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
Rating:
Edition Language:English

Big Game: The NFL in Dangerous Times Reviews

  • David

    Leibovich has a keen eye at studying other humans. Fortunately he is able to share these keen and witty observations with us mere mortals. I loved this book and can hardly wait for his next offering.

  • 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.

  • Jim

    This book was a mostly interesting but not really too surprising series of anecdotes about the NFL.

    The two parts of the NFL that have more mostly turned off from it - a) Their lack of grace and caring about the concussion issue, and b) whiny bitches of owners who just want corporate welfare to build new stadiums, were both highlighted in bold relief.

    Goodell on the risk of the game: "There is risk in life,” Goodell concluded. “There is risk in sitting on the couch.” Oh great, I'll remember that a

    This book was a mostly interesting but not really too surprising series of anecdotes about the NFL.

    The two parts of the NFL that have more mostly turned off from it - a) Their lack of grace and caring about the concussion issue, and b) whiny bitches of owners who just want corporate welfare to build new stadiums, were both highlighted in bold relief.

    Goodell on the risk of the game: "There is risk in life,” Goodell concluded. “There is risk in sitting on the couch.” Oh great, I'll remember that a life-altering injury or a brain-rattling concussion could happen to me if I sit on the couch. Who would've known but Roger?

    Playing cities off each other for a new taxpayer funded stadium was described as ".. all bribery fodder, essentially, or a... variant on the civic blackmail and corporate welfare model that’s gotten many grand NFL edifices built and paid for. "

    On the Raiders going to Las Vegas, Leibovich describes this, "Is it the league’s problem that Vegas is willing to shell out three-quarters of a billion dollars to build a stadium even though its schools are underfunded and its roads are medieval?" Why yes... it is.

    On the Chargers disastrous move to Los Angeles: "NO ONE wanted The 'Los Angeles Chargers' to happen. Not the people of San Diego, who had supported their team for fifty-six years. Not the league or the other owners, who did not want to abandon a loyal fan base in one of the fastest-growing markets in the league.... Los Angeles itself, at least the subset that cared about football, had made its position on the Chargers clear in a number of ways. The new L.A. Chargers logo was viciously booed upon its unveiling at a Clippers-Lakers game at the Staples Center. The team scrapped the logo and vowed to come up with a new one, but that wasn’t quite the point. MESSAGE TO CHARGERS: WE DON’T WANT YOU IN LOS ANGELES was the headline over a column by Bill Plaschke in the L.A. Times.' Goodell figured by awarding stadium rights in L.A. to the Rams, with the Chargers as junior tenants, this would force Dean Spanos to make it work in San Diego, one way or the other. It was a game of 'chicken'. "... So to placate Spanos, Goodell engineered this consolation arrangement in which the Chargers would own a one-year option to become the Rams’ tenant in Inglewood.

    No one thought Spanos would actually do this. Shockingly, Dean jumped at going to L.A. Dean just seemed so wounded after we voted for Stan, Roger needed to give him something,” an AFC team executive told me after the vote was taken in Houston. “We should have given him a puppy.” The deal that allowed the Chargers to storm the palace represented NFL politics, pettiness, and greed at its worst."

    My own memo to NFL fans everywhere after reading this book and exercising basic common sense: There were enough stories in this book illustrating that Roger Goddell and the coterie of NFL owners that prop up the league do not care about you or your fellow family and friend fans. They just want your dollars and eyeballs watching... until they don't and realize they can make more money elsewhere. Just ask the fans of Oakland, St Louis, and San Diego, and city X in the future that won't socialize their private profiting product with public Tax Payer dollars.

    Whatever happened to the Packers model of ownership - where the city owns and controls the team? Well, it's not allowed anymore under NFL bylaws. Because at the end of the day - the NFL does not care about you the Fans. The NFL does not care about it's players. The NFL only cares about money and growing their revenue pie to 25 Billion or more. That's pretty much it, pure and simple. So continue to root for your local NFL team if you have one, the NFL loves best of all one thing - a sucker.

  • 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.

  • Kyle

    Gets a little too one-note as it goes on, but it is a good reminder that rich people are the absolute worst.

  • 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.

  • Mac

    I like reading Mark Leibovich, and having read

    and

    , I found

    to have all of the author's signature moves...and his signature flaw as well.

    Leibovich's take on the NFL (really his takedown of the NFL) is full of his trademark snark, criticism, irreverence, and hostility. As examples, in the author's eyes, Roger Goodell, the Commissioner, is an inept bumbler (though good at generating revenue), and Jerry Jones, the Dallas Cowboys owner, is a blathering

    I like reading Mark Leibovich, and having read

    and

    , I found

    to have all of the author's signature moves...and his signature flaw as well.

