While not many people, including myself, will recognize the team name "Toledo Troopers", some may recall their best player, as I do, Linda Jefferson. More than just a competitor on the 1970's sports program "The Superstars", Jefferson was a fantastic football player on a team that was one of the most dominant in its sport. Here is my review of a book that gives this team its due.
Title/Author: “We Are the Troopers: The Women of the Winningest Team in Pro Football History” by Stephen Guinan
Rating: 4 of 5 stars (very good)
Review: In the 1972-73 season, there were two professional football teams who went undefeated. One is very familiar to sports fans, the Miami Dolphins who remain the only NFL team to do so in the Super Bowl era. The other one is one that may not be as familiar – the Toledo Troopers. They played in the Women’s Professional Football League (WPFL) and while the league only lasted a few short years and didn’t gain the popularity of the men’s version, those who were a part of the Troopers felt a lasting impression. The stories of some of those people are captured in this book by Stephen Guinan.
There has been a book published on the history of the WPFL and this one covers some of that history. That includes the vision of Sid Friedman who saw potential viability for women’s football given the social climate of the time when the Equal Rights Amendment was passed by Congress and more exposure and compensation was available for female athletes. This was also an era when more professional sports leagues were formed in men’s football, hockey, and basketball. Given all these, Friedman saw a possible windfall.
However, the Troopers already existed at the time the WPFL started (1974) as there were several professional women’s football teams loosely organized. The success of the Troopers made them the premier franchise of the league and amazingly, during their existence between 1972 and 1979, they lost only 4 games and won or shared 7 professional championships. This was recognized in the Pro Football Hall of Fame as well, calling the Troopers the “winningest team in the history of professional football.”
It was a combination of coaching and talented players that gave the Troopers this stellar record and those people are the strength of this book. The best profiles are those of coach Bill Stout and the most accomplished athlete to wear a Trooper uniform, Linda Jefferson. Jefferson’s story is very noteworthy in that not only was she a star for the Troopers, but she was also honored as the female athlete of the year in 1975 by women’s Sports, a magazine published by tennis legend Billie Jean King. Other players for the Troopers such as quarterback Lee Hollar and Beverly Severance get their due as well as coach Carl Hamilton. There are many aspects to their stories, especially Stout and Jefferson, that a reader will learn much about them.
For serious football fans, there is a lot of game action in the book, especially of important playoff and championship games. At times, it reads like a play-by-play recap book and while good, it is not the best aspect of this book. That is reserved for the personal stories and just finally giving the Toledo Troopers the recognition and respect they richly deserve.
I wish to thank Hachette Books for providing a copy of the book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.