Sunday, June 21, 2015

Review of "When It Was Just a Game"

Let's face it, even if you are not a football fan, you still enjoy the Super Bowl.  Maybe you don't watch the game - but you still know about the commercials, maybe watch the superstar musician at half time, and go to a Super Bowl party for the food and friendship.  However, the game to decide the champion of professional football hasn't always been like this.  This book that will be published in September is a great way to learn what it was like for that first championship game - before it was known as the Super Bowl and when football, like society, was very different than how we know it today. Here is my review of "When It Was Just A Game."

“When It Was Just a Game: Remembering the First Super Bowl” by Harvey Frommer, foreword by Frank Gifford

Football (American), history, professional, Packers, Chiefs

Publish date:
September 9, 2015

252 pages

5 of 5 stars (outstanding)

The Super Bowl has grown to national holiday status in the United States, with the game being one of the top rated television shows every season, parties and gatherings are occurring with many of the people not knowing anything about the game of football, and other entertainment associated with the game such as commercials and the halftime show have taken on lives of their own.  

What can be forgotten, however, is that the game started as the idea of Pete Rozelle, the commissioner of the more established National Football League, as a championship game between the champions of his league and those of the relatively new American Football League. That first game, won by the NFL’s Green Bay Packers 35-10 over the AFL’s Kansas City Chiefs, has a colorful story of its own. This book by sports historian Harvey Frommer tells that story from oral recollections of many who played in the game and were important figures behind the scenes as well.

Gathering stories from many different sources, the book shares thoughts, insights and anecdotes about all aspects of this first championship game.  It wasn’t called the Super Bowl at first, but was used informally by many at the event.  There are excellent stories about the mindset of the two coaches, Vince Lombardi of the Packers and Hank Stram of the Chiefs.  Some of the stories on Stram came from previously unpublished memoirs of Stram. Most came from players and they ranged from play calls during the game to what the coach was like in the locker room and away from the practice field. 

However, the book is far from one that is just about the sport, the players and the coaches.  There are many entertaining and revealing stories about other aspects of this first “world championship” game.  Broadcasters for the two networks that telecast the game share their experiences.  Staff members of the teams and leagues share many anecdotes about other logistics that had to be addressed, such as ticket sales for a game that did not have the heavy hype that the Super Bowl has today. Getting everyone on board for such a game also took a lot of work. Frommer takes all of these aspects, obtains information and stories from people who were there, and weaves them together in a terrific blend of storytelling and narrative that makes the reader truly understand what it was like to put together that first championship game.  

I wish to thank NetGalley and Taylor Trade Publishing for an advance review copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

Did I skim?

Pace of the book: 
It will be a fast paced read for readers who are familiar with the teams, the history of the game or have researched football history.  As I did not fit into any of these categories, it was a bit slower for me as I took my time reading many of the stories.

Do I recommend? 
Yes - not only readers who are interested in football history will enjoy this book, but also readers who are only familiar with the phenomenon that the Super Bowl has become today should read this. It will give those readers a sense of what the event was like at that time and appreciate what it has become today.

Book Format Read:
E-Book (Kindle)

Buying links (for pre-orders at time of post):

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