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The Last Headbangers by Kevin Cook
The Insane Evolution of America's Football Craze
© 2013 James LaFond
The Last Headbangers
NFL Football in the Rowdy, Reckless ‘70s
The Era that Created Modern Sports
Kevin Cook
Norton, 2012, NY, 278 pages
I am not a football fan. I followed the Steelers in the ‘70s when I was a teenager living in the Pittsburgh area. I currently watch about four games a year, but have gone decades without seeing one. So what was I doing playing research hooky reading this egghead book about meatheads? It just looked like fun. Also, for a little sci-fi nerd like me with an unhealthy interest in the direction our culture is evolving, this read could be excused as context reading if not research.
What a fun book. Even if you could care less about football, the exposure of NFL economics, and the evolution of a violent sport into a commercial men’s club that surpasses the combined economies of numerous small nations, has to interest you. Unless, that is, you are a ‘70s era football player!
As much fun as the evil politicking of NFL owners and comic griping and sniping of production crews and coaching staffs is, the heart of this book is the players. From self-deprecating Terry Bradshaw to over a dozen psychopathic linebackers and line men, to the tragic balletic figures of the pass carriers and receivers, I was glued to the story throughout. I did not turn a page without wincing, chuckling or laughing.
Kevin Cook crafts a coherent story out of a field of working class jocks romping through one of the biggest capitalistic enterprises of our time. Even if you disdain the times we live in, let alone this concussive game, the real characters in this book are unforgettable. The Steelers and the Raiders become the focus of this brutal story. If you have ever wondered what a band of Vikings or a troupe of gladiators would have been like, go no farther than The Last Headbangers. I will not ruin the grotesqueries for you. I just have this to say, and it is not because I’m old…
If you could put any modern team of NFL millionaire monster-sized super-jocks against these guys, their smaller predecessors, in a game played according to the old rules, it would not be a game, but a one-sided gang fight. Would some geek please make a movie that puts John Madden’s Oakland Raiders into a space ship/time machine and sends them to battle aliens in some space hulk? We could cast Ice Cube as the ‘water boy’ in charge of supplying steroids, liquid cocaine, whiskey, uppers, downers, outers…
Do yourself a favor and read this book.
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