Top five: NFL 100 books

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The NFL spent the 2019 season celebrating its 100th season with a range of special events, including on-field tributes, TV specials and, of course, books. An all-time team was selected, Peyton Manning was sent to cover historic locations and fans were given the chance to win a range of once-in-a-lifetime experiences.

The NFL was founded in August 1920 and endured decades of uncertainty before it grew to become the sports behemoth that it is today. For those who want a detailed history of that journey, the combination of John Eisenberg’s The League and Michael MacCambridge’s America’s Game give you as thorough a grounding as you could need.

However, if you want one of the titles that specifically celebrates the centenary, then you have several to choose from, each of which tackles the task in a slightly different way.

1NFL 100 (2019) by Rob Fleder

Let’s start with the NFL’s official publication. This is a wonderful coffee-table book, complete with a range of exceptional photographs, all of which are beautifully reproduced. However, what sets it apart from most books of this kind is that, rather than write a new history of the league, Fleder has chosen to tell the story with excerpts from contemporaneous news and magazine articles and some of the great football books. It’s the story of the league told by Paul Zimmerman, Bob Carroll, Edwin Pope, and more of the great football writers. This is a delight for football book buffs.
Full review
Rob Fleder interview
Buy the book: Amazon US | Amazon UK

2NFL Century (2019) by Joe Horrigan

Joe Horrigan, former executive director and Pro Football Hall of Fame historian, has taken on the task of relating the NFL’s history in a relatively compact 350 pages. As you would expect, this can only be a whirlwind tour and Horrigan adopts a ‘greatest hits’ approach, picking out 33 themes or stories that illustrate a wider point about the league’s history. It’s largely uncritical of the league, which holds it back as a work of history, but it’s a decent survey for anyone who wants the basic story of the NFL.
Full review
Buy the book: Amazon US | Amazon UK

3NFL 100 (2019) by Craig Ellenport

A third approach to the anniversary book comes from Craig Ellenport, former senior editor at NFL.com. He brings together the NFL’s 100 greatest moments. It’s fun to read, not only for the reminder of the big moments – the Ice Bowl, ‘The Catch’, the merger, and so on – but also to compare Ellenport’s rankings with your own mental list. The top 10 moments here have each had entire books written about them, so Ellenport does well to tell each story in brief. An entertaining read for fans of any age.
Full review
Craig Ellenport interview
Buy the book: Amazon US | Amazon UK

4America’s Game (2019) by Jerry Rice

If you can forgive him for re-using the title of one of the great football books, then Hall of Fame wide receiver Jerry Rice’s history of the game is not a bad overview. Rice and his co-author Randy Williams tell the story of the NFL in a mix of anecdotes and lists – great players, the most important owners, memorable Super Bowl moments, and so on.
Buy the book: Amazon US | Amazon UK

5A Century of American Football (2019) by Roger Gordon

And finally, an entirely different way to handle the centenary. Gordon’s book is a decade-by-decade quiz on the history of the NFL. It’s a good challenge for those who think they don’t need to read any of these books, because they know the history already, but it’s also an interesting way to learn, because the answers come with plenty of background.
Buy the book: Amazon US | Amazon UK

Photo: JW Ogden

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