Friday, January 30, 2009

Chicagoist: Interview about The Galloping Ghost and Journalism

Here is an interview with me on today's Chicagoist. I talk about The Galloping Ghost and journalism. I was interviewed by Marcus Gilmer who did a nice job with the questions.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

What's Mine is Yours [Design] Blog: The Galloping Ghost

Nice write-up of The Galloping Ghost Website on art director and designer Casey Sheehan's blog, which is worth checking out in its own right.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Cigar City Magazine: Excerpt

Just in time for the Super Bowl this Sunday, I am proud to announce that there is an excerpt of my book, The Galloping Ghost, in Tampa Bay's Cigar City Magazine. Red Grange and the Chicago Bears toured through Florida--and played a game in Tampa Bay--as part of a barnstorming tour that brought credibility and widespread attention to the NFL. If you're in TB for the big game and you have an afternoon to kill, go to Ybor City, eat a Cuban sandwich, smoke a cigar, and buy a copy of Cigar City, a great little magazine.

Monday, January 26, 2009


I will be on WCCO Radio (830 AM/Minneapolis) tonight talking about the current state of sports writing. I am scheduled to go on at around 9:10 p.m., PST (11:10 p.m., CST).

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Site Update

My friends at Analogue updated my award-winning website. The site--dedicated to my book, The Galloping Ghost--has links to The Galloping Ghost FaceBook page, interviews with me on iTunes, and some review blurbs. If you have a chance, check it out, and if you have never seen it definitely check it out, particularly the site's Experience section.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Sports Media Guide: Q & A

Sports Media Guide--a "website for fans, media professionals, and media students," which is affiliated with The Sports Institute at Boston University--interviewed me about sports writing.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Newsday: In tough times, try fun and games

New York Newsday column about sports in difficult times; my CJR essay is mentioned.

Friday, January 09, 2009

CJR: Sports writing

I have an essay in the Columbia Journalism Review's January/February issue. The article is entitled "Back to the Future: How sports writing can recapture its relevance."

The essay has struck a nerve with sports scribes. The article came out Tuesday and it has already been cited by the San Jose Mercury News, New York Newsday, MediaBistro, and blogs like Sports Media Journal, Boston Sports Media Watch, The Big Lead, and a bunch of other ones. I have been getting lots of emails from sports writers and bloggers who fundamentally agree with the piece and are passing it around to colleagues; I am hoping the article is read by editors and newspaper managers because I think the philosophy behind it could be applied to all newspaper sections.

Here is an excerpt:

In the 1920s, The New Yorker published a piece that declared sports a “trivial enterprise” involving “second-rate people and their second-rate dreams and emotions.” The magazine went on to concede, however, that “the quality of writing in the sports pages is, in the large, much superior—wittier, more emotional, more dramatic, and more accurate—to the quality of writing that flows through the news columns.” Indeed, many of the greatest writers in journalism—Grantland Rice, W. C. Heinz, Jim Murray, Red Smith, to name but a few—found their home on the sports pages. Sports are big business and they have big themes: physical and intellectual tests, joy and heartbreak, hope and perseverance, teamwork and individual transcendence. The games and characters are ripe for vivid storytelling, and philosophic discourse about human nature and our culture. They are also part of a multibillion-dollar industry in need of dogged watchdog journalism.

But since the mid-1990s, two forces have diminished classic sports writing...

Click here to read the rest of the piece.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

The Galloping Ghost: Reviews

Several people have asked me about my book and if--in this difficult media climate--it has been reviewed. I have been fortunate that The Galloping Ghost was reviewed by a lot of different outlets, including the Washington Post, the Boston Globe, and Sports Illustrated. The book also made it onto the Denver Post's best-seller list, and it was featured as a book of the week by Christianity Today.

I am glad the project has received so much attention, and I am hoping for a few more reviews (hello, New York Times and my hometown Los Angeles Times), but--most of all--I appreciate the support from friends, family, and readers.

