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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. 4 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

    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.

  3. 5 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 4 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.

  6. 4 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 4 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.

  9. 4 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Tim Niland

    This was an insightful and entertaining book about the modern NFL and state of pro football in America. The author is primarily a political reporter, but lifelong football fan: he's from Boston and roots for the hated Patriots, but don't hold that against him. He takes a bifurcated approach to reviewing the current league: with many interviews with owners and league office office personnel he provides a behind the scenes look at the big money men as they grapple with issues like concussions, pla This was an insightful and entertaining book about the modern NFL and state of pro football in America. The author is primarily a political reporter, but lifelong football fan: he's from Boston and roots for the hated Patriots, but don't hold that against him. He takes a bifurcated approach to reviewing the current league: with many interviews with owners and league office office personnel he provides a behind the scenes look at the big money men as they grapple with issues like concussions, player protests and franchise movement in search of ever larger municipality subsidies. The flipside to this is his interactions with fans, many of whom hate and actively boo the league commissioner at public events, and rage against the owners of their favorite teams for the pursuit of ever larger payouts at the expense of team loyalty. Fans too grapple with the health implications of concussions and CTE, just as conservatively minded fans boil with rage about kneeling and Donald Trump inserts his bloviated visage into the discussion, callously mining a social justice issue for political gains. Leibovich doesn't stray from asking the difficult questions about the present and future of pro football, but he does so with an acerbic wit that keeps the pages moving and the book as enjoyable as it is thought provoking.

  12. 4 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.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Tom

    This was a breezy little read. Leibovich is a political reporter, but more of a political gossip reporter, used to frequenting D.C. cocktail parties and making blowhards comfortable talking to him. This background makes the NFL is a perfect pasture for him to graze in.* The book centers around numerous key dates in the NFL calendar from 2014 through early 2018. With this, there is a lot on Deflategate, Ray Rice, Tom Brady, the Rams/Chargers/Raiders LA & Vegas adventures, Kaepernick, and more This was a breezy little read. Leibovich is a political reporter, but more of a political gossip reporter, used to frequenting D.C. cocktail parties and making blowhards comfortable talking to him. This background makes the NFL is a perfect pasture for him to graze in.* The book centers around numerous key dates in the NFL calendar from 2014 through early 2018. With this, there is a lot on Deflategate, Ray Rice, Tom Brady, the Rams/Chargers/Raiders LA & Vegas adventures, Kaepernick, and more - as you can see, lots of fodder to work with. The character profiles are what I enjoyed the most - Robert Kraft is the pompous doofus I always assumed, he drinks with Jerry Jones and that goes EXACTLY how you'd expect, Brady is the nutrition weirdo who happens to be an amazing QB, and Goodell is the empty suit with the NFL shield tattooed on his a*s that you'd expect (not literally in the latter...). If you follow the NFL but are also frustrated with it on a consistent basis, you'll really appreciate this book. *Word of warning - he's also a Masshole Pats fan, so you'll have to deal with that if you aren't. :)

  14. 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.

  15. 4 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.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Ross Mckinney

    You have to be a football fan. And it's pretty much a standard issue non-sports writer spends a year hanging out with the NFL story. He's astonished, a bit flabbergasted, and the owners come across like a bunch of spoiled billionaires. I wonder why! But he writes really well, the stories are entertaining and sometimes laugh-out-loud funny, and he thinks hard about the meaning of football and sports in our politically fraught times. He spends more time with the owners (yuk) than the players (who You have to be a football fan. And it's pretty much a standard issue non-sports writer spends a year hanging out with the NFL story. He's astonished, a bit flabbergasted, and the owners come across like a bunch of spoiled billionaires. I wonder why! But he writes really well, the stories are entertaining and sometimes laugh-out-loud funny, and he thinks hard about the meaning of football and sports in our politically fraught times. He spends more time with the owners (yuk) than the players (who I've come to appreciate)(I do some consulting for the Player's Association), but otherwise worth the not tremendously long time it took to read it. It fully engaged me. Recommended for sports buffs.

