Big Game
Mark Leibovich. Penguin Press, Sept.
A lifelong New England Patriots fan, Leibovich, the New York Times Magazine chief national correspondent, tried for years to profile quarterback Tom Brady, and in 2014, Brady finally agreed. The timing was fortuitous: the “Deflategate” controversy was on the horizon, as was another Super Bowl win, and that was just for starters. Leibovich’s profile assignment initiated a four-year plunge into the NFL that encompassed not just the Patriots but the entire league, at a time of major revenue growth, growing anxiety over the game’s physical toll, widespread player protests, and more.

Cocaine + Surfing
Chas Smith. Rare Bird, June
Combining travelogue, reportage, history, and memoir, surf journalist Smith (Welcome to Paradise, Now Go to Hell) examines the sport’s love affair with cocaine. In the 1980s, surfing matured into a mainstream, image-conscious business, and the drug of choice switched from weed and alcohol to the white powder that defined the greed-is-good decade.

Creating the Big Ten
Winton U. Solberg. Univ. of Illinois, Apr.
The Big Ten is big business: in 2016 the collegiate sports conference struck a six-year media deal worth $2.64 billion. Solberg goes back to the beginning—a meeting among a handful of universities in 1895 that aimed to regulate intercollegiate sports—and follows the next 50 years of clashes between academic faculty and the coaches, university presidents, and others whose priorities strayed beyond the classroom.

Football for a Buck
Jeff Pearlman. HMH, Sept.
The United States Football League, the NFL’s springtime rival, lasted only three years, from 1983 to 1986. Pearlman (Gunslinger) interviewed nearly 500 people to capture the USFL’s brief but eventful history, which featured big-name talent (Steve Young, Herschel Walker), hooker raids, and a franchise owner named Donald Trump, who, Pearlman writes, ultimately destroyed a promising idea.

Greed and Glory
Sean Deveney. Skyhorse, May
Fun City author Deveney profiles New York politics and sports during the 1980s, an era of flashy personalities and gaudy success. Mets pitching phenom Dwight Gooden and Giants defensive terror Lawrence Taylor were gods on the field, painfully mortal off it, and irresistible fodder for news outlets. Meanwhile homelessness, AIDS, and organized crime bubbled under the city’s gilded surface.

Red Card
Ken Bensinger. SS, June
Pubbing in time for the 2018 World Cup, Buzzfeed reporter Bensinger’s book breaks down the FIFA scandal—one of the biggest international corruption cases ever—which involved rampant bribery, vote selling, and kickbacks. The probe into soccer’s international governing body, driven by relentless U.S. investigators, implicated nearly every aspect of the world’s most popular sport, including the World Cup, which will be held this summer in Russia.

Return to the main feature.