A few people asked to see some of the blurbs so I thought I would just compile most of them and put them on my blog, thus:

"Football's first superstar played with a ballerina's grace and a bull's power, but as Gary Andrew Poole shows in The Galloping Ghost, there was more. 21st-century fans will benefit from his reburnishing of the legend."--Sports Illustrated

"The book is a terrific read."-- Rick Gosselin, Dallas Morning News

"You can almost feel the hits Grange took from defensive players and nearly taste the mud... This book is ideal for any football fan. I had chills reading [it]." (Chicago) Sun-Times News Group

"Red Grange may have been the best football player of all time, but hardly anyone talks about him the way baseball fans talk about Grange's contemporary, Babe Ruth. Gary Andrew Poole's new biography fills in the blanks of the life of a football legend."--Bob Edwards, The Bob Edwards Show

"[Poole] traveled the country for two years to meticulously research Grange's life. The book is a quick, lively, unpretentious read that captures Grange's greatness as well as his day, and clearly details his role in the growth of the game. I would recommend this to football fans, as much as I recommended Michael Lewis' 'The Blind Side.'"--Ethan Skolnick, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

"The Galloping Ghost, by Gary Andrew Poole, may convince readers that Red Grange was the most productive college football player ever to strap on a helmet."--The Boston Globe

"Poole is blessedly non-preachy about the lessons of the Grange story. He could have said a great deal more. If agents are not as powerful on the field now as [Grange's agent} C.C. Pyle was—effectively coaching the team while [Bears owner George] Halas sat by during the barnstorming tour—they're far more prominent in other ways. There is not an NFL second stringer today who doesn't pull down seven figures. Poole could've waxed on about the tragedy of wearing out a prize horse by racing him so often. He could have said more about what he calls in one place the "holiness" of seeing such athletic achievement in person. He doesn't, and the book's understatement makes it better than most sports volumes.--Christianity Today, which named The Galloping Ghost a book of the week.

"Red Grange was the most important figure in the history of American football, both college and pro, and Gary Andrew Poole's extremely well-researched biography of the man, The Galloping Ghost, sheds all new light on Grange's career from his days as a young phenom to his barn-storming around the country as an American hero to his ultimate decline and fall. It is a fascinating read."--William Nack, author of Secretariat and Ruffian

"Even the casual football fan will find Poole's book intriguing."--Columbus Dispatch

"A lively, well-written biography of this towering figure. Grange revolutionized the game on the field and his business manager, C.C. Pyle, revolutionized it off it." --Orange County Register

"In writing the authoritative biography of Red Grange, Gary Andrew Poole has done so much more. He has vividly brought us back to the glory days of college football's past and the raucous birth pangs of the pro game. And he has brilliantly shown us how America's first national football hero was also, thanks to his charismatic and conniving manager, America's first sports commodity, as well."--Samuel G. Freedman, author of The Inheritance

"...reveals how the game is played on the field, and how it resonates in the wider world."--The Washington Post

"The Galloping Ghost is–as the subtitle indicates–the story of 'an American football legend.' It’s also the tale of a gifted and durable but somewhat dim young man who enriched promoters with his physical prowess and excited fans with his play without much concern for his own well-being. In that sense, at least, it’s a story as current as this weekend’s NFL games."--NPR's Only A Game

"An excellent book. Poole uses a wealth of information-interviews, box scores, etc.- in recreating Grange's life and recreating specific games in exquisite detail."--Chicagoist

"Grange was a roaring success in the ‘20s, and Gary Andrew Poole speaks for almost all of us when he says, in The Galloping Ghost: 'Red Grange played way before my time, but his ghost always hovered above the American sporting landscape.' Exceptional players are often described as defining an era, but Grange did more. He defined a game. 'If you were to draw a line through the mud of American history and find one man who could be considered the founding father of our football culture, it would be Red Grange,' Poole says. He’s right; Grange’s mastery moved football from the periphery to the center of American life. At Illinois and later, breaking a great taboo for a squeaky- clean collegian by signing with pro teams, Grange placed an indelible footprint on the gridiron. He built up statistics that impress even eight decades later, including a fabled 1924 showdown against Michigan in which the Ghost recorded 402 net yards in only 41 minutes of play. He was, as Poole puts it, 'a quiet warrior,' but his game, and impact, were loud."--Bloomberg News

