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A Review of Sports Illustrated's "The College Football Book"

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One of the pleasures (or annoyances) of running a popular sports blog is the flood of emails I get from people asking me to peddle their products. Not a week goes by where I don't get an email addressed to "Dear Blog Administrator" promising me my readers would be really interested in their piece of crap with a team logo on it. You can all thank me now that I throw them all in the trash bin because we're committed to preventing you from being flooded with commercials and advertisements. But every once in a while I'll make an exception if I feel it's a top notch product. So when Sports Illustrated approached me and asked me to give a review of their new publication titled "The College Football Book" I couldn't say no.

When you first flip through the book the first thing that strikes you are the amazing images. I can't get enough black and white photographs from the old days of young men with lean faces that look as worn and cracked as the leather helmets on their heads. Sports Illustrated captures the greatest players in some of the greatest moments in the history of college football. You see Doug Flutie exposing his naval as he heaves up a bomb against the Hurricanes. You see the Stanford trombone player getting flattened in the endzone as Cal's Kevin Moen joyously jumps in the air. But SI also shows you the gritty side of college football. You see Fordam and Columbia lining up on a rain soaked field with just a few people watching in the stands from under their umbrellas. You see Lycoming's Cory Sheridan trying to get that extra foot as he strains through three Susquehanna players attempting to gang tackle him. The book is full of the glorious as well as the mundane images of college football history.

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In putting together this review I had an opportunity to speak with Scott Price who authored two of the articles that appear in the book. I asked him if he had a favorite photograph. He had trouble picking just one but did point to page 229 where you can see Carroll College's Brandon May celebrating their win over Sioux Falls for the NAIA championship. He is kneeling in mud that looks like it probably had grass at some point. His arms are thrust in the air as he looks to the sky with a victorious yell. His arms and face are speckled with mud. His helmet lays on the ground beside him and his shoulder length golden hair is wet and matted with sweat, rain, and dirt. His rain soaked jersey and pants are so filthy that no amount of detergent can possibly bring them back to anything that resembles white again. But it's an image that captures the essence of college football. It's dirty. It's tough. But yet it's unashamedly silly and wonderfully glorious all at once.

Beyond the photographs Sports Illustrated breaks down each decade describing the key dynasties, epic games, and statistical leaders. They also name the All-Decade teams which are sure to spark many debates. Being the Penn State fan I am, upon receiving the book I immediately flipped through looking for any Penn State material I could find. To my amazement, there was not one Penn State player named on the 1980's All-Decade Team despite winning two national championships. No Shane Conlan? Curt Warner? I asked Price how SI could make such an oversight.

"We want you to be upset. We know there are going to be arguments," Price explained. "We purposely made a rule that only one player per school could appear on the All-Time Team.' And then he pointed out Jack Ham was on that team.

For the Penn State fan looking for Penn State content you will be pleased and disappointed. There is a nice article about Joe Paterno penned by Rick Reilly in 1986 and another article featuring Lavar Arrington by Tim Layden from 1999. Then there are a few photos of Penn State, some good some bad, to wet your appetite, but it will most likely leave you wanting more.

But this should not dissuade any Penn State fan from buying the book. If you are a fan of college football and want to learn more about the evolution of this great American game you will be proud to display Sports Illustrated's College Football Book on your coffee table.