The worst sports book everSteven Wells – The Guardian, 8/31/15There are many contenders for the title of worst sports book ever. But I reckon Sal Paolantonio’s just-published How Football Explains America has to be a serious contender.
A belated response to Franklin Foer’s How Soccer Explains the World, Paolantonio’s cocksure parochialism is embodied in the very title.
Foer argues that soccer can be used to explain an entire planet. Paolantonio — while beating his chest, waving old Glory and strutting like a cockerel — boasts that American football can be used to explain why one corner of it is, like, awesome.
The contraction in scope and ambition tells all. One hopes other authors pursue this logic further. How Welly Wanging Explains West Yorkshire. How Bog Snorkelling Explains Llanwrtyd Wells. How Lying on the Couch Reading This Crap Book Explains My Living Room. How My Cat Sylvie Explains My Stomach. The possibilities are endless.
The actual chapters of How Football Explains America are all but unreadable. Paolantonio rehashes a game or a heartwarming football-related anecdote with the gusto of the true bore. Then he explains why this explains how football explains the battle of Midway. Or Davy Crockett. Or manifest destiny. Each chapter more tedious than the last.
The prologue is a masterpiece of bombastic ignorance in which Paolantonio inadvertently reveals that he has apparently never actually watched any other sport. Or indeed read about them.
“Go ahead, you try going to a rugby game and writing about it. SoccerNinety minutes of whatever and then maybe one goal scored by accident. Tough to create a coherent narrative out of that.”
It gets worse. Paolantonio is the sports journalism equivalent of the saloon bar patriot who doesn’t actually own a passport.
His errors are legion. He compares American football to the hoplite tactics of the ancient Greeks, and soccer to the Persian cavalry armies the Greeks defeated. In fact American…