Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “How Football Explains America” as Want to Read:
How Football Explains America
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

How Football Explains America

3.23  ·  Rating details ·  186 Ratings  ·  35 Reviews
This fascinating volume takes readers on a journey through the cultural history of American football - from its earliest post-Civil War roots to the high-flying acrobatics of the modern game - and explains why the game evolved, and how its evolution was often a mirror on American society and culture.Drawing on meticulous research, and interviews with some of the game's mos ...more
Hardcover, 240 pages
Published September 1st 2008 by Triumph Books (first published January 1st 2008)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about How Football Explains America, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about How Football Explains America

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Nov 11, 2014 rated it did not like it
I picked this up in my futile attempt to marginally understand the love for the sport that 98% of my family is absolutely obsessed with – the sport I openly question and scoff at during family parties, while angrily munching on chips and burying my nose in a book on C. S. Lewis.

Gee. Hmm. I wonder why I still don't understand football...
Ah. It’s written by a sportscaster. One of THEM.
I should have known.

Between the flimsy arguments, weak topics, useless play-by-play descriptions, incessant name-d
Snail in Danger (Sid) Nicolaides
Nov 28, 2008 rated it did not like it
Shelves: sports
Sadly, this was not as interesting as I hoped. There are some interesting bits of football trivia, but this book is mostly style without substance. The essays on "How Football Explains the 60s" and "How Football Explains Show Business" are of better quality than the rest, though.

Oh, and "SalPal" should apologize to Franklin Foer for stealing riffing on the title of his book and then producing this meh product. (Extra fail points for confusing reign/rein and their/there.)
Douglas Wilson
Feb 09, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: culture-studies
Good stuff.
Keith Gerlach
Aug 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
A nice little football book. Lots of nice little historical tidbits.
Adam N.
Sep 24, 2010 rated it it was ok

How Football Explains America
Read and You’ll Find Out
Think of what explains you. Now think of what explains America, what about football. How Football Explains America is a book written by Sal Paolantonio. The genre of this book is short stories. That means that it has no main characters or any one particular setting. My rating of this book would be three out of five stars. I thought that there were a lot of stories, but I would have liked more detail about the stories. This book tells you how
Jan 07, 2013 marked it as to-read
Seve DiBucci
English 10
Period 9
7 January 2013
There are many different theories people have of who or what shaped America. Some people think that we had leaders that shaped our country, but still others think science made us who we are today. Sal Paolantono, the author of "How Football Explains America", a nonfiction story telling book, thinks that sports shaped America and in particular he thinks that football shaped America. This book tells many stories from the Civil War to Manifest Desitiny an
James Dunphy
Aug 29, 2013 rated it really liked it
I got this book for Christmas years ago, and it's taken me this long to read it. I'm mad at myself I did.
Most pigskin fans aren't big readers. Copies of S.I are as far as most of my sports-jockey friends get anyway. Part of the charm of this book is it's modest length and breezy language. You can drop this baby on the top of your man's toilet, and it'll be done in 5 poops.
What Sal Paolantonio manages to capture in this book is part a telling of the history of both how football and the NFL de
Jan 23, 2016 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: Those interested in professional football and American culture
This account, focusing on some well presented parallels between the evolution of the game of football and the development of the American psyche and culture, argues that football explains America. However, I believe that the converse is more accurate: America explains football! There are a number of interesting anecdotes, but the author's treatment of the game is far from balanced. He almost totally ignores the college game (and its many innovations) after about 1960, and he focuses on a relativ ...more
Oct 11, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: abandoned
Just to say it: I really wanted to enjoy this book. I'm a bona fide football nut and I have a huge appreciation for Sal Paolantonio's editorial work on ESPN. Those two together should have made for a really enjoyable reading experience, but I just couldn't like this book.

Throughout, Sal attaches characteristics of football to those found in other "artifacts" of American history (Manifest Destiny, the unique American art form of jazz, etc.). While reading Sal's conclusions, I consistently found m
Apr 11, 2009 rated it it was ok
A painfully written book that manages to have interesting bits of football history and sports writing sprinkled throughout it, which is the only thing that drags it out of the one star cellar. I was intrigued by the main premise of this book - "Why has football never managed to catch on in any country except America?" - but it failed to live up to my expectations.

Each chapter starts out with a simplistic, sometimes patronizing main hypothesis like "America Loves Football Because They Love Manif
Craig Phillips
Dec 02, 2008 rated it it was ok
How Football Can Be Vaguely Associated with Several American Historical Landmark Events while Dishing Up Some Great Football Stories would have been the more accurate title.

