Reading ➶ The Last Headbangers: NFL Football in the Rowdy, Reckless '70s: the Era that Created Modern Sports Author Kevin Cook – Metalstampedmemories.info

The Last Headbangers: NFL Football in the Rowdy, Reckless '70s: the Era that Created Modern Sports The Last Headbangers is a fantastic book that follows the NFL through the 1970 s, making a point to track the moments when the league went from body throwing reckless mayhem tocalculated studied assaults Kevin Cook predominantly chronicles the bitter and brutal rivalry between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Oakland Raiders These teams seemed to best embody what is often mentioned as smash mouth football The Last Headbangers is exceptionally fun to read It is full of ridiculous chara The Last Headbangers is a fantastic book that follows the NFL through the 1970 s, making a point to track the moments when the league went from body throwing reckless mayhem tocalculated studied assaults Kevin Cook predominantly chronicles the bitter and brutal rivalry between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Oakland Raiders These teams seemed to best embody what is often mentioned as smash mouth football The Last Headbangers is exceptionally fun to read It is full of ridiculous characters who would seem farlike caricatures if they weren t in fact real , on field violence and high jinks, and post game partying that was often as epic as the game itself Most of all, the book for me was nostalgic Though I wasn t alive in the 1970 s, reading about the game during that period is like reading about a different sport entirely Players made between 30 and 60 thousand dollars per year, endorsements were almost non existent, and rivalries were full of hatred I m all for player protection, making the game safer, and building a business However the rivalry portions are what struck me as the greatest missing factor from the game today Teams hated one another Player hated one another People played for teams for 10 years orThese are the best versions of football because they amount to one thing loyalty to the team name as opposed to the player name.A dark cloud hovers over the entire book and that dark cloud is called CTE The author doesn t primarily focus on the disease, but he does write about it and interview players about their post career lives and troubles Knowing what we know now about head trauma, it is hard to believe the game ever existed as it did, like some barbarian relic of a time long gone However it did, and to hear it talked about by the players who lived it is fascinating stuff I recommend this book to any football fanever I also would toss in the book Badasses by Peter Richmond Both are highly entertaining quick reads Raiders and Steelers fans unite for this breezy, nostalgic look at some of thecolorful and entertaining people and moments of the NFL during 1970 s and 1980 s Not the best book written about football about that era try Badasses by Peter Richmond if you re a Raider s fan or The One s Who Hit Hardest by Chad Millman and Shawn Coyne if you re a Steelers fan for better reads about football during its golden days But, Kevin Cook does a good job of highlighting some of the bigger mome Raiders and Steelers fans unite for this breezy, nostalgic look at some of thecolorful and entertaining people and moments of the NFL during 1970 s and 1980 s Not the best book written about football about that era try Badasses by Peter Richmond if you re a Raider s fan or The One s Who Hit Hardest by Chad Millman and Shawn Coyne if you re a Steelers fan for better reads about football during its golden days But, Kevin Cook does a good job of highlighting some of the bigger moments that helped shape the NFL He also gives a glimpse into an era in pro sports and in America that has long since passed Naturally, the Dallas Cowboys are casted as the arrogant, prima donnas against the gritty, rowdy and rebellious Raiders and Steelers teams of the 70 s and 80 s anyone who knows about the likes of Duane Thomas, Cliff Harris, Randy White and Hollywood Henderson will find this humorous The stories are slanted so much in favor of the Steelers and Raiders it is enough to make almost feel badly for the Cowboys Almost But,a quick perusal of the jacket and prologue of the book should give the reader a good sense of the writer s focus Cook also traces the origins of the NFL and the changes the sport has experienced throughout the years and describes how many legal plays during that era could easily get a players and or suspended in this current NFL era He also does a good job of following some of the players in their post Steelers and Raiders careers The Last Headbangers is a good quick read for a rainy weekend or to keep you entertained on a long plan ride or layover For better books on this topic, take a look at the books listed above in this review Between The Immaculate Reception In And The Catch In , Pro Football Grew Up In , Steelers Star Franco Harris Hitchhiked To Practice NFL Teams Roomed In Skanky Motels They Played On Guts, Painkillers, Legal Steroids, Fury, And Camaraderie A Decade Later, Joe Montana S Gleamingly Efficient Ers Ushered In A New Era The Corporate, Scripted, Multibillion Dollar NFL We Watch Today Kevin Cook S Rollicking Chronicle Of This Pivotal Decade Draws On Interviews