Friday, February 1, 2013

Ten-Gallon War by John Eisenberg



Why I read it: Sucker for sports history, and there are gaps in my pro football history knowledge I'd like to overcome.

Summary: The NFL's Cowboys, the AFL's Texans and the feud for Dallas' pro football future. (Also the subtitle).
My Thoughts: One passage in the book set things straight in my mind. It talks about why football was becoming America's game, why baseball was lagging behind. It was simple. Football mirrored the 1960s: violent and chaotic. "Pastoral and timeless" was gone from the American psyche. The Kennedy assassination and Vietnam did them in.

The book is pro-AFL, which is just as good an angle to take as any. Lamar Hunt comes off as a hero, while others from the NFL side saw him as public enemy #1. One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter.

For me, this book served dual purposes. First, the microstory of the war fought in Dallas was as interesting a tale as you're going to get. A start-up league picks its cities; the old guard places an expansion franchise right in the heart of one of those cities in an attempt to beat the upstarts before they can get rolling. But the wider backstory of the days prior to the merger of the AFL and NFL helped fill a gap in my knowledge, and made several modern-day problems clear as well, like Los Angeles never being able to support a team longterm despite its obvious size and audience potential. It's not a modern thing. It's always been the case.

And names from football history come to life: Hunt, Tex Schramm, Hank Stram, Abner Haynes, Don Meredith, Tom Landry. Some still had roles in the sport when I started watching, but others had moved on. I know them all so well now.

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