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Book Review: The Occasionally Accurate Annals of Football


Review by Budd Bailey


Dan Patrick and Joel H. Cohen gave themselves a tough assignment: write a funny book about football history.


There are, to use the obvious analogy, some big holes to run through when it comes to comedy targets in the NFL. Picking on the New York Jets and Detroit Lions in regard to their history is, to use the obvious analogy, "low-hanging fruit" as these things go. Even so, that leaves the rest of the book. Let's face it - sports comedy is usually hard work, and frequently hard to pull off.


So start the fact that Patrick and Cohen get points for trying. The resulting effort is called "The Occasionally Accurate Annals of Football." That may sound a way to clean up some popular misconceptions about pro football. But instead it's more of a launching point for jokes.


The two authors know something about the two parts of the task. Patrick virtually invented a different type of sportscasting when he and Keith Olbermann worked together on "The Big Show" some years ago. They were smart and hip and quick and snarky and, of course, funny/funny/funny. Cohen writes for the television show, "The Simpsons." It's been argued that Homer, Marge, Bart and Co. are the stars in one of the best-written comedy shows in television history. We're in pretty good hands here.


Patrick and Cohen also call on about eight other writers to supply material. Most of them are writers for shows like "The Simpsons" and "Saturday Night Live." It's always a good idea to have a deep roster when football comes up. Oh, and Adam Sandler writes the introduction.


With that out of the way, we're off on a journey through football history. They start with the origins of the game, and eventually work their way through the rise of college football in the late 1800s until the birth of the pro game, more or less with the start of the NFL in 1920. From there, we take a decade-by-decade look at the sport in the past century, never missing a chance to go off on a tangent or crack a joke.


Just to take a few a random:


* The Cardinals play their games in State Farm Stadium, which has the catchy State Farm slogan, "Like a good neighbor, we'll charge you thirty dollars to park."


* (Mike) Ditka was frequently referenced in the Saturday Night Live sketch that popularized the expression "Dah Bears." Incidentally, "Dah Bears" is also the answer to "Who Ate Dah Campers?"


* The Bills are famous for appearing in four straight Super Bowls (1991 to 1994) and losing them all. Bills management, feeling bad, gave all of the players "Participant" rings, which now sit lonely in their barren trophy cases.


* (On Josh Allen) "He's the future of the Bills, football, and maybe the world." (This sentence provided by the Bills PR department and approved by the Campaign to Elect Josh Allen President.)


Got the idea? Great.


Your reaction to all of this depends on your sense of humor and your knowledge of football. You will laugh out loud at times, you'll give it a chuckle at times, and you'll smile a little at times. But should you pay $29.95 for it? That's a tough question. That's a good-sized pile of change for a book that you can zip through in a day. I enjoyed breezing through it, but can't say I remember too much about it a day later.


So you might want to take this for a test drive. Next time you are in a bookstore, check to see if it has a copy (release date is September 5). Then flip through the pages in an attempt to get a feeling about the material. If you like the approach, great - the laughs are almost guaranteed. If not, don't worry. Comedy is rather personal. I didn't have a particularly strong reaction, so you're on your own.


(Follow Budd on X.com via @WDX2BB)

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