With Legendary Players Harris, Montana, Terry Bradshaw, Roger Staubach, Ken Snake Stabler To Re Create Their Heroics And Off Field Carousing He Shows Coaches John Madden And Bill Walsh Outsmarting Rivals As Monday Night Football Redefined Sports Place In American Life Celebrating The Game While Lamenting The Physical Toll It Took On Football S Greatest Generation, Cook Diagrams The NFL S Transformation From Second Tier Sport Into National Obsession Let me previse this review by saying I ve been a fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers professional football team since the late 1970s and before I hit double digits age wise So, any book that has them at the center of its story regarding the wild, violent era of the NFL that I loved as a kid Well, I m gonna be into that and that was the case with this book by Kevin Cook that follows a few of the decades top teams Steelers, Oakland Raiders, Miami Dolphins and the Dallas Cowboys a bunch of wimps who Let me previse this review by saying I ve been a fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers professional football team since the late 1970s and before I hit double digits age wise So, any book that has them at the center of its story regarding the wild, violent era of the NFL that I loved as a kid Well, I m gonna be into that and that was the case with this book by Kevin Cook that follows a few of the decades top teams Steelers, Oakland Raiders, Miami Dolphins and the Dallas Cowboys a bunch of wimps who I hated as a kid because all my friends in Oklahoma loved them receiving the most attention The 1970s brand of pro football was drastically different than today s Legal steroids , open drug use, all kinds of on field cheating, rugged style of playing and the kind of no holds barred violence that would make current commissioner or czar, or dictator Roger Goodall suspend a huge chunk of some team s rosters If the Raiders of the 1970s led by John Madden time travel into 2012 over half the team would be suspended immediately for all kinds of illegal, brutal shenanigans In 1978 though, that was just the way the game was played violent, ruthless, take no prisoner, manhood challenging and destructive I have to say, maybe its politically incorrect of me and espousing a gladiatorial viewpoint, but I really, really miss the days when the grid iron was pure violent mayhem Back to the book Cook keeps his descriptions of game action brief, but still packs in all the humorous tales about games, teams, players, Super Bowls and yes, the Pittsburgh Steelers Any fan of the Black and Gold needs to read this one as it chronicles the entire decade that saw the Steelers take four Super Bowls trophies back to the Iron City The book is nostalgic, but it s not just praise from Cook as he points out the negative elements to the game and culture from the era He doesn t concentrate on that, but it s in there No, this is a celebration of the brand of football that will never be played again and to the men who played and coached during this unique time, before pro football was civilized into the mainstream by trying to rid aspects that casual fans might find offensive The 1970s That was some serious football The title is misleading..it is less about the entire league than it is about the Steelers and Raiders primarily, with some stuff mixed in on the Miami Dolphins, Minnesota Vikings, Dallas Cowboys, and at the end, the San Francisco 49ers There was a lot in 1970s football that I would ve liked to have in it the Washington Redskins of George Allen his paranoia of Dallas and the rivalry that ensuedon the Cowboys their offensive innovations, cheerleaders, drugs sex around it, comebacks by The title is misleading..it is less about the entire league than it is about the Steelers and Raiders primarily, with some stuff mixed in on the Miami Dolphins, Minnesota Vikings, Dallas Cowboys, and at the end, the San Francisco 49ers There was a lot in 1970s football that I would ve liked to have in it the Washington Redskins of George Allen his paranoia of Dallas and the rivalry that ensuedon the Cowboys their offensive innovations, cheerleaders, drugs sex around it, comebacks by Staubach the 78 title game between Oakland Denver how Oakland got screwed multiple times the Al Davis Rozelle feud as well as Davis vs others, expansion And while he did try to tie the book to the present, he really rushed it, trying to encapsulate the 30 years that have passed in a matter of pages Overall a good, quick and easy read but could ve been better Also some mistakes Minnesota didn t beat Houston in the 1974 playoffs 51 10..that was a regular season game And Cliff Branch did not sit out the 1979 season for the Oakland Raiders I was 10 years old, when The Houston Oilers drafted Earl Campbell, and the whole city seemed to catch Luv Ya Blue fever I was hooked on Pro Football from then on I read everything I could on the game, and I watched everything I could on TV, about the game The Last Headbangers looks at the NFL, mainly between the years 1972 1981 While a lot of subjects are covered, the books seems to be very Pittsburgh Steeler heavy The Dolphins, Raiders, Cowboys and later 49ers get their due, but this I was 10 years old, when The Houston Oilers drafted Earl Campbell, and the whole city seemed to catch Luv Ya Blue