• The League

  • How Five Rivals Created the NFL and Launched a Sports Empire
  • By: John Eisenberg
  • Narrated by: Daniel Thomas May
  • Length: 11 hrs and 50 mins
  • 4.6 out of 5 stars (230 ratings)

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The League  By  cover art

The League

By: John Eisenberg
Narrated by: Daniel Thomas May
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Publisher's Summary

The epic tale of the five owners who shepherded the NFL through its tumultuous early decades and built the most popular sport in America.

The National Football League is a towering, distinctly American colossus spewing out $13 billion in annual revenue. Yet its current dominance has obscured how professional football got its start. 

In The League, John Eisenberg reveals that Art Rooney, George Halas, Tim Mara, George Preston Marshall, and Bert Bell took an immense risk by investing in the professional game. At that time, the sport barely registered on the national scene, where college football, baseball, boxing, and horse racing dominated. The five owners succeeded only because at critical junctures in the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s, each sacrificed the short-term success of his team for the longer-term good of the League. 

At once a history of a sport and a remarkable story of business ingenuity, The League is an essential listen for any fan of our true national pastime.  

©2018 John Eisenberg (P)2018 Hachette Audio

Critic Reviews

"We have had some terrific owners since the first half of the 20th century but founders are founders, and this is their marvelous story - how they survived the Great Depression and a World War, scrambling to make their player payrolls from week to week. They did it through their incredible character, loyalty to each other, and their love of the game - and they built the greatest sports league in America." (Ernie Accorsi, former general manager of the Baltimore Colts, Cleveland Browns, and New York Giants)

"Talk about a team of rivals ready to claw each other to death on Sundays and join forces to sell their game from Monday to Saturday, this is it! Halas, Mara, Marshall, Bell, and Rooney - this is their story. It is also the NFL's story. How the men and the league came though the ballyhoo of the 1920s, survived the Great Depression and World War II, and set the stage for football's ascendency as the national game is told by John Eisenberg with humor, heartbreak, and insight. Before the owners were billionaires, they were just a collection of scoundrels who believed in football and money." (Randy Roberts, coauthor of A Season in the Sun)

"In The League, John Eisenberg goes deep. He takes us to where it all started, in smoky backrooms, when the NFL - an American monolith now - was more David than Goliath. Carefully researched and astutely narrated, this is a fascinating time-transport trip that tells us as much about America as it does about football." (Gary M. Pomerantz, author of Their Life's Work)

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What listeners say about The League

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what a great book. loved it completely.

had a great time reading it. Had some history I was unaware of in the NFL. if you're a football fan of must-read.

2 people found this helpful

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WONDERFUL STORY TELLING

If you want to know the early days of the National Football League..this book is for you. The author takes you to the earliest days of the league, the struggles and setbacks that the beginning owners survived. A must read for all football fans.

1 person found this helpful

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The League

Pros:

• A detailed account of the founders, key figures, and players that made the NFL what it is
• It gave me a greater appreciation for early stars like Red Grange and Sammy Baugh
• Intriguing look into what the owners like Mara, Romney, and especially Halas went through to have their teams and the league survive
• It presented an honest look at the flaws of the owners, including Marshall, the Washington owner, and his racism

Cons:

• Only for football fans

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fills in the blanks

great listen for hardcore football fans and nfl-historians alike. clearly Chronicles how American football eventually overcame baseball to become America's favorite game.

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A must read for football fans

Fascinating. Well written! I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of this comprehensive history of the early days of the NFL. If you like Pro Football, this is a must read. If the Multi-Billion dollar, corporate behemoth NFL of today could only return to some kind semblance to the fraternity of yesteryear, the league, and this country, would be better off.

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A lot to unpack

I am a casual football fan. I have been for as long as I can remember. I follow my team, and a few others based on fantasy football. But I didn't know much beyond the NFL in the pre-merger years (with the AFL and creation of the super game). The early years of the NFL, through the depression, WWII, and other challengers to the sport was filled with great stories and history. The account of each of the main owners, and how they all worked together to better their teams - and the league as a whole - was great. I was engaged right up to the end of the book.

I will say that at time, the book did drag on a little bit. The game accounts and players involved perhaps went just a little too far in-depth for my taste. But perhaps someone else will enjoy those accounts.

Overall, the book is a great history lesson into the NFL before the merger. For someone who wants to know the history, I would recommend this book.

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convoluted

Definitely not read by a true NFL fan. Mispronunciations galore, and nearly impossible to follow due to erratic flow.

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Veeck as in Wreck

The book is fascinating. It is a wonderful listen. However, the narrator needs to be able to know how to pronounce names correctly, please

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Great read about NFL's birth

I read this book after reading Eisenberg's other piece 'The Ten Gallon War' but I would suggest reading this one first as it chronologically fits better and you'll then know the players in that one referenced outside the state of Texas that influenced that sports conflict.

This book really shows how the NFL, from its birth, has always been about collective success and survival. Some of that out of necessity, some of it out of trying to maintain competition balance. I always wondered why MLB seems to be everyone out for themselves from players to even owners amongst themselves whereas the NFL has never seemed to have that problem & has seen collective success over time develop long before the salary cap/CBA came to be. This book really illustrates how, despite the different personalities who came together to form the league, that cohesion was always the focus even in the midst of some owners hurting their own team's opportunities in favor of others. George Halas remains the central figure not only as the Bears' owner but the guiding force behind that cohesion & collective effort. I truly want to read a biography about him now having finished this.

If you're looking for a book about how it takes different personalities for a team to succeed, this is a very nice read as well as a historical look at one of the greatest American sports.

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good listen

it was very informative at times read like a textbook but I did enjoy learning everything I did about the creation of football. different world.

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  • Elwood W. Vogt
  • 05-06-19

Brilliant interesting and entertaining NFL history

I would highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the NFL and it’s history. Very thorough coverage of events and issues. Easy to listen to for long periods.

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  • Mr S Benton
  • 01-24-19

Outstanding

A well researched, well written enthralling account of the early days of the NFL and the 5 hugely important pioneers who created the league that is now a multi billion sports powerhouse and the number one league in America. Giving fascinating background information on these men and what motivated them, plus providing a thorough history of their decisions and debates and how these impacted on football and American society as a whole it is gripping throughout on what at first glance might appear to be dry subject. I have read a great deal about the early years of the NFL, but learned so much more from this audiobook and was entertained from start to finish. The only slight criticism I have is of the narrator as he tends to over annunciate words which is a little strange at first but i soon began to ignore it as the subject matter was so interesting. I would recommend this Audiobook to any serious fan of the NFL

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  • Dan Harris
  • 01-16-19

Interesting book

Was a good listen, however the performance wasn't great, quite slow and monotone... Interesting subject matter though, lots of insight I never had before!