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The King of Sports: Football's Impact on America

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Gridiron football is the king of sports – it’s the biggest game in the strongest and richest country in the world. In The King of Sports, Easterbrook tells the full story of how football became so deeply ingrained in American culture. Both good and bad, he examines its impact on American society. The King of Sports explores these and many other topics:

 *  The real harm done by concussions (it's not to NFL players).

 *  The real way in which college football players are exploited (it's not by ...

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The King of Sports: Football's Impact on America

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Gridiron football is the king of sports – it’s the biggest game in the strongest and richest country in the world. In The King of Sports, Easterbrook tells the full story of how football became so deeply ingrained in American culture. Both good and bad, he examines its impact on American society. The King of Sports explores these and many other topics:

 *  The real harm done by concussions (it's not to NFL players).

 *  The real way in which college football players are exploited (it's not by not being paid).

 *  The way football helps American colleges (it's not bowl revenue) and American cities (it’s not Super Bowl wins).

 *  What happens to players who are used up and thrown away (it’s not pretty).

 *  The hidden scandal of the NFL (it’s worse than you think).

Using his year-long exclusive insider access to the Virginia Tech football program, where Frank Beamer has compiled the most victories of any active NFL or major-college head coach while also graduating players, Easterbrook shows how one big university “does football right.” Then he reports on what’s wrong with football at the youth, high school, college and professional levels. Easterbrook holds up examples of coaches and programs who put the athletes first and still win; he presents solutions to these issues and many more, showing a clear path forward for the sport as a whole.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

Gregg Easterbrook won't provoke many objections to his assertion that football is the king of sports. He notes, for instance, that the twenty most-viewed TV broadcasts both in the U.S. and internationally have all been Super Bowls. The popular columnist does, however, make a more contentious statement: He argues that the gridiron king is one crazy monarch. With compelling detail, he exposes how football players at every level are endangered, exploited, misled, and thrown away; but he doesn't stop here. With exclusive access, he shows how Frank Beamer's Virginia Tech program does things right, redeeming a sport that we all want to love. One to watch.

Publishers Weekly
Easterbrook, the “Tuesday Morning Quarterback” columnist for, recognizes that football’s benefits “must be weighed against many negatives.” Colleges spend entirely too much on football, costs included in everyone else’s tuition. Meanwhile, these players are so focused on the gridiron that they are unprepared for the working world, which is why Easterbrook recommends six-year scholarships. On the professional side, Easterbrook is appalled by the lax standards for helmets and the rampant greed of rich NFL team owners, who happily fund their arenas with taxpayer money. Easterbrook excels at exposing and describing the shaky behavior that gets lost in the games’ hoopla. It’s a shame that these observations come wrapped in a smug, academic arrogance—he compares football to Ellison’s Invisible Man for no real reason; two lengthy, distracting chapters on Virginia Tech’s football team serve as a tribute to head coach Frank Beamer, whom Easterbrook canonizes—while some of his claims (e.g., football is a big contributor to child obesity) overlook other societal factors. There’s much to like, but Easterbrook’s tone and alarmist proclamations make it hard to embrace his agenda. Photos not seen by PW. (Sept.)
From the Publisher
Praise for The King of Sports

"The King of Sports is a fantastic book" — Chuck Todd

“Read this book with a highlighter in hand.  It is the most significant book you will ever read on football." –Brian Kenny, former anchor, SportsCenter

"I've long admired Gregg Easterbrook's writing. Now I admire his conscience. The King of Sports is an important book for football America.'' —Peter King, senior writer, Sports Illustrated

“The King of Sports provides a vivid, authoritative, insightful and above all provocative account of the role of football in American life." —Michael Mandelbaum, author of The Meaning of Sports


“The King of Sports is a must-read for all of us who love the game of football.”  —Aaron Schatz, editor-in-chief, Football

"[Easterbrook] delivers hits more devastating than the most ferocious, head-hunting linebacker…. [he] does it again, again and again in The King of Sports, a startling and disturbing new book that takes aim at hypocrisy in the National Football League and big money college football." –Buffalo News

