The League: How Five Rivals Created the NFL and Launched a Sports Empire – Audiobook

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The epic tale of the five owners who shepherded the NFL through its tumultuous early decades and built the most popular sport in America


The National Football League is a towering, distinctly American colossus spewing out $14 billion in annual revenue. But it was not always a success. In The League, John Eisenberg focuses on the pioneering sportsmen who kept the league alive in the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s, when its challenges were many and its survival was not guaranteed. At the time, college football, baseball, boxing, and horseracing dominated America’s sports scene. Art Rooney, George Halas, Tim Mara, George Preston Marshall, and Bert Bell believed in pro football when few others did and ultimately succeeded only because at critical junctures each sacrificed the short-term success of his team for the longer-term good of the league.


At once a history of a sport and a remarkable story of business ingenuity, The League is an essential read for any fan of our true national pastime.



Publisher ‏ : ‎ Basic Books; Reprint edition (October 1, 2019)
Language ‏ : ‎ English
Paperback ‏ : ‎ 416 pages
ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1541618645
ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1541618640
Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 12.2 ounces
Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 5.6 x 1.3 x 8.25 inches

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The League: How Five Rivals Created the NFL and Launched a Sports Empire

The League: How Five Rivals Created the NFL and Launched a Sports Empire

When it comes to American sports, there are few entities more well-known and universally followed than the National Football League (NFL). Founded in 1920, the league has grown into a multi-billion dollar industry, with millions of fans tuning in every week to watch games, and numerous players becoming household names. But not many people are aware of the fascinating story behind the creation of the NFL and how it came to be the dominant force in American professional football.

The Birth of the NFL

In the early 1900s, professional football in the United States was a chaotic scene, with various regional leagues and teams battling for supremacy. In 1920, representatives from ten football teams gathered in Canton, Ohio, to establish a more organized and unified structure for the sport. Thus, the American Professional Football Association (APFA) was born. Over time, the association evolved and expanded, eventually becoming the NFL in 1922.

The Five Rivals

At the heart of the NFL’s creation were five men known as “The Five Rivals.” These individuals played a crucial role in the league’s formation and were instrumental in establishing the foundation upon which the NFL would grow.

1. Ralph Hay

Ralph Hay was a Hupmobile dealer from Canton, Ohio, who came up with the idea of forming the APFA after witnessing the growing popularity of football in his area. As the owner of the Canton Bulldogs, one of the most successful teams of that time, Hay served as the host for the meeting that would establish the APFA.

2. Jim Thorpe

Jim Thorpe, an Olympic gold medalist and multi-sport athlete, was a star player for the Canton Bulldogs. His presence and talent helped legitimize the APFA and attract attention from fans and media alike. Thorpe’s accomplishments on and off the field made him one of the most influential figures in early American football.

3. Joe Carr

Joe Carr was a skilled administrator who became the president of the APFA in 1921 and held the position until 1939. Under Carr’s leadership, the league expanded, rebranded itself as the NFL in 1922, and implemented several significant changes, including introducing an annual championship game.

4. Tim Mara

Tim Mara, a successful businessman and gambling enthusiast, purchased the New York Giants in 1925. His ownership helped establish football in the largest media market in the United States and laid the groundwork for the NFL’s future success. The Mara family continues to own and operate the Giants, making them one of the oldest and most respected franchises in the league.

5. George Halas

George Halas, often referred to as “Papa Bear,” was a player, coach, and owner of the Chicago Bears. Halas played a crucial role in the early years of the league by helping to shape its rules, establishing its franchise structure, and promoting the game in various ways. His contributions to the NFL earned him a place in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

The Rise of the NFL

With the dedication and efforts of these five rivals, the NFL steadily grew in popularity and began to establish itself as the premier professional football league. The league’s annual championship game, known today as the Super Bowl, grew into a national spectacle. Broadcast coverage expanded, reaching more and more households each year. The NFL became a true sports empire, captivating the hearts of fans across the nation.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Who were the original teams in the NFL?
A: The original teams in the NFL were the Akron Pros, Canton Bulldogs, Cleveland Indians, Dayton Triangles, Hammond Pros, Rock Island Independents, Muncie Flyers, Rochester Jeffersons, and the Decatur Staleys, which later became the Chicago Bears.
Q: How many teams are currently in the NFL?
A: There are currently 32 teams in the NFL.
Q: Who has won the most Super Bowls?
A: As of 2021, the Pittsburgh Steelers and the New England Patriots have both won the most Super Bowls, with each franchise having secured six championships.
Q: What is the significance of the Super Bowl?
A: The Super Bowl is the culmination of the NFL season and has become an iconic event in American culture. It attracts a massive television audience, features high-profile halftime performances, and is celebrated with parties and gatherings across the country.
Q: Who is considered the greatest player in NFL history?
A: The question of the greatest player in NFL history is subjective and often debated. However, names frequently mentioned in these discussions include Joe Montana, Tom Brady, Jerry Rice, Jim Brown, and Lawrence Taylor, among others.

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