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The Opening Kickoff: The Tumultuous Birth of a Football Nation

3.93  ·  Rating details ·  201 ratings  ·  28 reviews
It’s America’s most popular sport, played by thousands, watched by millions, and generating billions in revenues every year. It’s also America’s most controversial sport, haunted by the specter of life-threatening injuries and plagued by scandal, even among its most venerable personalities and institutions. At the college level, we often tie football’s tales of corruption ...more
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published July 29th 2014 by Lyons Press (first published January 1st 2014)
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Mar 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Football fans; Football haters
Full disclosure – I received an advance copy of this book via First Reads.

I am not normally one who pays much attention to the Author’s Notes intro, yet this one grabbed me and pulled me into the book right away. At that point I was hooked, and did not want to put the book down. While I like and appreciate college football, I would not consider myself a devotee. Yet this story captivated me. It brought to life for me an era that I knew virtually nothing about. I was fascinated with the path of f
Donald Luther
Apr 23, 2015 rated it it was ok
I liked a lot of what is presented here, but I felt a little cheated, when all was said and done. The book promises, in its title and in the opening, to give a history of college football from 1890 to 1915, years which laid a necessary foundation for the popularity of the sport in the first third of the 20th century and of course which continues today.

It doesn't exactly do that. In the main, it's a biography of Pat O'Dea, the sport's first superstar, the All-American kicker at the University of
Phi Beta Kappa Authors
Dave Revsine
ΦBK, Northwestern University, 1991

From the publisher: It’s America’s most popular sport, played by thousands, watched by millions, and generating billions in revenues every year. It’s also America’s most controversial sport, haunted by the specter of life-threatening injuries and plagued by scandal, even among its most venerable personalities and institutions. At the college level, we often tie football’s tales of corruption and greed to its current popularity and revenue pote
Aug 14, 2014 rated it liked it
Pretty interesting, but felt like he was working on two different books - one about Pat O'Dea and Wisconsin football and another about the early Ivy League. Good writing, but being from Texas I was curious about what was going on in the South (he did touch on the far west) ...more
Jul 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A nice synopsis of the first few decades of growing college football fandom for a sport whose popularity was mostly relegated to the Northeast, more specifically the Ivy League, and a few Midwestern outposts like Michigan and Wisconsin. Of course there was a discussion about the infamous 1905 meeting between Teddy Roosevelt and the power factions in the various schools that led to the formation of the NCAA, that has also been described in depth in other books. However, this book provided a lot o ...more
Mar 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: first-reads
Meet Patrick O’dea one of footballs best player no one has heard about. This is a must read for any college football fan or, for that matter, any sports fan. Dave Revsine tells the history of American college football in a way the reads like a novel, along with a surprise ending. The reader will read remarkable football stories and see how the sport has evolved into what it is today. This is a story about the development of signal calling, plays by numbers and the first no huddle offense. This i ...more
Mar 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: own-a-copy
This is a very well-written and thoroughly researched book about the early years of football. Stories about the players and game changers grab the reader's attention from the first page. The history of the game parallels some of the same issues addressed in present day NCAA football, proving that some things never change.

I also enjoyed asking my football- expert husband trivia questions about the game that I learned from the book. I highly recommend The Opening Kickoff to anyone with an interest
Paul Miller
Jan 25, 2016 rated it it was ok
The theme is quite compelling: college football has ALWAYS been fraught with scandal about academics and money, even from the very beginnings in the late 1800's. The content itself is also compelling: college football from 1890-1915, focusing primarily on Wisconsin and their superstar kicker Pat O'Dea. You'll get a kick out of learning about the differences in rules and scoring. But the actual writing itself ... admirable for a book by a broadcaster... but you'll enjoy the experience no more tha ...more
Josh K.
Feb 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing
My experience with the topic "football history and the making" was very low at the time. Until I had ran into this. My knowledge now about this, is about more than I would have imagined. The author, Dave Revsine has done a outstanding job with his descriptions and details about the characters, the setting, and the plot. I would recommend this book to anyone that is interested in football and anyone that is willing to learn more about it. ...more
Sep 17, 2014 rated it liked it
An interesting, but somewhat plodding, re-telling of the early history of college football particularly at Wisconsin.
Marc Kirby
Nov 11, 2018 rated it liked it
This book covered some incredibly interesting and relevant material but the author spent an inordinate amount of pages recounting the life and career of Patrick O’Dea, star kicker for Wisconsin. I’m not sure what Dave Revsine’s connection to this forgotten great was but I couldn’t figure out why so much space was allotted for him when there was so much that interested me aside from a star kicker from Wisconsin.
Barry Pfaff
Nov 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
An absolute phenomenal book. Every lover of college football should read this. At only 231 actual readable pages, it is short enough to read in less than a week, but packed with enough information to want more. Would love to see Mr. Revsine write a volume two, picking up from the end of this book thru maybe the sixties.
Sep 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: football
Great book! Really brings to life the games and controversies of the early years of college football. Resvine makes clear the way that personalities, fandom, and money combined to shape the entertainment collasus that dominates American sports today.
Feb 28, 2021 rated it liked it
This book isn't sure what it wants to be but I really enjoyed learning about early college football history. ...more
Brent Soderstrum
Mar 10, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-read
I won this book through GoodReads first read program.