"One of the best sports books I have read in a very long time, maybe ever."--CFTT , which awarded The Galloping Ghost a Book End Award, citing TGG as "Hands down...my favorite book of the year."

"Through The Galloping Ghost, Poole has managed to use history in such a way that it is both relatable and thought-provoking whether you follow sports or not."--(Jackson, Mississippi) Clarion Ledger

"With superb reporting and deft writing, Gary Andrew Poole pulls off his version of a spectacular Grange touchdown run, invigorating a legendary sports story with energy and new detail. Grange’s inner life is explored as broken-field runs come alive and a controversial saga plays out."--John Eisenberg, author of The Great Match Race

"Poole's new biography of one of football's founding legends focuses on Grange's pioneering role in the transformation of a backlot game into a money-making machine, along the way turning athletes into the highly paid celebrities we take for granted today."--Savannah Morning News

"Poole gives us the first major biography of Grange." --Time Out Chicago

"Puts Grange's great career in the context of its colorful time... Pays worthy tribute to a legend."--Booklist

"Poole is eminently readable, and the accent on Pyle is a real bonus."--Library Journal

"In the Roaring '20s, Red Grange, the Galloping Ghost of Illinois and the Chicago Bears, defined football the way Babe Ruth defined baseball. The greatest college player of all time (so declared ESPN this year), the Forksville, Sullivan County native also popularized professional football. Biographer Gary Andrew Poole examines the life of the player Damon Runyan described as "three or four men and a horse rolled into one. He is Jack Dempsey, Babe Ruth, Al Jolson, Paavo Nurmi and Man o' War. Put them together and they spell Grange."--The Philadelphia Inquirer

"[Poole] recounts the rise and tragic fall of the first national star of the gridiron. Poole also lays bare the complex relationship between a prominent athlete and the nation's first real sports agent." -- (Chicago) Sun-Times News Group

"Football wasn't truly football until the coming of Red Grange."--Chicago Magazine

"Gary Andrew Poole has chosen a subject matter like few others in the American sports landscape. Red Grange is one of the greatest football players, and personalities in the history of the game. The Galloping Ghost is not only a member of both the College and Pro Football Halls of Fame (and yes, he also played for the New York Yankees in 1926-27), but was on the cover of Time Magazine, and was the recipient of the first 'six figure' contract in American athletics by way of his 19-game barnstorming tour with the Chicago Bears. Few athletes before or since have captured the imagination of sports fans in the way Grange did. Poole's account captures this story and this era in a unique and fascinating way."--Pat Haden, former college and NFL quarterback, and currently NBC's college football analyst

"The Galloping Ghost was as big in his day as Babe Ruth, but we've forgotten how critical he was in building the modern NFL. A new biography aims to set that right."--Gelf Magazine

Breaking the Huddle

HBO's documentary Breaking the Huddle: The Integration of College Football came out last month. I just had a chance to see it. If you get a chance check it out; it's exceptional.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Christianity Today: The Galloping Ghost

Christianity Today reviewed The Galloping Ghost, and named it its "book of the week." Of all the reviews of TGG, I think this is one of the most intelligent takes on it; the piece is well worth a read. The author is Jason Byassee, the director of the Center for Theology, Writing & Media at Duke Divinity School. His review is entitled, "How We Got to Superbowl Sunday: The story behind pro football's first superstar and the rise of the NFL."

Here is an excerpt:

If you want to know what America is like, just flip on a game in the National Football League.

