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Rob Fleder, ed., Sports Illustrated: The Football Book (2005)

Since it began publication in 1954, Sports Illustrated magazine has been America's premier organ of high-quality sports journalism. The magazine's Football Book is collects half a century's worth of the magazine's best football writing and photographs, compiling it into one beautiful package. This coffee-table book brings the rich history of the NFL to life.

Charles Kenyatta Ross, Outside the Lines: African-Americans and the Integration of the National Football League (1999)

Charles K. Ross's Outside the Lines is the best book-length history of the African American experience in pro football. Particularly interesting are the early sections of the book, in which Ross explores the all-but-forgotten histories of early black gridiron pioneers like 1920s star Fritz Pollard.

Don Weiss with Chuck Day, The Making of the Super Bowl: The Inside Story of the World's Greatest Sporting Event (2003)

Since its introduction in 1967, the Super Bowl has become, well, the Super Bowl of sporting events. The behind-the-scenes story of the game's creation and growth is more interesting than most of the actual Super Bowl games have been, and author Don Weiss—a longtime executive in the NFL office who oversaw Super Bowl operations for decades—offers the definitive insider account in The Making of the Super Bowl. The writing here won't win any awards, but the content is interesting enough to carry the day.

Mark Yost, Tailgating, Sacks, and Salary Caps: How the NFL Became the Most Successful Sports League in History (2006)

The NFL is not merely a sports league; it is a hugely successful business. Yost's Tailgating, Sacks, and Salary Caps offers a solid analysis of the factors that led to the NFL's extraordinary economic success, and warns that a handful of contemporary owners who desire to change the NFL's "socialistic" revenue-sharing plan risk destroying a near-perfect system.

George Plimpton, Paper Lion (1966)

George Plimpton was one of the greatest American journalists of the twentieth century. In 1963, hoping to gain material to write a piece on how an ordinary person might fare if he attempted to play professional sports, Plimpton went undercover in Detroit Lions training camp, trying to pass as a backup quarterback prospect. The book provides a truly one-of-a-kind look into the pro game in the early years of its phenomenal growth.

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