I learned a lot about college football which I never knew before from the book. Revsine cover college football from 1890-1915. The emphasis of the book, however, is on football in the Midwest with a special focus on the University of Wisconsin, which was one of the powers in the Midwest during that time period, and one particular player, Pat O'Dea. O'Dea was the first real superstar in college football. He did amazing things as a kicker settin
Nov 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
This book is really less about the history of all college football and more the history of Midwestern football and the eventual Big Ten Conference. To this end, it focuses on one of the greatest football players of all time: Patrick O'Dea, who played for Wisconsin. By juxtaposing his story with the rise of football in the region, the author chronicles the shifting grounds of what "amateur" really meant, whether we should compensate athletes, the handwringing of administrators and journalists con ...more
Sep 04, 2014 rated it really liked it
Enjoyable and well researched. The author explains why some of the most revered figures of football's early history, including Walter Camp and Amos Alonzo Stagg, were considered to be jerks by pretty much anyone outside their respective fan bases. They also shared responsibility for much of what was wrong with early football, including the grisly death toll.

The author disputes the widely held belief that Teddy Roosevelt "saved" football through his intervention in 1905. I haven't read deeply in
Kate Elizabeth
A fascinating read, showing that there was, really, no "golden age" of college football. Even in the early 20th century, the sport dealt with the same issues we struggle with today - whether to pay players, eligibility requirements, how to determine the best champion, greed/profitability over athlete welfare, the role of an educational institution in athletics, etc. A little more Wisconsin-centric than I would have liked...but what are you gonna do. Except mock Bucky, forever and ever. ...more
Sep 30, 2014 rated it really liked it
A fun an interesting book about the first generation of college football, and how it really wasn't that much different than today--i.e., it was all about money. It was particularly interesting to learn that my very full-of-itself alma mater was a leader in the commercialization of football in the 1890s and 1900s. Somehow we didn't get those stories during O week! ...more
Mar 31, 2014 rated it really liked it
I was really happy when I won this arc because much of my undergraduate research was spent on the early days of football. The point that is so interesting for me is how the game had its corruption in the beginning so the ncaa was formed to make it safer and less corrupt but today's game mimics the same problems. This book is a touchdown! ...more
Patrick Macke
Sep 05, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sports
easily could have been titled: "the story of Patrick o'dea, early gridiron star for the university of Wisconsin" ... wonderful story that reveals that not much has changed in 125 years of college football - rabid fandom, big money, cheating, great players and something that would be sad to live without ...more
Renee Harrison
Aug 09, 2015 rated it liked it
Well written and well researched book. More about the history of Midwestern football and the schools that led to the Big Ten. As a fan of college football and especially the Big Ten, I appreciated the vast amounts of new information in the book but it was a bit of a slow read.
Mark Dunn
Nov 17, 2016 rated it liked it
The subtitle was misleading the author padded the pages with a blow by blow recount of games gone by it was a distraction. As far as the great kick by MR O'Dea ,if he (O'Dea) could drop kick my laptop through Bill Gates window ,then I would be impressed. ...more
Oct 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Excellent book. If you love college football, this is a must read. Times may change but man remains the same.
Aug 30, 2014 rated it really liked it
Excellent history and background of College football. It was every bit as violent in the beginning as it is now. Very enjoyable read.
Aug 08, 2014 rated it it was ok
I really wanted to like this, but it centers so much on Wisconsin and Pat O'Dea that I just quit caring somewhere around the middle. ...more
Aug 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Fantastic book...great read on football and its' early history. Surprisingly, not a whole lot has changed in 100 years. Great book! ...more
A&A Bell
rated it really liked it
Dec 22, 2019
Ritchie Quinn
rated it it was amazing
Oct 25, 2020
Makenzie Dolnick
rated it really liked it
Aug 25, 2014
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Dave Revsine is the lead studio host of the Big Ten Network. He has been with BTN since its inception in 2007. He is the host for the network’s pregame, halftime and postgame coverage for men’s basketball and football, including its Emmy Award-winning football pregame show.

Hired from ESPN, where he spent more than a decade as an anchor and play-by-play man, Revsine has reported from numerous Rose

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