fever I was hooked on Pro Football from then on I read everything I could on the game, and I watched everything I could on TV, about the game The Last Headbangers looks at the NFL, mainly between the years 1972 1981 While a lot of subjects are covered, the books seems to be very Pittsburgh Steeler heavy The Dolphins, Raiders, Cowboys and later 49ers get their due, but this book seems to focus on the Steelers They did win 4 Super Bowls in the 1970 s, after all The writer makes a few mistakes, in regards to players and when they quit, and also some pop culture references All in all I did enjoy this book I remember this kind of football The game has changed a lot since 1972, and even since 1982 I was a little disappointed that the writer fails to mention a controversial call in the 1979 AFC Championship Game between The Oilers and Steelers A touchdown that would have tied the game for Houston was ruled incomplete and they had to settle for a field goal, and ended up losing the game The replays seem to show that it was a TD This play helped years after the fact Instant Replay to be used in games, for the refs to look at tough calls But not a mention if it here.Still, all in all a fun book, if you are a football fan I won this book via a Goodreads First Reads giveaway The Last Headbangers recovers from a disastrous, clich ridden prologue to become a decent enough book about the NFL in the 1970s, the last decade before the West Coast Offense began ruling the civilized world Cook s hackery returns here and there I can t decide whether this is his style or he s trying to be tongue in cheek but football fans should find enough to keep them reading.Favorite lines of the book, page 39 In 1972, the so I won this book via a Goodreads First Reads giveaway The Last Headbangers recovers from a disastrous, clich ridden prologue to become a decent enough book about the NFL in the 1970s, the last decade before the West Coast Offense began ruling the civilized world Cook s hackery returns here and there I can t decide whether this is his style or he s trying to be tongue in cheek but football fans should find enough to keep them reading.Favorite lines of the book, page 39 In 1972, the so called Year of the Runner, a record ten running backs gained 1,000 yards orThe Bills O.J Simpson led the way, slashing to a league best 1,251 Yes Orenthal did a lot of slashing The Last Headbangers, Kevin Cook s paean to the violent and freewheeling NFL of the seventies is narrowly focused, somewhat disorganized, but still a generally entertaining read about some of the teams and characters of the period Cook, whose work has appeared in Sports Illustrated and Men s Health, mines one of the sport s richest eras and the book is full of trivia about the motley individuals on NFL payrolls during the decade and how the decade paved the way for the current NFL The sevent The Last Headbangers, Kevin Cook s paean to the violent and freewheeling NFL of the seventies is narrowly focused, somewhat disorganized, but still a generally entertaining read about some of the teams and characters of the period Cook, whose work has appeared in Sports Illustrated and Men s Health, mines one of the sport s richest eras and the book is full of trivia about the motley individuals on NFL payrolls during the decade and how the decade paved the way for the current NFL The seventies served as a real transitional period between the run heavy, no nonsense, collectivist, NFL of the previous several decades and today s flashy, lucrative, and wide open NFL as players such as Joe Namath became cultural icons and the sport openly embraced television and the passing game Though not without its flaws, the book is a light read and worth spending an offseason afternoon or two with.Cook begins with the Immaculate Reception, when Franco Harris improbably caught a pass deflected off of Jack Tatum Frenchy Fuqua depending on your partisanship Harris catch should have been nullified if Fuqua touched the ball first in the waning moments of a 1972 playoff game between the Steelers and Raiders The game finally established the Steelers as a legitimate contender after spending most of its previous thirty eight seasons mired firmly in the doldrums of the league standings It also set the stage for one of the most intense rivalries of the decade, as the Raiders and Steelers were constant fixtures in the AFC playoffs and their meetings bloodbaths often determined the conference s Super Bowl participant Covering the league through the Immaculate Reception to the rise of Bill Walsh scerebral and finesse West Coast offense in the early eighties, the book chronicles several of the era s dominant teams and the changes taking place in the game on and off the field The Last Headbangers is largely a chronological history of the league in the seventies, winding across several teams as well as off field phenomena like Monday Night Football, which was emerging as a cultural institution The sport itself was finally emerging from college football s shadow and it became the nation s most popular sport by the end of the decade He also examines the various rule changes enacted during the period by the all powerful Competition Committee These new rules helped open up the passing game and create aexciting, high scoring brand of football The group