John Schulian’s Football Anthology


John Schulian’s Football Anthology
Dec 9, 2014

By Kofie Yeboah

Compiled by John Schulian, a longtime writer himself, Football: Great writing about the National Sport is an intriguing collection.

The book features football pieces from numerous legends, including Shirley Povich himself.

When I was originally handed this book, I was expecting a long, drawn-out anthology about football from its inception to now.

Instead, I was pleasantly surprised by the variety of topics throughout the collection. Topics ranged from ongoing topics, such as Ira Berkow on the minority quarterback, to isolated moments, such as Roy Blount Jr.’s recollection of the famous Immaculate Reception.

Prefacing every story, each prestigious writer has a half paragraph bio that explains his writing career.

From Povich’s bio:

“In tasteful, unobtrusive prose, Povich chronicled the giants in every sport, from Babe Ruth to Bobby Jones to Muhammad Ali. In his football coverage, he didn’t shy away from criticizing the Washington Redskins’ outlandish impresario of an owner, George Preston Marshall, and campaigned relentlessly against Marshall’s refusal to integrate the team.”

Povich’s entry from 1940 finds him trying to explain why the Redskins lost the NFL championship, 73-0, to a team they beat earlier in the season. The piece showcases Povich’s astute analysis and his ability to cover the team objectively.

“We’re going to win one title right here, the championship for understatement, by saying that the Redskins didn’t play good football yesterday,” Povich wrote. “But somehow we can’t get mad at the Redskins.”

The 44-writer collection is fascinating because no two writers are alike. Their employers included Sports Illustrated, The Washington Post, CBS Radio and many more local and national outlets.

While this book comprises short stories, it’s hardly an easy read. It took a road trip and then some to finish this collection, as the various writing styles and subjects in each story are so unique. 

I decided to read only a few at a time in order to truly appreciate each story and avoid treating them like five-minute mysteries.

Yes, some of the characters and generations overlap, and the book doesn’t exactly have the smoothest transitions between stories. However, each story’s introduction helps with the changeover between tales.

This is a must-read for all football fans on the strength of its subject matter alone, but for all the sports fans (like myself) who have a more passionate attraction to other sports, the book was an interesting piece in terms of gauging some of the most important topics and moments in sports history.

It’s an interesting perspective, as the stories aren’t from the eyes of the fans, but from the writers themselves.

This book is perfect for those who only have pockets of time for reading or those who choose to get lost in its anecdotes.

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