I love football. I spend every Sunday (and most Monday and Thursday nights) on my couch yelling at my television, drinking beer, and fist-pumping every time the Seahawks score a touchdown. But there are moments when I'm reminded of the brutality that I'm witnessing. In the week 4 game against the Texans, Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett was carted off the field in a stretcher. Thankfully, it turned out just to be a minor strain in his neck muscle, but for a few scary moments, it looked far worse. The camera cut to Bennett's father, wearing his son's jersey and helplessly screaming, "Michael!" from the sideline.
This summarizes our conflicted relationship with football. The violence of the sport is both what makes it exciting and also horrifying. One realizes the danger these players are putting themselves in for the amusement of millions of Americans.
We picked Rich Cohen's new book, Monsters: The 1985 Chicago Bears and the Wild Heart of Football, as our spotlight pick for the Best Books of November not just because it's a beautifully written narrative about one of the NFL's greatest football teams (though it is very much that). It's a football history from a modern perspective, one that acknowledges the sport as we know it and as it was.
Cohen was gracious enough to share a Q&A with us about his book, his favorite books, and his other obsessions.
What's the elevator pitch for your book?
This is a story of one of the greatest teams in the history of the American sports -- a team great precisely because they transcended their game. Ditka. McMahon. Fridge. They became household names and pop stars, and I've done my best to recapture the wild, violent, hyper-real vividness of their championship season. But to me, most interesting were those questions that kept popping into my head as I interviewed these guys nearly three decades after Super Bowl XX: What happens when your dream comes true? How do you go on from there? How do you cope with winning? How about failing, getting old, being forced from the game? To me, the best of these players teach not only how to compete but how to age and even how to die. Because a pro football player dies twice. Once, when he is old, like the rest of us, and once when he is still young and everything he was, everything he wanted, trained and hoped for comes to an end. It's like my father used to say about the Sinatra tune about the ball park that we all knew was Ebbet's Field. "It's not about a stadium, you schmuck. It's about life!"
What's on your nightstand/bedside table/Kindle?