brought in innovations such as narrower hash marks to open up both sides of the field , uprights in the back of the end zone to reduce those pesky field goals , and reductions in contact between defensive backs and receivers to open up the passing game and bring us the pinball esque numbers we see from non Jets quarterbacks today One change that I was not aware of was that missed field goals from outside the twenty yard line were actually spotted on the twenty rather than the line of scrimmage When that rule was changed in 1974, it adjusted coaches calculus for field goals and also offered shorter fields for teams facing reckless coaches with inaccurate kickers Cook s analysis of the changes, augmented by comments by Brian Billick and others, is definitely one of the book s highlights.While it paved the way for the current NFL, the league had several elements that existed only within the seventies The NFL only introduced steroid testing in 1987, and such substances were legal during the period Performance enhancing drug usage was even discussed frankly in books written during the time such as Roy Blount s About Three Bricks Shy of a Load, and Cook explains that steroids were rather prevalent Some teams took such abuse to higher levels than others, however, like the Raiders and their horse steroids The league was also took a farlaissez faire approach to player safety, as late hits and vicious cheap shots were committed without punishment There was no established concussion policy, and several players recount shrugging off concussions, which will probably strike football fans asandremarkable moving forward.Perhaps influenced by the Me Decade surrounding them, players began to embrace their often outrageous personalities and coaches becameamenable tolerant to such behavior There was a notable shift from the collectivist ethos espoused by the likes of Vince Lombardi to the philosophies of coaches like John Madden of the Raiders and Chuck Noll of the Steelers As Noll said I want players to be themselves, and thus the coach tolerated Frenchy Fuqua s regal and ostentatious behavior and the loose cannon Ernie Holmes Themilitaristic strand of coaching certainly persisted, however, and teams such as the Minnesota Vikings, led by Bud Grant, football s answer to William Jennings Bryan as the loser of four Super Bowls but winner of an NBA Championship as a Minneapolis Laker in 1950 , and Dick Vermeil s straight laced Eagles served as foils to the rambunctious Steelers and Raiders Much to the delight of Cook s general thesis if there really is one the Vikings and Eagles went a combined 0 5 in the Super Bowl against teams that better exemplified the era The book is really at its strongest when it covers the afforementioned idiosyncracies of the players and coaches When you are dealing with ten years for an entire league I suppose it is rather easy to collect interesting material, but Cook is able share some truly fascinating trivia and anecdotes from the era Phil Villipiano, Franco Harris, Terry Bradshaw, and many other former players were very generous with their time and memory banks and they offer up some engaging stories about their coaches and teammates Learning about Chuck Noll s interest in gardening and classical music he even conducted the Pittsburgh Symphony at one point , Frenchy Fuqua s goldfish containing platform shoes, and the story about how the punctilious Jim Otto once painstakingly removed his car from its position wedged inside a bar door to make curfew at Raiders camp are some of the highlights of the book I could really go on about all of the great stories contained within the books pages but these reviews are long winded enough already Just believe me that there are others Maybe it was a product of the culture of the decade or the fact that lucrative sponsorships and thus opportunities to put hypothetical sponsorships in jeopardy through reckless behavior weren t available to most players, but it really seemed like players were farwilling to express themselves in the seventies, much to the benefit of those writers covering the era.It is worth noting that despite what the book s subtitle NFL Football in the Rowdy, Reckless, 70s may claim, the book is almost completely focused on the Cowboys, Dolphins, Steelers, Raiders, and 49ers, and the other twenty three teams that existed during the period go largely ignored If you are a Redskins fan looking to read up on George Allen and the Over the Hill Gang, you will be sorely disappointed I could write twenty two similar sentences for the other teams though maybe only twenty one considering I wonder if a Saints fan would really want to relive those years of futility While Cook clearly concentrates on the correct i.e best teams of the decade, it prevents him from spendingtime on players such as Conrad Dobler and Hollywood Henderson, who embodied some of the most prominent aspects of the time dirtiness and drug usage, dis respectively Additionally, stars like Walter Payton and Earl Campbell both physical runners whose style could be considered headbanger y The dynasties also didn t really neatly conform chronologically, and as a result Cook has to jump back and forth between teams sometimes which sometimes gives the book a disjointed feel I also thought there was too many pages blandly