  17. 5 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.

  18. 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.

  19. 4 out of 5

    LUCAS H. GOLDING

    Very well written book, although I have to admit there isn’t a lot of stuff in here I didn’t already know. I was under the impression that the book would tackle(no pun intended) the national anthem issue as well as the concussion issue in more detail, but to no avail. Having said all that, this book is really funny, I laughed out loud multiple times and has a shit eating grin almost the entire read through. So in conclusion if you’re looking for an entertaining, funny book check it out.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Robin

    This book was great. I laughed had a good time listening to it. The narrator did a great job.I'm not by any stretch of the imagination a Tom Brady or a Patriots fan and I still enjoyed it. I've watched professional football as long as I can remember and enjoyed it, but a few years ago I started to feel.....disillusioned I guess. The league handles problems poorly, Ray Rice is a prime example. I'm not much of a football fan anymore but I still enjoyed this book a great deal.

  21. 5 out of 5

    David

    While the content is nothing earth-shaking, this book is entertaining throughout and it's all because Mark Leibovich is quite a writer! His wit is sharp, and the prose cracks. Hearing it on unabridged audio with perfect narration by Joe Barrett is absolutely the way I'd most recommend reading this.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Luke Hooper

    Awesome look at the NFL over the last 4 years. Leibovich inserts himself into his story and it makes all the difference as he is a Patriots fan and an expert at reading people. I laughed all throughout this book at his observations of Roger Goodell and the ridiculous and often petty behavior of the owners.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    I really dug and still think about Leibovich's book about Washington swampiness, This Town, even if it left me with half a mind to jump out the window in despair. Big Game is just as witty and filled with memorable characters, but I don't really know why it exists, other than to compile a ledger of all the important stories surrounding the NFL over the last few years.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Steve Nolan

    It's mostly about the Patriots, which is nice because that's the team I used to really really like. (I am sports franchise apathetic now. Players are cool, teams are whatever.) Lots of good Brady, Belichick and Kraft nuggets, though Brady is incredibly interesting to me. Just a hollow husk of a football player, but an effective one at that.

  25. 4 out of 5

    William Krasne

    I’d heard great things about this book and it didn’t disappoint. Leibovich is an engaging writer and this is a rollicking read. He pulls no punches and spares no one - as he says in the book when he sees a parade he feels compelled to rain in it. He highlights the NFL’s hypocrisy in numerous ways, particularly with player’s health. Highly recommend this

  26. 5 out of 5

    Charlie Fenwick

    Pretty good story about the NFL today. Two principal subjects were reviewed here. First the gigantic ego‘s with the 32 billionaires who owns the NFL franchises, and second The impact concussions have and will have on the league in the game. He tells a lot of entertaining stories and seem to have pretty good access.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Richard

    Lots of amusing anecdotes about NFL owners and their money. Which is their most important asset except for Jerry Jones who loves himself and his HOF election more than another Super Bowl win -- if that were possible. Every current owner is torched with only the likes of Wellington Mara and Dan Rooney (the best of the old families) escaping.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Tom Condardo

    Irreverent look at the inner workings of the leadership of the NFL from a non-sportswriter. Witty, sarcastic, unvarnished look at NFL owners, their foibles, personality quirks, and enormous egos. Also an unfiltered look at the troubles facing the league - concussions, anthem protests, the dislike of Roger Goodell. Worth a read for any NFL fan.

  29. 4 out of 5

    John Scherer

    Agree w other reviewers that there is no overriding theme to this book. But, I enjoy Leibovich’s irreverent tone toward these egotistical blowhards (owners, Goodell, etc.). And, I share his guilt about enjoying a sport w obvious health consequences for its gladiators. Leibovich’s writing style and humor overcome other weaknesses.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Steve

    A great look at inside the NFL. Leibovich takes the reader inside the league offices, and describes the billionaire owners as well as current and former players with a great deal of humorous detail. Fun read!

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