“Provocative and thoughtful.” –Tampa Bay Times

“College and professional football generates billions of dollars annually in revenue. Easterbrook, the author of ESPN’s popular column Tuesday Morning Quarterback, looks beyond the dollar signs, examining many of the sport’s darker issues… A valuable analysis that will significantly alter the ways that readers view football.” —Booklist

“Easterbrook presents muchto consider and discuss in his diagnosis and treatment plan, which should be of interest to a broad audience.” –Library Journal, starred review

“No matter how you feel about football's issues, The King of Sports offers plenty to think about. It's a blitz of sports and cultural perspective well worth any fan's time.” –Creative Loafing Charlotte

Praise for Tuesday Morning Quarterback:

“One of the Web’s surprise cult hits.” — The New York Times

“Hilarious entertainment . . . Tuesday Morning Quarterback has pretty much locked up the genre of humorous football poetry.” — National Public Radio, “All Things Considered”

"Trenchant analysis, wrenching case studies, Utopian recommendations." — Kirkus Reviews


Library Journal
Journalist Easterbrook (The Leading Indicators; The Progress Paradox) may be best known for his "Tuesday Morning Quarterback" column at, where he mixes in many nonfootball-related opinions with distinctive football analysis. Here he addresses the overall impact of football on the nation and concludes that the sport he loves needs to reform, not just at the NFL and NCAA levels but also at the high school and peewee levels. Easterbrook's main objections are how football corrupts education and government, how it exploits and then jettisons young athletes, and how debilitating is the physical cost it exacts from its players. His prescribed remedies include banning organized tackle football until eighth grade, lessening the year-round schedule for school football players, vacating public subsidies and tax breaks for big-time football, factoring graduation rates into college football rankings, and mandating the use of the safest helmets. VERDICT Easterbrook presents much to consider and discuss in his diagnosis and treatment plan, which should be of interest to a broad audience. [See Prepub Alert, 5/20/13.]
Kirkus Reviews
Head-slaps and high-fives for the sport that dominates America's popular imagination by Atlantic Monthly contributor and "Tuesday Morning Quarterback" writer Easterbrook (The Leading Indicators, 2012, etc.). The author crafts a football sandwich, the spicy meat of his complaints lying between two soft-bread sections celebrating Virginia Tech, whose successful program and coach (Frank Beamer) he presents as exemplars. In the beginning, Easterbrook describes Beamer's background, temperament and approach; in the end, he chronicles Tech's 2012 Sugar Bowl overtime loss to Michigan. His patent intent is to show that success need not lie upon a foul foundation of cheating and other sorts of corruption, financial and otherwise. The "meat" chapters are the most engaging and include some details, examples and statistics that will alarm even cynics about the sport. Easterbrook probes such issues as the NFL's tax-free status (a not-for-profit!), the failures of many major college programs to help their players graduate (especially black players), the recent research about concussions (at all levels of the game), the role of football on the college campus, the sham of "showcases" for high school athletes, the infinitesimal chance a boy will make it to the NFL, the "cult" of football in school and culture, and the effects of the game on those players who don't make it (the vast majority). Some individual case studies are alarming and profoundly depressing, but--make no mistake--Easterbrook loves the game, and most of the recommendations he discusses (and lists at the end) are quixotic. Financial disclosures? Six-year scholarships for college players? Rankings to include academic records of players? Financial bonuses for coaches whose players do well academically? Not gonna happen. Moreover, the author does not aggressively examine, though he does mention, the proposition that the game's popularity is principally based on violence--would anyone watch the NFL if it were flag football? Trenchant analysis, wrenching case studies, Utopian recommendations.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781250012609
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 9/30/2014
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 368
  • Sales rank: 136,591
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Gregg Easterbrook

GREGG EASTERBROOK is the author of eight books, including The Leading Indicators, The Progress Paradox, The Here and Now and Sonic Boom. He is a contributing editor of The Atlantic Monthly and The Washington Monthly, and a columnist for He has been a distinguished fellow of the Fulbright Foundation, a visiting fellow of the Brookings Institution, and a political columnist for Reuters.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 4 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 16, 2013

    If you'e an NFL fan, root for a BCS-bound football playoff schoo

    If you'e an NFL fan, root for a BCS-bound football playoff school, have a child, grandchild or nephew in youth football, you'll need 2 copies of this book ! One, to read over and over and the other you will have destroyed, having thrown it repeatedly against the wall, all the while picturing Mr. Easterbrook as your target.