recapping Super Bowls, some of which were rather staid affairs Even theexciting games have been exhaustively chronicled in other books and I didn t think that Cook s rather generic summaries with their mysterious fascination with yards per passing attempt added much While he is a generally competent writer, Cook is also apparently not above interspersing his prose with some truly lame puns Though the subject material has been coveredextensively by other writers, I was surprised at the amount of new information contained in the book If you have not read many of the recent books that have touched upon the dynasties of the seventies you will definitely get a lot out of it.The final section on the rise of the 49ers and their finesse West Coast offense portends end the headbanging era Bill Walsh scerebral dink and dunk offense provided a harbinger of the multifaceted and increasingly complicated offensive and defensive schemes on the horizon Steroids and stickum were on their way out, and gunslinging quarterbacks such as Bradshaw were being phased out by precise passers with weaker arms like Ken Anderson and Brian Sipe The league continued to cater to passers and higher scoring games through the tinkerings of the Competition Committee Athletes were now making relatively absurd salaries compared to ten years prior, and the league was growing exponentially in popularity and bringing in the television revenue to match Cook thankfully doesn t end his book with a curmudgeonly diatribe about how today s NFL is far worse than the seventies version He acknowledges the changes without editorializing them Cook realizes that the NFL of the seventies was triggered by a perfect storm of the nascent televised sports industry, the greater culture of the era, and ignorance to the physical toll levied by the game and its PEDs, and the league will never be able to return to that Thankfully we have books like The Last Headbangers to memorialize the players who risked their physical health to contribute to the flashy and entertaining NFL of the the time.In SumDespite being unorganized and poorly sub titled, The Last Headbangers is a light and entertaining read that is worth reading for anyone who followed or is simply interested in the NFL at the time While it is only focused on several teams I think that fans of other teams can still get some enjoyment out of it, unless they have something against interesting anecdotes.6 10Observations Interesting Things LearnedGeorge Halas named the Chicago Bears as a play on the previously existing Cubs He decided to go with Bears based on the reasoning that football players were larger than baseball players Halas also offered fans premium tickets that allowed them to sit on the visiting team s bench in the team s early days I imagine that this was done without consulting said visiting team.Bill Cosby was considered for Monday Night Football after Don Meredith left Al Davis did very little as commissioner as the AFL, as he quickly resigned after other AFL owners worked the merger deal behind his back At least as acting commissioner he managed to insert the phrase dynamic young genius to references of his name in the press release announcing his appointment.I m guessing this has a lot to do with the fact that the event covers many hours across several days but I still find it rather ridiculous that ESPN s Scouting Combine coverage outdrew both the Masters and Indianapolis 500 Jim Otto wore 00 as a pun on his last name aught oh The AFL originally allowed it as a marketing ploy and it survived the merger intact.The book briefly describes the 1979 NFL draft and how Phil Simms selection by the Giants received a poor reception from the 200 fans in attendance As recounted in Gary Myers Coaching Confidential, another work filled with trivia tidbits but lacking a coherent focus, Simms was subject to farridicule than described Rozelle actually announced the pick twice The commissioner was taken aback by the fans strong negative reaction to the selection and he then realized that the cameras were not rolling After turning on the cameras andimportantly the microphones Rozelle announced Simms selection again to a chorus of boos to preserve the moment for posterity.Further ReadingAs I mentioned in my review, this is not even close to the only book about the NFL in the seventies Here is a list of several others organized roughly by how much I enjoyed reading them America s Game by Michael McCambridgeAbout Three Bricks Shy of a Load by Roy BlountBadasses by Peter RichmondSweetness by Jeff Pearlman not that you would have any idea that Payton or the Bears actually existed from 1972 1982 Undefeated by Mike FreemanThe Ones Who Hit the Hardest by Chad Millman and Shawn CoyeAs reviewed on My interest in American Football post dates the period this book covers by several decades Although many names crop up from time to time in contemporary coverage The Last Headbangers is an interesting look at a time when the sport, and the society in which the sport was played, was very different It s an entertaining romp through the period with a good mixture of contemporary sources andrecent interviews Recommended as a thoroughly entertaining read. Loved pro football in the 70 s and this helps memorialize it.

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