They start with an odd mash of pageantry. Nashville celebs like Hank Williams, Jr., or Faith Hill betray country music's real greatness—heartbreak—to grind out an impossibly chipper musical intro. Cheerleaders bounce in uniforms that show a genius for growing smaller each year. Players kneel for prayer at the 50-yardline while banners in the crowd offer evangelistic outreach. Fighter jets streak overhead. It's all a glimpse of the USA: celebrity, sex, religion, patriotism, violence. President Bush himself a few years ago found time amidst fighting terror and a tanking economy (and presumably a few other important things) to introduce a Monday Night game with an homage to the troops, the Almighty, and the violence to come, drawling where Hank usually croons, "Are you ready for some football?"

Obviously enough, it was not always thus. But how did it come to be?

Gary Andrew Poole provides an answer with The Galloping Ghost: Red Grange, An American Football Legend. He chronicles not only the career of the red-headed Illinoisian, but of a certain C. C. Pyle, a huckster who served as Red's promoter. The pair managed to transform the fledgling NFL's image from that of a disreputable (and worse, unprofitable) gang of thugs into a national pastime on par with boxing and baseball at the time and far beyond all competitors now.


Poole tells Grange's Horatio Alger story well. His father was the only policeman in Wheaton, Illinois. Red spent his high school summers as the town's iceman—delivering 75-pound blocks to farmsteads was the perfect pre-weightlifting way to burnish his muscular frame. He also played football in the town's orchard, once coming home with two vertebrae knocked out of place. And don't you know that every element of the backstory came into the legend? Red listed his profession as "iceman" on official forms even as he built his father a mansion and returned to town wearing raccoon-skin coats.

We think of football as a violent game now, though players can hardly come near one another's helmets today, and had better not blow a kiss to an opposing quarterback lest they be penalized. In Grange's day only leather helmets protected players' brains, and pads were just sponges sewn into clothes. Punching and kicking and biting would go unpenalized. Coaches ridiculed the injured. Poole estimates that during Grange's greatest season he had ten concussions. As a pro he played through a lacerated bladder in one game, and remade himself into a serviceable (if no longer dominant) defensive player after a catastrophic knee injury. Part of greatness then was simply having almost superhuman tolerance for pain.


Poole is blessedly non-preachy about the lessons of the Grange story. He could have said a great deal more. If agents are not as powerful on the field now as Pyle was—effectively coaching the team while Halas sat by during the barnstorming tour—they're far more prominent in other ways. There is not an NFL second stringer today who doesn't pull down seven figures. Poole could've waxed on about the tragedy of wearing out a prize horse by racing him so often. He could have said more about what he calls in one place the "holiness" of seeing such athletic achievement in person. He doesn't, and the book's understatement makes it better than most sports volumes.

To read the entire review, click here.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Boston Globe: a ghost of football past

The Boston Globe reviewed The Galloping Ghost in today's paper.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Media Roundup: Book reviews

With all the commotion around the holidays, I neglected to post some reviews...

College Football Top Ten, a blog, has a very generous review of The Galloping Ghost:

[The Galloping Ghost] was one of the best sports books I have read in a very long time, maybe ever. His prose rates right up there with Jim Dent’s Twelve Mighty Orphans. Indeed, Poole doesn’t just tell us about the facts of Grange’s life, he illustrates it for us describing in detail and taking us to the very scene as if we are standing there next to Grange.

Also, two other outlets reviewed the book:

Corn Nation, a blog about Nebraska football, had a nice write-up:

Gary Andrew Poole delivers an authoritative biography of Grange...If you like college or professional football history, this is a must read book. Poole’s writing is compelling as the book reads more like a novel than a history text. His research is extensive and the characters are exquisite.

And, American Chronicle reviewed it too, saying it's a "great read."

Friday, January 02, 2009

Raging Bull

Click here for the title sequence for Raging Bull, only the best ever sports film.

[Raging Bull title sequence via Analogue.com via Design Observer via Art of The Title]

Thursday, January 01, 2009