Touchdown: An American Obsession Goes Global
"Gems and Pfister used their own vast knowledge to recruit a score of talented experts who have produced what may well be that elusive definitive history of American football. Awesome." –Allen Guttmann
GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass.: This fall, when college football turns 150, special broadcasts and news stories will try to explain how a game that began as a modified form of rugby so overwhelmed the American sportscape that football games are now televised virtually every night of the week. What's more, the quintessential American sport is played in more than 100 countries, with both college and professional teams often playing abroad in search of new markets.
Touchdown: An American Obsession is the first book to explain how this explosive growth and indeed obsession came to be. Touchdown covers college football as well as professional football worldwide.
As the 150th anniversary approaches, it may be time to dig deeper into what football as a sport and a business means in our society.
It's no surprise that football has always reflected racial, ethnic, social class, and gender issues. Over a hundred years ago, the Carlisle Indian School football team used the game to contest the notion of white racial superiority. Fritz Pollard became the first black quarterback in the NFL in the 1920s, long before Jackie Robinson desegregated Major League Baseball.
The violence and aggression that accompanies the game is often highlighted in the media, and the New Orleans Saints were even penalized for a bounty system that rewarded players for injuring their opponents between 2009 and 2011. Scandal and controversy has plagued the game from the beginning, with the discoveries of the effects of head injuries and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), and the national anthem protests as the most recent examples. But that has done little to stop the floodtide each fall, as fans and players turn out for "America's pastime."
What does all this tell us about American culture? Touchdown provides some answers, and covers aspects of the game that have been given little attention. There is a chapter about women playing football, and an autobiographical account by a former professional player turned scholar, Michael Oriard, who gives an inside perspective on how much the game has changed in the last few decades.
Other topics include the economics of football and the globalization of the sport overseas. With such a breadth of topics, Touchdown will become an important reference for anyone interested in learning more about the game. Mostly, this important book gives readers a chance to learn and reflect on how far we've come since college players kicked and threw a ball on a field and suddenly realized they weren't playing rugby anymore.