History of NFL Preseason Games Books by PFRA Member

History of NFL Preseason Games Books by PFRA Member

Postby cdwillis » Thu Oct 23, 2014 9:57 pm

Just in case you didn't know but long-time PFRA member and current President Mark L. Ford two volume books
about the History of NFL Preseason and Exhibition Games is now out. What an achievement.

http://www.amazon.com/History-NFL-Prese ... +nfl+games

http://www.amazon.com/History-NFL-Prese ... +nfl+games
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Re: History of NFL Preseason Games Books by PFRA Member

Postby Veeshik_ya » Sun Mar 01, 2015 3:13 pm

And we're off...

The Good

Expecting nothing more than a bound list of preseason games, scores and standings, I debated buying these books; sites like Pro Football Archives already have the information. But being a sucker for reference books I pulled the trigger and I’m glad I did, because what I got was a history of the league(s) since 1960 viewed through the lens of the preseason.

Calling preseason games “an important, and still unexplored, part of the league’s history”, Ford wisely avoids attaching too much significance to final scores, focusing instead on what the games represent: a testing lab for new plays, alignments, technology, rule changes, league expansion and broadcast techniques.

Writing about games that don't count is challenging. Treat the material too seriously and it turns into a dull, technical treatise about games nobody cares about. Accent the oddities and it becomes a breezy farce, an injustice to the subject. Ford pulls it off by knowing when to be serious and when to have fun, never hitting you over the head with the rubber mallet of either.

Ford sets the stage with a masterful introduction and first chapter (1920-1959 Before They Were Called “Preseason Games) in Volume 1 (read these sections and stop there and you’ll know more than you did before). Then it’s off to the races on a year by year romp through the history of the league.

Picking and choosing his spots (but addressing every season), Ford writes about strange sites and game oddities unique to preseason football, thrilling last-minute finishes, the first action of future hall of famers, preseason stars who would never play in a real game, injuries to major players, international and other neutral sites (you’ll be surprised), stormy weather, uniform changes, and league “records” that don’t count because they happened in the preseason. Perhaps most fascinating are the scrimmages—even less official than preseason games—involving weird scoring rules that beg the imagination.

Ford frames all this in chronological/developmental context via an economical writing style that often weaves fact with understated humor, such as this passage from Volume 1, Chapter 24:

Before kickoff of the second summer game, the players for the Oilers and Saints made the first “solidarity handshakes,” running from their benches to midfield for a manly exchange of greetings while the crowd booed.

Most, but not all, team followed the NFLPA playbook. Nine of the 10 Saturday contests had the pregame ritual, but the Broncos took a vote before their visit to California and decided that the Rams were not their comrades.


Peppered throughout the books are facts and firsts that you probably didn’t know, or once knew and forgot:

- Players were paid less than $100 in the 1960s and 1970s for preseasons games, $243 today
- Some exhibition games included minor league opponents
- Before 1937, teams went on the road, touring, in January and February after the season ended
- In the 1940s teams staged exhibitions vs. their own farm teams
- NFL teams have played CFL teams in the preseason
- The first ever Vikings game was played in South Dakota
- Art Modell created the first ever NFL double header
- Las Vegas hosted an AFL game in 1964
- QB John Brodie was the first ever “preseason holdout”
- The final black and white game telecast occurred in 1968
- The Superdome was the first stadium to have giant TV screens
- The Vikings’ Sammy White notched the first recorded sack, in 1982
- The first instance of “spiking the ball” happened in 1987
- A swarm of gnats descended on a Packers game in Milwaukee, 1986
- Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson once made a kicker try a 66 yard FG as punishment for missing a PAT

I marveled at how delightfully arcane some of this material is. No doubt much of it resulted from research, but I’m betting Ford is a trivia lover who wrote down many of these odd, tasty facts over the years, later becoming the impetus for a book.

How the author managed to write these books and hold down a day job is beyond me. Wish I knew his secret.

The Bad

The lack of preseason standings is a disappointing omission. According to the author, “space did not permit the inclusion of win-loss-tie records, although they are easy to calculate from the results”, which is akin a McDonalds clerk handing you some ground beef, a head of lettuce, an uncut pickle, a tube of mayo, then telling you to assemble your Big Mac yourself. If that analogy is disingenuous, this isn't: at $40 dollars a book, we shouldn't have to reach for a pencil and paper.

Aside from the one major flaw, there’s not much to criticize. There is the occasional misspelling of player names and a factual error here or there, but nothing to get into snit over.

The Verdict

Ford accomplished two things with these books: he wrote the first major work about the preseason and he managed to make it interesting. You will be both informed and entertained by reading them. A superior work of history, craft, and presentation, they will likely sit on the reference shelves of libraries for years to come.
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Re: History of NFL Preseason Games Books by PFRA Member

Postby Mark L. Ford » Wed Mar 04, 2015 12:13 pm

I hadn't been aware of the post until it was brought to my attention, but thanks, Veeshik_ya, for ordering the books and for the praise. Like you, I wish that standings could have been included. The omission of standings was a decision by the publisher, because of the typesetting expense to them for 110 sets of tables rather than 55. They gave me the option of whether the standings, or the scores, should be sacrificed and, reasoning that one could figure out standings from the scores, but not vice versa, I opted to keep the scores. While I was prepared to edit out entire sections of chapters after I had exceeded the original contract limit on pages, they were very generous in allowing the text to be split into two books. It was a great experience, but also much harder work than I had imagined.
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Re: History of NFL Preseason Games Books by PFRA Member

Postby 74_75_78_79_ » Thu Mar 12, 2015 7:23 pm

I believe that there was a pre-season game in '81 which had rookie, Lawrence Taylor, sack Terry Bradshaw on back-to-back plays. 1982, of course, was the only opportunity those two would have ever crossed paths in the regular season, scheduled to play each other Week #3 at Three Rivers only for the game to never take place due to the strike.
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Re: History of NFL Preseason Games Books by PFRA Member

Postby fgoodwin » Sat Mar 14, 2015 2:07 pm

Veeshik_ya wrote:And we're off...

The Verdict

Ford accomplished two things with these books: he wrote the first major work about the preseason and he managed to make it interesting. You will be both informed and entertained by reading them. A superior work of history, craft, and presentation, they will likely sit on the reference shelves of libraries for years to come.

Might I make one suggestion? You should publish this excellent review on Amazon for the benefit of football fans who may not be aware of this forum.
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Re: History of NFL Preseason Games Books by PFRA Member

Postby Veeshik_ya » Tue Mar 17, 2015 12:12 pm

fgoodwin wrote:Might I make one suggestion? You should publish this excellent review on Amazon for the benefit of football fans who may not be aware of this forum.


Great suggestion. I'm for anything that brings more attention to actual product this group produces. Problem is, I don't how to post a review at Amazon under this identity.

I'll noodle on it.
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