    Leibovich's take on the NFL (really his takedown of the NFL) is full of his trademark snark, criticism, irreverence, and hostility. As examples, in the author's eyes, Roger Goodell, the Commissioner, is an inept bumbler (though good at generating revenue), and Jerry Jones, the Dallas Cowboys owner, is a blathering idiot (though good at generating revenue). To Leibovich, the NFL top brass consists of rich, self serving, insecure, narcissists. Making money--and pursuing younger girlfriends--is the story here.

    For some reason, I find all this entertaining reading, a welcome change from the staid sports reporting of the

    and ESPN. (Yes Leibovich is a

    reporter, but his books are more

    than the "national paper of record." He's more Matt Taibbi than Thomas Friedman or Paul Krugman.)

    So

    is vintage Leibovich fun; it's also vintage Leibovich not adding up to much. Yes, the book chronicles the NFL's "dangerous times," but

    is the author's typical series of snapshots (here Super Bowl rings, Hall of Fame weekend, the NFL draft, the owners meetings...), but the snapshots don't aggregate into a coherent whole. Part of the problem is the absence of a comprehensive analysis of the serious issues facing the league. Concussions and "the flag controversy" are mentioned frequently, but I don't know what possible solutions Leibovich would recommend. The book's various fragments remain fragments.

    's structure is uncertain as well. Though mostly organized chronologically, the book skips around in time. The analysis of various topics hops from one to another, leading to some repetition and confusion. The book's organization--both chronological and hot topics--reminds me of the old military command, "Line up alphabetically by height."

    Net, net: Very enjoyable reading. Sketchy big picture. Typical Mark Leibovich.

  • Jake

    I am a lifelong football fan and a Baltimore Ravens supporter. When the Ray Rice scandal hit, I swore off the sport for a year because of how poorly the NFL and the Ravens organizations respectively handled the situation.

    The Rice situation provided me with an excuse to do something I had wanted to do for awhile: watch less football. It’s tough to overstate what a hold the NFL had on my life in my 20s. I’d plan work, break dates, check my phone in bad circumstances to follow the league, both my b

    I am a lifelong football fan and a Baltimore Ravens supporter. When the Ray Rice scandal hit, I swore off the sport for a year because of how poorly the NFL and the Ravens organizations respectively handled the situation.

    The Rice situation provided me with an excuse to do something I had wanted to do for awhile: watch less football. It’s tough to overstate what a hold the NFL had on my life in my 20s. I’d plan work, break dates, check my phone in bad circumstances to follow the league, both my beloved Ravens and my fantasy team. But the league’s excesses combined with the knowledge of what concussions do to these people made me feel like I was being complicity in modern day gladiatorial behavior. Plus, from a faith perspective, I could better steward my time and finances elsewhere.

    I still watch plenty of football, still play fantasy, still root for the Ravens from afar though I don’t care nearly as much as I used to. But in the four years since I made that commitment, I realize I’m not the only one. The game is declining in national attention if not overall interest.

    Enter Mark Leibovich. A political journalist, Leibovich decided to cover the powers-that-be of the league for a few years and write a book, perhaps trying to get a picture of the NFL in its state of potential decline. It’s an interesting idea but slipshod in its execution. Leibovich is of the mold of writers who are my least favorite, someone that: a. gets off to his own prose, which he sees as clever and b. has no real focus for the subjects he’s covering, instead bouncing around from event to event.

    So for those reasons, I can’t go higher than three because I think this book struggles to define why exactly it exists and what story it is supposed to be telling. But it’s tough to deny there are some fun parts: particularly around the owners, a group of 32 mostly white, mostly male rich boobs who have no idea how to interact with an average human being. All they can see are dollar signs and Leibovich is clear in his transparency here. I don’t know how anyone could read this and still side with an owner on a stadium deal or a holdout but hey, we live in the Trump era where the truth is a Rorschach test so what do I know?

    Also, this might be the most candid portrayal of the least candid human being on earth: Roger Goodell. If you’ve always assumed Roger Goodell is basically a robot built by the owners to take public falls for them and make sponsors happy, this book won’t do much to dissuade you of that notion. Goodell seems like the most incompetent person on earth and yet he does a great job of placating the group I affectionately refer to as “the broke billionaires club.” The commish works for the owners and if you think any of these people care about you, the NFL fan, I’ve got some Enron stock to sell you.

    Lastly, the whole thing with Tom Brady and the water is hilarious. It was out there in other places before the book came out but it’s still funny to see in print.

    Overall, if you’re curious about this one, check it out but it won’t break any new ground for you.

  • 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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