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"The Best Game Ever: Giants V. Colts, 1958" Book Review

  • Apr 1, 2009
The Best Game Ever is a fairly good account of what is probably the most famous game in NFL history—the 1958 NFL Championship game where the Baltimore Colts defeated the New York Giants 23-17 in the NFL's first sudden death overtime game.

The game pitted some of the greatest players of all time against one another, such as Johnny Unitas and Raymond Berry of the Colts and Frank Gifford and Sam Huff of the Giants.

It also sported three legendary coaches: Vince Lombardi on offense for the Giants, Tom Landry on defense for the Giants, and Weeb Ewbank, the head coach of Baltimore who went on to win another seminal NFL Championship when his New York Jets upset his former team, the Baltimore Colts, in Super Bowl III.

As most who follow football closely know, this game is considered the launching point of the modern NFL because it occurred in the early years of television and at least the last part of the game was seen by an estimated 30 million people. After this game, the popularity of professional football took off, particularly because the action is well suited for television viewing.

This book tells the story of the game mostly from the players' perspective, focusing somewhat more on the Baltimore Colts, particularly Johnny Unitas and Raymond Berry, who both had phenomenal performances in this game. But it also tells the story of other key players on both sides of the ball to greater or lesser degrees.

It does a less stellar job of building the drama of the game, maybe because we already know the outcome. But overall, it completely documents the game and the key turning points that lead to the eventual outcome.

These include Frank Gifford not making a first down on third and short that would have allowed the Giants to run out the clock to win the game, and the Unitas-to-Barry connection on an improvised play for a first down on the final drive in regulation to tie the game.

For a football fan, this is certainly an enjoyable book that provides some insight into the game and the players, particularly Raymond Berry, who gets the most coverage. While I wouldn't classify this as The Best Football Book Ever, it is well done and worth reading.

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From Publishers Weekly
Bowden (Black Hawk Down; Guests of the Ayatollah) tells the story of the 1958 National Football League championship game between the Baltimore Colts and the New York Giants, a legendary game that proved to be a harbinger of the enormous popularity of pro football over the next 50 years. Bowden writes that the game featured the greatest assemblage of talent ever on one field, including 17 future Hall of Fame inductees. He frames the picture with a wide lens, but then focuses on the roles and lives of a few key players, particularly the Colts' obsessive and methodical wide receiver Raymond Berry and the iconic quarterback Johnny Unitas, as well as the Giants' powerful linebacker Sam Huff. The game, played in frigid Yankee Stadium three days after Christmas, stretched into the evening, garnering the largest television audience in the history of the sport to that time. Bowden begins his entertaining and informative narration in the third quarter, and then delves into backstory on the league, players and the buildup, before returning to the gridiron to conclude with a detailed account of the final plays and an epilogue. (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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ISBN-10: 087113988X
Author: Mark Bowden
Genre: History, Sports
Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press (May 5, 2008)

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