NAMATH: A Biography
Avoiding the pitfalls of mythology while telling a larger-than-life story is never easy, but Kriegel does it grandly in this landmark portrait of the 1960s icon. From the segregated South to the era of showbiz sports, Namath has a Forrest Gump–like way of being there. All the important athletic moments are here, elegantly told: his hardscrabble western Pennsylvania upbringing; his unlikely pairing with Bear Bryant; his arrival in New York as a hard-partying, money-making star and, of course, the win in Super Bowl III. Namath comes off as both throwback (he played through unbearable pain) and hypermodern (40 years ago, he was already getting paid to wear certain brands of clothing). But to write of the first media-age sports star is to tell not just of an athlete but the changing nature of celebrity and society in the '60s—that is, the story of modern America—and the author manages the elusive trick of illuminating setting as much as subject. He documents how sports became both big business and pop culture through savvy TV deals and the merchandising of stars. If Namath feels like a distant figure, more statue around whom society scrambled to adjust itself than active change seeker, that's because Kriegel convinces us he was—a figure both epic and accidental in a world revolving too fast for one person to control. Kriegel has written a remarkable book: a feel-good sports story still abundant with insight and social commentary. Agent, David Vigliano. (Aug.)
Forecast: Football books can be as vulnerable as a quarterback's extremities, but this will cross fluidly into pop culture—as has Namath himself. Expect adulation and sales.