The author of That First Season and Ten-Gallon War takes a look back at the origins of the National Football League. Although it is a multibillion-dollar phenomenon today, the league was initially a risky venture by five owners who simultaneously competed against and supported one another to build a successful business.
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.