on and off the field. Given the recent intersection of the NFL and the American political scene, perhaps it is just as well that a political writer is trying to analyze the league. Much of his insight is written based on his interaction with key owners, the commissioner and key players/coaches (most of those sources tend to be the New England Patriot personalities (Tom Brady and Bob Kraft)). For most, the biggest revelations might be on his interactions with the commissioner, the owners and the hangers-on to those individuals. While attention on their actions does not move the needle as much as that of the players, the motives and actions of the owners play a major role in the current state of affairs in the league. Unfortunately, if you hope to use the league to escape the political turmoil in America...you are out of luck here. Trump's interactions with the league, especially as a candidate and president dominate a lot of the conversation (spoiler alert: Leibovich ain't a fan). The issues with concussions, domestic abuse and the whole to-do about the anthem all make their appearance here. Leibovich tends to look at the issues through a political perspective, but doesn't dwell so much on each in this work. Aside from the insider information he gains from the owners and other non-players, this work is hardly earth-shattering. You might read it just to read something non-sporty about a sports league, but I don't think you will go back to read this again. The audiobook is okay, but again, not that memorable. A decent read for a library book, but probably not worth putting actual money down to own.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Joshua

    Mark Leibovich is just a pleasure. This book is basically a long, romping magazine story about the NFL. You learn little that did you didn't already know, but it's a pleasure to be reminded about things you read about in less entertaining forms elsewhere, and what you do learn (like what Jerry Jones talks about while piss drunk in his trailer, or what it sounds like to hear Tom Brady and Gisele bicker) is just the best. Leibovich refers to the time he spend obsessing over Deflategate as "a dark Mark Leibovich is just a pleasure. This book is basically a long, romping magazine story about the NFL. You learn little that did you didn't already know, but it's a pleasure to be reminded about things you read about in less entertaining forms elsewhere, and what you do learn (like what Jerry Jones talks about while piss drunk in his trailer, or what it sounds like to hear Tom Brady and Gisele bicker) is just the best. Leibovich refers to the time he spend obsessing over Deflategate as "a dark period in my annals of time management" and describes a rough press conference Tom Brady gave on the subject as the "GOAT-to-slaughter press conference." Here's one enjoyable passage, pretty characteristic of what could be pulled from every other page in the book: Network cameras focus on the bespoke Caligulas in their owner’s boxes at least once a game. This is a strange NFL custom. We as viewers must always be favored with reaction shots from the owner’s box — their awkward high fives and crestfallen stares. It is as if we could never fully appreciate what we’ve seen on the field unless we also witness its real-time impact upon the presiding plutocrats. The human toll! Do owners in any other sport receive this much TV time during games? Maybe horse racing. There is something distinctly Roman about this. I'm giving this one just three stars because I didn't walk away with much better understanding of the NFL or the issues it faces, but instead just a really good illustration of the absurdity of the institution.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth C

    I did not expect to love this book. In fact, my 5 star rating probably incorporates the low bar I had. I picked up this book for a crash course on football. I immediately disengage when conversations turn to sports, and I was hoping this would change that—as reading Elon Musk’s bio changed the way I felt about being dragged into a Tesla store. Spoiler alert: I did not really learn anything about football... I learned about the League. I’m not sure Mark and I would ever be friends. From his literary I did not expect to love this book. In fact, my 5 star rating probably incorporates the low bar I had. I picked up this book for a crash course on football. I immediately disengage when conversations turn to sports, and I was hoping this would change that—as reading Elon Musk’s bio changed the way I felt about being dragged into a Tesla store. Spoiler alert: I did not really learn anything about football... I learned about the League. I’m not sure Mark and I would ever be friends. From his literary voice, it’s clear to me that we probably would never cross paths. That said, I grew really attached to him and was disappointed to think that our relationship would end as I neared the conclusion. This book was as much a study on the League as it was a diehard football fan. I loved the honesty, which sometimes bordered on self-deprecating—but not too much so. I loved the sarcastic humor although, new to sports, I needed some time to tell what was sarcasm and what was not. This book helped me make sense of the screaming, painted fans I see flipping channels on TV. In fact, I’ll admit this book even made me want to move to Green Bay. For a little. For all this, I think this book deserves better than the rating it has here. Perhaps it’s a testament to expectations. The jacket cover gave me very little clue to what I was signing up for. I guess I’m lucky that I was pleasantly surprised.

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