The pluck-and-luck tale of the creation and stabilization of the league is a small but exemplary chapter in American capitalism and popular culture. Still, readers had better love pro-football lore and have a connoisseur’s taste for sports trivia to fully enjoy The League ... There’s a compelling tale here, although it’s more about seat-of-the-pants entrepreneurship than football ... Today, pro football still rides high, but the growing awareness of the brain trauma caused by the brutality Mr. Eisenberg highlights shadows its future. Still, in the owners’ box up in football heaven, the NFL’s founding fathers can only marvel at what they wrought.
Eisenberg has a good eye and ear for the appropriate and amusing anecdote, which enlivens the narrative. There are small errors and disputable interpretations as one would expect in a work of this scale. Eisenberg repeats the myth that Teddy Roosevelt threatened to abolish football, an idea that simply refuses to die. He also uses the term 'integration' when in point of fact 'desegregation' is more accurate and appropriate for the NFL and many other institutions in American life. In the end, however, this is a very accomplished piece of sport history and a very good read for any fan of the game.
The Chicago Bears’ George Halas is generally recognized as the league’s founder, but veteran sportswriter Eisenberg digs deeper to tell the stories of four other men who played huge roles in the [National Football] league’s early success ... Fans who only know the league as it exists today will be shocked and fascinated by its early years.
John Eisenberg tells the fascinating account of how five owners, including the Bears’ George Halas, cut through their disputes and differences to work together to form the foundations of the league ... Eisenberg does a good job of showing how these five unique and colorful characters hardly were perfect — Marshall didn’t integrate his team until 1961 — yet despite their flaws, they ultimately built the most popular sports league in the United States.
Thoroughly researched and gracefully told ... Although Eisenberg is admiring of the founders, he also recognizes—and highlights—their weaknesses ... Although the author provides some details about some key games (and iconic players like Red Grange, Marion Motley, and Sam Huff), the narrative is not a rehearsal of games but of the history of a game, a business, and five men who took a chance, lost money, and then found great success. An engaging and informative cultural history, on and off the gridiron.