    This book is guaranteed to make you do 2 things:make you think, and if you fall into any of the above categories...infuriate you !

    Mr. Easterbrook "holds no punches" and there are no "sacred cows" in HIS football world.

    To start, he is clearly a lover of the game, to the point he's envisioning the game at least through 2096, and at Bowdoin, of all places. No, rest easy, BCS combatants, he's not espousing that revolutionary a change in America's leading sport.

    What Mr. Easterbrook has actually done is taken a grandfatherly, I have nothing to lose personally, I've been through the wars, look at a game he loves and respects, but which he fears, may have a "shelf-life".

    He takes the NFL to task for being less than honest and forthright on the severity of injuries, particularly to the brain. He also appears honest in his less than full blown support of NFL sponsored youth programs, as they foster full-year participation in football at the exclusion of other extra-curricular activities. In moderate defense of the NFL, with the reduction in physical activities, by children, any activities may be welcome. He most strenuously abraids the NFL for it's "Not for Profit" status and it's bogus attempt to appear to be a charity, when, in fact, average tax-payers fund billionaire owned stadia and the NFL protects licensing rights of activities performed on public property.

    BCS powerhouse fans and alums, you may need 3 copies. Nearly every element of "major college football" is reviewed, in detail, and some might observe, does not fare well under his harsh light of day. The entire college "collective" from school Presidents, to Head Coaches to Assistant Coaches, boosters and supporters at all levels are "investigated". One might take one of 2 views: if you're a BCS Bowl aspirant, you might look bad or you've got better ammunition against your arch-rival, who might look worse. After throwing one copy at Gregg, hypothetically, of course, you still have one to throw at them ! Mr. Easterbrook is particularly terse as applies to "graduation rates" or lack thereof, I'll leave the findings to the reader.

    He sharply balances the "this is a problem" in football, with "this is how and why things should run", utilizing Coach Frank Beamer and Virginia Tech, as his example, though other schools, he notes, fit the positive influence bill.

    Lastly, he ends the book with significant ideas on changing, or at least adjusting, the game he so clearly loves.

    If the idea of writing a book is to cause the reader to "think", this is clearly a 5-star success !!

    Oh, don't forget the "throw against the wall" edition when your NFL team and/or alma mater come up !!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 3, 2014

    A real eye opener!

    Every sports fan and every tax payer needs to read this book!

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  • Posted December 27, 2013


    The King of Sports is written in the same vein as League of Denial and The System. Way too many spelling and grammatical errors. I enjoyed this piece of reading but the evidence does not seem to be as evidentiary as I would prefer, relying rather on anecdotal events with little data tied to the conclusions being drawn. Very interesting in that it addresses football at all levels from Pop Warner to NFL and every level in between. Easterbrook is excellent at establishing the disturbing cause and effect relationships that exist between the sources of money and the prostituted parties who receive these tainted dollars, i.e. - equipment manufacturers, college programs, peripheral recruiting organizations, etc. The most unsettling segment of this read relates to the ability of the NFL, as an organization, the NCAA, major college football programs and post season bowl games the ability to maintain tax exempt status, literally, costing the taxpayers of specific states and the country, collectively, billions of dollars over the years. The rich certainly do get richer by means of legislative extortion. I will reread this book, its worth the time. 4 stars.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 9, 2013

    This is a good read. It's well-written and entertaining, but it

    This is a good read. It's well-written and entertaining, but it will infuriate you to learn of the insane tax breaks the NFL gets. Had to stop reading it before bed because it made me too worked up -- this book definitely not in the "puts you to sleep" category!  Easterbrook exhaustively goes through all the flaws with the finance and social impacts of modern American football.  Really makes you think.

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