Paolantonio states his thesis that the game of football can be used to describe the American pysche briefly in the preface and make vague hand gestures at the concept through the rest of the book. This book doesn't do what it claims and is certainly not a complete history of the game (which the author readily admits) - but so
Sep 27, 2015 rated it liked it
Pretty good overview of football's interwoven history with the growth of American society and commercialism. As can be expected, the author is a bit of a homer and tends to exaggerate the importance of football in some chapters, often stretching an analogy or argument to a breaking point in order to make his argument. With that being said, the first few chapters - especially chapter 1, which ties football to manifest destiny - make up for the various rabbit paths given in the last half of the bo ...more
Nov 27, 2010 rated it really liked it
By no means does this work challenge the examination of sport in America on the level of a James Michener or a David Halberstam, but I loved it...Yes being a football coach and historian/political scientist helps, but, by no means, is that a requirement to enjoy it...Paolantonio accurately places football and the NFL in our social/political/historical underpinnings of being an "exceptional" nation...I particularily sat up with Victor Davis Hanson's quote, "The values that made America exceptiona ...more
Dec 09, 2012 rated it liked it
The title of this book is an unfulfilled promissory note. Football does not explain America, anymore than the Boy Scouts explain the Roman Legion, so don't read this book if you are not already a die-hard football fan. If you are though, you will enjoy the historical tidbits about the game and some of the author's journalistic panache. If you are not a fan you will merely scoff at the far-fetched analogies and wonder at how anyone could care about the minutiae of a game that can seem so complica ...more
Nov 24, 2009 rated it really liked it
Sal P. does a great job of connecting the dots (so to speak) between American history & culture and the rise of professional football. I don't think the book actually EXPLAINS America... but I do think you can see why modern American football has such amazing cultural resonance.

I'd recommend to anyone who's a pro football fan - the philosophical stuff is well-written and doesn't bog down the narrative of the development of football.
Jan 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
Very interesting book including the history of how football came to be America’s sport, why it’s not popular outside America, how it is uniquely American, how the its relationship with the media supported its popularity. Lots of good stories of players and games but also quite philosophical as well. I didn’t intend to read this to Justin, just got it for myself, but we needed something to read and once I started it, Justin was interested enough to keep listening.
Jan 01, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: sports and history buffs
Sal Paolantonio is a prolific sports reporter/writer who has also been in the military and an officer in the Philadelphia police department. When I saw he had this book out, I read it because I am a fan of his and of the subject matter. He has a real reverence for football history and American history. His writing is intelligent and the chapters tell separate stories but everything ties together as well.
Jul 26, 2013 rated it liked it
This was a good book with lots of interesting football facts. I enjoyed learning more about the history of the NFL and of football. It seemed a bit of stretch, some of the connections he tried to make, but he interviewed a lot of famous players, coaches, and announcers, so it was full of good quotes from well-known people. A good, light read for people who like football.
Joseph Stec
Jul 29, 2010 rated it really liked it
This book can really be described as a collection of a thousand loosely connected dots, and while that leads to the premise of the book never being fully articulated and realized, it was still an interesting read.
Sep 09, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2010, football
Make no mistake, this book is 95% football and 5% America. Even though Paolantonio doesn't really explain America using football, his narratives are well written and give added cultural significance to historic football events and people.
Aug 16, 2009 rated it liked it
This was an interesting mix of history, football, and personal stories from the author who has covered football for a long time.
Football is uniquely American and this book explores why that is, comparing to our own american history.
i would recommend to any football lover.
Rob Rausch
Apr 25, 2009 rated it liked it
Surprisingly entertaining series of essays, considering I'm not even a huge fan of football. A little too intellectual at times, but some clever comparisons between football, history, and pop culture.
Mar 24, 2009 rated it really liked it
Great refresher of football history and how the game was shaped. Some moderately insightful analysis in regards to the "explaining America" claim, but I enjoyed it more for the discussion of players and teams of old.
Jan 07, 2009 rated it it was ok
I thought this was okay, not as gripping as I expected. I found it difficult to follow because he kept going from the present to the past, and my knowledge of the history of football wasn't good enough to follow....
David Walker
Oct 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Insightful and well-thought narrative of football through the years and its relationship to and with America. Provocative and entertaining; not just for the football fan. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and strongly recommend it. David
Dec 12, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommended to Mark by: Michael Smirconish
It was alright. Quick read, interesting perspective. He was kind of reaching a little sometimes. However, it was very interesting to think about why football is so wildly popular and everything else isn't in America.
Jun 24, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting look at Football and why it's the number one sport in America but struggles to find a footing abroad. This was written before the concussion crisis so it'll be interesting to see if the ideals that drive its popularity can overcome that.
Apr 24, 2009 rated it really liked it
onside kick!
Jun 04, 2009 rated it liked it
Fascinating history of American football and how its development reflects American Culture.
Jun 24, 2009 rated it liked it
A fun way of looking at how football grew to become the REAL American game. Ties in history and pop culture nicely.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • War As They Knew It: Woody Hayes, Bo Schembechler, and America in a Time of Unrest
  • America's Game: The Epic Story of How Pro Football Captured a Nation
  • Favre
  • Is Shame Necessary?: New Uses for an Old Tool
  • The Science of Hitting
  • Gunfighter Nation: The Myth of the Frontier in Twentieth-Century America
  • The Chosen: The Hidden History of Admission and Exclusion at Harvard, Yale, and Princeton
  • Campy: The Two Lives of Roy Campanella
  • The Best Game Ever: Giants vs. Colts, 1958, and the Birth of the Modern NFL
  • Heart of the Game: Life, Death, and Mercy in Minor League America
  • Rob Neyer's Big Book of Baseball Legends: The Truth, the Lies, and Everything Else
  • 1954: The Year Willie Mays and the First Generation of Black Superstars Changed Major League Baseball Forever
  • There Is Power in a Union: The Epic Story of Labor in America
  • On Truth
  • The Genius: How Bill Walsh Reinvented Football and Created an NFL Dynasty
  • Supreme Power: Franklin Roosevelt vs. the Supreme Court
  • The Big Scrum: How Teddy Roosevelt Saved Football
  • Win Shares

Share This Book