(p. A9) College football fans have a tendency to view the unsavory aspects of the game as a modern phenomenon. Dave Revsine’s “The Opening Kickoff: The Tumultuous Birth of a Football Nation” knocks this myth flat in its first few pages. The book is a stirring survey of malfeasance, meticulously documented and brought to life by Mr. Revsine, a former ESPN anchor who is now a host for the Big Ten Network. Excessive violence? Yup. Eligibility scams? Sure. Wanton profiteering? You bet.
. . .
In the fervent pursuit of ticket sales and publicity, schools routinely recruited players whom they made little pretense about educating. The hulking Notre Dame tackle Frank Hanley, asked by Harper’s Weekly what he took at college, offered this cheerful rejoinder: “Baths!”
. . .
Yet for the devoted fan “The Opening Kickoff” is a first-class account of football’s turbulent origins, one that helps explain how a collision sport became the most conspicuous part of American higher education and a de facto developmental league for the pros in which unpaid “student-athletes” generate billions of dollars of revenue.
The marriage of academics and athletics, Mr. Revsine ruefully reminds us, was never going to be especially innocent. As Harvard President Charles Eliot put it back in 1905, “Deaths and injuries are not the strongest argument against football. That cheating and brutality are profitable is the main evil.”
For the full review, see:
STEVE ALMOND. “BOOKSHELF; Collegiate Collisions; The hulking Notre Dame tackle Frank Hanley, asked what he took at college, offered this cheerful rejoinder: ‘Baths!’.” The Wall Street Journal (Weds., Aug. 27, 2014): C5.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the review has the date Aug. 26, 2014, and has the title “BOOKSHELF; Bookshelf: ‘The Opening Kickoff’ by Dave Revsine; The hulking Notre Dame tackle Frank Hanley, asked what he took at college, offered this cheerful rejoinder: ‘Baths!’.”)
The book under review is:
Revsine, Dave. The Opening Kickoff: The Tumultuous Birth of a Football Nation. Guilford, CT: Lyons Press, 2014.