THE PRO FOOTBALL HALL OF FAME 50TH ANNIVERSARY BOOK:
WHERE GREATNESS LIVES
Edited by Joe Horrigan
and John Thorn
Grand Central Publishing, $34.99
Having never been to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, I can only guess it is like the attic of professional football, where treasures and trivia abound next to each other, where something unexpected and special lurks around every corner. That may or may not describe the actual facility in Canton, Ohio, but it describes this book. That’s meant in the best way possible.
Some coffee table books, especially those providing a chronology, need to be read from front to back. This is not one of them. Anyone who cares anything about pro football can open this volume to any page and find something — perhaps more than one thing — to capture the imagination. Little-seen photos. Insightful quotes. Old player contracts. Artifacts from a time when football little resembled the sleek and stylish game it has become. It isn’t only memorabilia. Able writers, including New York Times columnist Dave Anderson and Sports Illustrated’s Peter King, break down the different eras of the sport, starting with the period from 1892-1919, then in decade increments. These chapters don’t give year-by-year summaries, but focus on the men and teams who came to personify those time periods.
These essays aren’t always easy to follow, because text that ends on one page sometimes doesn’t resume until several pages later, interrupted by a jumble of mementos. (Never seen the shoe that Tom Dempsey — the New Orleans Saint who was born without toes on his right foot — used to kick a 63-yard field goal on Nov. 8, 1970? It’s here.) But that’s the great thing about print. The story is waiting for you when you come back to it, your attention restored after being distracted by history.
Like pro football’s attic, you’ll turn a page and get lost in it again. What a wonderful way to spend time.