Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Review: Super Bowl Gold (2015)

Foreword by Peter King

Assuming it's legal to use a baseball analogy for a football book, the idea of "Super Bowl Gold" must have been the equivalent to a hanging slider to someone in charge of Sports Illustrated.

After all, the 50th Super Bowl is coming up soon, and the NFL no doubt was planning a big celebration. Sports Illustrated had a ton of photos in some files, digital or otherwise, and stories on each game as they were played. Don't just stand there, staff members, get to work.

And so they did. And the resulting product is a beauty.

Each game gets six pages. There something of an introduction, a bunch of fine photos (it is Sports Illustrated), an edited version of the original game story, some fast facts about the game, and memories from a player from each team in the game. Zip, zip, zip, like a Joe Montana or Tom Brady drive in the final minutes. Yeah, those two guys come up frequently here.

There are a few more original stories here. Peter King checks in with some Super Bowl memories, and that's good fun. Austin Murphy obviously had a lot of fun with the halftime show. There are also stories on media coverage and TV commercials. The book ends with some sort of rating system that ranks the 49 games that have been played so far. Those systems usually are a little silly and it might have been better to have someone who has seen all the games rank them, but that may be just me.

One of the unexpected fun parts of the book is the game story. You really get to see the business change as you go from year to year. Tex Maule opens with basic stories, the way things were written before television fully wrapped its arms around the sport. Dan Jenkins follows and shows why there's hardly been anyone better at the actual writing. Paul Zimmerman lived and breathed football in his career, and it shows in his stories here. Since then, SI has gotten some backstage information that no one has, and it shows.

But the player comments are good too. It might be more interesting to read the accounts for the losers, some of whom were sure they'd be back in a year to win it all. And, most of them didn't. But someone did a good job collecting stories from those from both sides.

This book is heavy reading. No, really. It's big and heavy at 336 pages and some weighty covers. At least you know where the $40 went.

"Super Bowl Gold" certainly isn't for everyone, and that includes some football fans. The kids might not be too anxious to read about games and players who have faded into memory for the most part, and nostalgia isn't for everyone. But if you're going to put together a golden anniversary book for the Super Bowl along these lines, I can't imagine anyone doing it any better.

Five stars

Read more about this book.

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