I’m amazed I went as long as I did before anyone got in touch to ask what the hell World Book Day has to do with American Football, anyway. It was something I thought about to be fair, before I started the day’s coverage, about whether it was something we should particularly get involved in. We don’t, for example, comment on politics, Kate Middleton’s new hairstyle or the F1.
I could be excused or defended as a former Literature graduate who can’t let go. I write on behalf of the club and people read it – like you, look! You’re reading right now!
But actually, when I started asking our coaches and players for book recommendations I was shocked at how many there were. I assumed they could read, of course – most of them, anyway. I have a small collection centred around ‘American Football for Dummies’ that I bought when still at college, in a desperate attempt to understand this peculiar sport that the man I planned on marrying was SO goddamn into, and I still pick it up now, before each season starts, just to … I don’t know. Check?
With the merging of two households the collection has grown enormously, and now includes various 49ers-based literature, coaching manuals, folders of BAFCA Levels 1 and 2 paperwork and a couple of George Plimpton books of mine. I didn’t even have to ask some of the players – Scott Smallman Tweeted us a photo of ‘Complete Linebacking’ one day when he was at work to let us know he was studying.
And that’s the point, isn’t it really – books are forced upon you at school in the name of learning stuff. The difficulty in getting good sports journalists is that people who know heaps about sport are probably playing it, and don’t have time to write about it. Coaches and ball players don’t necessarily spin chapter and verse of an eloquent substance either just because they know what they’re doing on the field, so I’ve often thought well-written books about sport would be hard to find.
However – wrong, as usual. There’s so many. So much to read about and learn about, for us backroomers as well as the starters, and it’s only one day a year to put the iPhone down and have a wee look at a book instead. I know I need it as a comfort blanket at the start of every season, and all the way through it. Just in case I learn something.
Here’s our ten favourites for today – until next year, book-learners!
Paper Lion: Confessions of a Third-String Quarterback by George Plimpton
Coaching Theory for Youth Teams by Robbie Paulin
Next Man Up: A Year Behind The Lines of Today’s NFL by John Feinstein
The Score Takes Care of Itself by Bill Walsh
The Rookie (Galactic Football League) by Scott Sigler
Complete Linebacking by Lou Tepper
A Civil War: Army vs. Navy by John Feinstein
American Football’s Forgotten Kings: The Rise and Fall of the London Monarchs by Alex Cassidy
Friday Night Lights: A Town, A Team, A Dream by H.G. Bissinger
The Best Game Ever – Giants v Colts, 1958 and the Birth of the Modern NFL by Mark Bowden