Brendan's Reviews > The Ones Who Hit the Hardest: The Steelers, the Cowboys, the '70s, and the Fight for America's Soul

The Ones Who Hit the Hardest by Chad Millman
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A fun read that ultimately falls short of its promise.

The book sets itself up as the story of the rise and fall of the steel industry and the battle between the Steelers and Cowboys that marked the last stand of American industry, but falls a bit short on all fronts.

Because it tackles (no pun intended) three different stories, almost everyone will feel like one or more stories were given short shrift. It seems all but certain that most of the audience for the book will be Steelers fans, and the Steelers of the 1970s get the most coverage. But many hardcore fans who read this book will already be familiar with many of the stories about the team and the details of all the games, so it's not going to add much from a fan's perspective.

The story of the rise and fall of the steel industry is fascinating, and this book is the perfect place to tell that story in a way that will be interesting to people who are only casually interested in a history of labor and industry (which I assume is most people). I would probably not read a 300 page book about this subject by itself. But in the end, this story just kind of peters out without a real conclusion or point. Nor is it really very connected to the Steelers beyond stories of unemployed steel workers watching games or encountering kindly Art Rooney. It was not a story of the cultural connection between steel workers and their blue-collar team.

The story of the rise of the Cowboys is similarly more interesting than I would have expected, and again, just enough substance about a subject about which I would not have read a full-length book. The latter parts of this story, too, are undeveloped. It's not explained how the Cowboys got the players who formed their formidable team, and the book spends more of the 1970s portions talking about the Steelers' rivalry with the Raiders. There is no explanation as to the Cowboys becoming "America's Team," and the contrast of styles between the Steelers and Cowboys is mentioned, but not fully-formed.

The book also ends rather abruptly, right after Super Bowl XIII. A postscript would have seemed to be in order, particularly about the steel industry, but also about the Cowboys and the Steelers players and coaches and franchises and fans.

Still, this book was a very easy, enjoyable and interesting read. Anyone who is interested in football and history will love the first 200 pages, and hardcore Steelers fans will not learn anything new about the 1970s teams, but we can never get enough tales of the glory days. A more casual fan will probably like the second half of the book even more.

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Reading Progress

May 1, 2012 – Started Reading
May 8, 2012 – Shelved
May 8, 2012 – Finished Reading

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