Big Game: The NFL in Dangerous Times

Big Game: The NFL in Dangerous Times

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...

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Title:Big Game: The NFL in Dangerous Times
Author:Mark Leibovich
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Edition Language:English

Big Game: The NFL in Dangerous Times Reviews

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Kristina

    You don’t have to be a rabid fan of football to enjoy Mark Leibovich’s

    A passing acquaintance with the game is all that is required to be drawn into this book, as long as you enjoy Leibovich’s prose. He is funny, snarky but never cruel, goofy, and manages to sneak a lot of facts into your brain by disguising them as well-written and entertaining writing. After reading

    You don’t have to be a rabid fan of football to enjoy Mark Leibovich’s

    A passing acquaintance with the game is all that is required to be drawn into this book, as long as you enjoy Leibovich’s prose. He is funny, snarky but never cruel, goofy, and manages to sneak a lot of facts into your brain by disguising them as well-written and entertaining writing. After reading

    , I decided I would read anything he wrote.

    did not disappoint me.

    The thread that holds the book together is Leibovich’s undisguised fanboy crush on Tom Brady, the superstar, handsome, petulant, quarterback for the New England Patriots—the team America loves to hate. Why do we hate them? Because they’re such arrogant assholes who win all the time. No one loves a persistent winner, no matter what our current president says. Sometimes, the losers really get pissed off at the winners, especially when they’re such douchebags about it—and act like big baby losers when they lose. But maybe that’s just me (full disclosure: the two teams I dislike the most are the Patriots and the Steelers. When the two teams played each other last year, I didn’t know who to root for—I think in the end I just wanted a scoreless tie). Built around the author’s quest to become Tom Brady’s new best friend is the story of the NFL’s biggest personalities, how it’s a huge money machine for the owners, and how it deals (badly) with its latest challenges: the Colin Kaepernick controversy, Trump’s trolling, and the truth about concussions.

    When Leibovich gets snarky, he is often targeting himself. He knows he is a Masshole (the not-so-flattering nickname for Patriots fans), he knows his love for football in general, and Brady in particular, is unrequited, but he’s okay with this. When he finally gets what his heart desires—a meeting with Tom Brady!—he is nervous, sweaty, and completely sure he is being pranked. Brady told him to come to his apartment at Twenty-third and Madison (in Manhattan), but couldn’t be more specific:

    The discussion of how players are viewed by the owners and the majority of fans is not entirely surprising, but still sounds somewhat shocking when you realize how true it is. Athletes who speak out (about concussions, about racial inequality) are breaking the rules. Eric Winston, then playing for the Kansas City Chiefs, was disgusted when fans cheered because the team’s (current and disliked, apparently) quarterback was led off the field, injured and likely concussed. He made the comment that it was “fucked up” so many people cheered about a player being knocked out because even if he’s a not a great quarterback, he’s still a person. When Winston’s comments went viral, fans became defensive and he was criticized. Comments Leibovich:

    I’ve heard the comparison before that the draft is a lot like slaves being sold at auction; the owners are primarily old white wealthy men and the players are African-American. The players are “bought” based on their bodily strength and skills—it’s not too much of a leap to see well the comparison works. Leibovich does not go quite that far in his book, but he does say that it is disturbing to hear newly drafted players refer to their coaches and the team owners as their “owners” because it’s so close to the truth: players, no matter their contract, can be traded (sold) away to another team without their permission. The aforementioned Eric Winston came to realize (as other players do) that fans consider him to be “merely a dancing elephant paid to perform” and don’t care about him as a human being, but only as a football player. “The prevailing sentiment Winston heard from fans during that time was that players were paid well; they should just shut up and play” (187-188). Where have we heard that before?

    To get a full picture of Trump’s unrelenting trolling of the NFL and Colin Kaepernick, you need to realize two things: 1) Trump’s a racist asshole and 2) He carries a huge grudge against the NFL because the owners wouldn’t let him join the Membership. The Membership, of course, are the team owners. The author describes them this way:

    “The NFL had long factored in Trump’s well-documented Wannabe Complex: his craving for acceptance from the real billionaires and real tough guys whose ranks he desperately wanted to join…Trump did not come close to passing muster with the Membership. He was, for starters, not considered sufficiently solvent or transparent to proffer a serious bid. Football owners, as it turns out, get a much closer look at a candidate’s finances than electorates do” (231).

