Book Review: Sunday's Heroes

Football fans who are struggling through that long and dreary time of year known as the off season would be well advised to head over to the nearest library or bookstore and spend some time with Chicago author Richard Whittingham's latest work, Sunday's Heroes.

Whittingham's inspiration for the book came from a conversation he once had with Pete Elliott who was then the director of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. As Whittingham and Elliott swapped NFL tales, the author decided that rather than rely on a shared oral history, it might be better to commit some of the stories to paper.

"It would be a terrible shame if somehow they got lost over time, because these are stories of the human side of professional football," Whittingham said. "They are tales told by great athletes who played the game; by the coaches they feared or respected; by the owners they hated and loved. These anecdotes are about the heroes and the clowns, about the stars and the bench sitters."

Whittingham certainly knows his subject matter. He has been the author of over 30 sports related books, many on the Chicago Bears.

While entertaining, Sunday's Heroes is not a book to be devoured at one sitting. Rather it is a work to keep handy for those idle moments when a taste of professional football is what the mind and body requires.

Just a brief glance through the pages will offer a vintage photo of 23-year-old George Blanda, proudly suited up in his #22 uniform. Facing the photo are quotes from Joe Gibbs at Super Bowl XXVI. There's a great shot of George Halas working with Bobby Layne in 1948 while George Connor, Bulldog Turner, and Sid Luckman look on. The next page features a Don Rickles anecdote about implacable Cowboy coach Tom Landry.

There's a lot to learn within these pages. Want to know what Halas really thought about Jim Thorpe? How did Doug Williams answer the question "How long have you been a Black quarterback?" What scheme did the Redskins' George Preston Marshall devise in 1945 to 'put more excitement in the game'?

Ever wondered how Dick Butkus viewed his match-up with Jim Brown? Have you come across Two Bits Homan, also known as 'the manikin in moleskins'? What was Big Arthur Jerrett's shoe problem? Whittingham can tell you. There's a wealth of information just waiting to be discovered. If you have an obscure question about the NFL, you'll probably find the answer right here.

So what's the verdict on Sunday's Heroes? Great for trivia buffs and for those who want to know every detail of the game from its inception to the present day. The archival photos alone are worth the price.

And should you ever be shooting for a million dollars in that popular TV quiz show, the big question just might be: Why did ‘Potsy Clark' urge his players to run barefoot during training camp? If you've read Sunday's Heroes, you'll know the answers and a whole lot more.

Sunday's Heroes by Richard Whittingham Triumph Books, 2003.

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