The Most Memorable Games in Patriots History

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If you remember 15 years of losing to the Dolphins in the Orange Bowl, you will love this book. If you enjoy reading about the history of the National Football League, you will enjoy this book. If you think the Patriots begin and end with Tom Brady, you may be disappointed. If you hate the Patriots, you will want to burn this book.

Jim Baker, a regular contributor to ESPN.com’s “Page 2” and Bernard M. Corbett, author of The Only Game That Matters: The Harvard/Yale Rivalry compile the history of the New England Patriots franchise by using 10 key games as the tentpoles. Besides the game descriptions, the book is full of player recollections, trivia, and stats.

The Patriots started off as one of the top teams in the American Football League. Then the team’s success ebbed and flowed with an ownership that usually lacked the capital to compete. After a few years of turmoil in the front office, Robert Kraft positioned the team for its current run of success.

The authors interviewed dozens of players, including Raymond Berry, Troy Brown, Steve Grogan, John Hannah, Steve Nelson, Dante Scarnecchia, Patrick Sullivan, and the late Mosi Tatupu. Those interviews are added to add great color to the stories about the franchise and the individual games.

The team’s current success can be attributed to a strong owner, a great coach and a great quarterback. You will not find any meaningful quotes from those three in the book. Besides Bill Belichick, Tom Brady, and Robert Kraft, Drew Bledsoe is also missing from the list of interviewees.

What are the ten games? Of course the three Super Bowl wins are in there. There is the win over the Giants in 2007 to go 18-0 in the regular season. You should buy the book and discover the six others.

The publisher was kind enough to send me a copy of this book for review.

Stories About the AFL in The Little League That Could

My house is a football house, but mostly an AFC football house. I’m a long time Patriots fan and Mrs. Doug bleeds KC Chiefs red. With a little knowledge of football history you would know that the AFC is comprised mostly of the teams from the upstart American Football League that played its games in the 1960s.

Ken Rappoport weaves stories told by the players, owners, and coaches from the days of the American Football League in The Little League That Could: A History of the American Football League

It all began when Lamar Hunt watched the 1958 NFL title game between the New York Giants and the Baltimore Colts. He believed that football was the best sport for television and that it would become big because of television.

He wanted in.

He tried convincing the NFL to grant him an expansion franchise. He tried buying the Cardinals (then located in Chicago). Neither route to NFL ownership worked.

Unable to get in, he decided to start his own league. He first teamed up with Bud Adams who he had met while Adams was also trying, unsuccessfully, to buy the Cardinals. The other big money owner was Barron Hilton, scion of the hotel family (and eventually grandfather to Paris). Those three brought along five other franchises, including the underfunded Billy Sullivan and my beloved Boston Patriots.

I was expecting the book to be an encyclopedia retelling of the history of the AFL. It’s not. It’s told by the participants in the league. I had the feeling that I was sitting in a bar with these great personalities telling me their stories of glory from the American Football League. Rappoport does a great job capturing those stories and weaving them together into a coherent narrative.

The AFL survived the battle with the NFL because it was putting good football on the field and on television. They were successfully recruiting players away and driving up the cost of player contracts. The NFL underestimated the AFL and let quality players go to the little league, assuming it would collapse and the players would come back to the NFL. After initially underestimating the AFL, the NFL owners gave up the battle and agreed to merge the leagues.

The book is a great combination of the business side of the game and the playing side of the game. There are some great stories in the book. If you’re a football fan or a sports history buff you will enjoy reading this book.

The publisher was kind enough to send me a copy of the book to review. If you buy the book by clicking through this review, my local PTO gets a kickback from Amazon.