    I’ve included a lot of quotations from the book and that’s because the author’s prose is fun. It’s also because I finished reading this book about two weeks ago and haven’t had the time till now to write the damn review, so any kind of coherent summary I had outlined in my head dissipated long ago. This is a fun, interesting look at the NFL and its myriad problems and personalities. While I think the author tackles serious issues the NFL faces, I wouldn’t say this book is a serious, in depth exposé of the business and sport as a whole. If you enjoyed the quotations I inserted and have even a mild interest in football, I’d say read the book. If you want a more serious take on the NFL, I’d say look elsewhere.

  • Mark Miano

    Around the dinner table one night we got into a discussion about Thomas Jefferson and whether it was fair to judge him today as a hypocrite for penning the phrase “all men are created equal” while being the owner of slaves. (I believe it is fair to make this judgment)

    I asked my sons if they could think of anything that we were doing today that people 200 years from now might similarly brand us as hypocrites for continuing to do, even though we knew it was wrong. We came up with two examples: dr

    Around the dinner table one night we got into a discussion about Thomas Jefferson and whether it was fair to judge him today as a hypocrite for penning the phrase “all men are created equal” while being the owner of slaves. (I believe it is fair to make this judgment)

    I asked my sons if they could think of anything that we were doing today that people 200 years from now might similarly brand us as hypocrites for continuing to do, even though we knew it was wrong. We came up with two examples: driving gasoline powered cars despite evidence of climate change, and watching football despite evidence of the crippling brain damage the game inflicts upon its players.

    CTE and the concussion issue is just one of several things happening in professional football today that make Mark Leibovich’s book so aptly named: BIG GAME: THE NFL IN DANGEROUS TIMES. Other controversies span race, culture, wealth disparity, politics, and more - a wide ranging narrative that covers everything from Deflategate, to Trump blasting kneeling football players, to clueless billionaire owners, to the much hated commissioner Roger Goodell.

    This is the second book I’ve read by Leibovich. I also read - and loved - THIS TOWN, which detailed the grotesque behavior of Washington insiders in the media, political, and lobbying worlds. As he did in his first book, Leibovich comes across as kind of a dick. He’s funny to read, but there’s also something uncomfortable about the way everyone seems to be fair game for a takedown. He seems to enjoy it a little too much. Another strike against him is that he’s an unapologetic New England Patriots fan. So I’d say yes, Leibovich definitely is a dick. But I also admire his journalistic chops and his take no prisoners approach to describing everyone as he sees them, no matter if they’re Jerry Jones, Roger Goodell, or the G.O.A.T.(Greatest Of All Time) hero Tom Brady.

    This is a book that will appeal to football fans and football haters alike. Leibovich is becoming one of those can’t-miss nonfiction writers, in the vein of Michael Lewis, who cover whatever interests them: sports, politics, Wall Street, etc. Wherever they seem to look, they find subjects that reflect back the good, bad, and ugly of America today. As Leibovich himself notes about football:

    “There is something about this sport that brings the story back to its most fascinating self. I would always tell people that whenever they would ask how I could keep watching football, despite everything I saw and everything we were learning. I say this every time: the best thing football has going for itself is football.”

  • Gina Boyd

    I can’t express how much I enjoyed this book. It’s smart and funny and gossipy and solemn and the Leibovitz has enough sense to share his sheepishness about being a Masshole.

    I loved reading about The Membership and its junior high issues. I loved learning how much Tom Brady curses (maybe he’s not a robot?). I loved learning about the power and the money. And most of all, I loved reading the section about Pittsburgh and Dan Rooney. I got to gawk at Rooney’s funeral from my office across the stre

    I can’t express how much I enjoyed this book. It’s smart and funny and gossipy and solemn and the Leibovitz has enough sense to share his sheepishness about being a Masshole.

    I loved reading about The Membership and its junior high issues. I loved learning how much Tom Brady curses (maybe he’s not a robot?). I loved learning about the power and the money. And most of all, I loved reading the section about Pittsburgh and Dan Rooney. I got to gawk at Rooney’s funeral from my office across the street from the church, and it it’s fun for me to know that Leibovitz was there, and that he wrote about things I saw.

    If you’re at all interested in looking at the ways the NFL intersects with (and smashes into) our culture, give this a read.

  • 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.

  • Alex Hairston

    Thought the sound bites or excerpts I read in the press were all I really needed to know. I also didn't realize how New England centric this book was before I read it.

  • Bobby Frederick

    Seemed disjointed and repetitive in some parts. Enjoyed some of Leibovich's roasting, but a lot of it felt forced and too snarky. Second half of the book was much better than the first.

  • 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.

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