cover image Big Game: The NFL in Dangerous Times

Big Game: The NFL in Dangerous Times

Mark Leibovich. Penguin Press, $28 (400p) ISBN 978-0-399-18542-7

In this skewering and witty cultural study, Leibovich (This Town) takes an insider look at the National Football League. Leibovich hangs out with New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady at his New York City skyscraper residence; schmoozes with team owners at the league’s annual meeting in Boca Raton, Fla.; attempts to interview a very distracted NFL commissioner Rodger Goodell on the sidelines of Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C.; and tailgates with shirtless fans at Green Bay’s frozen Lambeau Field. A lifetime Patriots fan, the author weaves his personal experiences chasing Brady for interviews into a charged narrative that calls out the NFL for its willful obliviousness to the physical and mental toll pro football takes on its players, as well as the league’s chest-thumping defense of its logo, “the Shield.” He also refers to the NFL as “the country’s most polarizing sports brand” and explores the impact President Trump is having on the league by taking players to task for kneeling during the national anthem. Leibovich questions throughout whether the NFL is doomed, not only due to the sport’s violence but also because the people who run it seem place the league over the players. Enhancing his casual reporting with cynical commentary, Leibovich provides entertaining reading. (Sept.)