Book Review: The Paolantonio Report
Sal Paolantonio is, I believe, a pretty good host on the great NFL MatchUp show. He was also, apparently, a pretty good beat writer covering the Philadelphia Eagles before he joined ESPN. He now has a book. You should only read it if you have to read a book and your alternative are Mein Kampf, John Grishm’s The Broker, and The Catcher in the Rye. If your alternative choices include Little Dorrit and the novels of the Robert Ludlum’s Covert One series, it’s a toss-up. Otherwise, you should read the other book.*
In The Paolantonio Report: The Most Overrated and Underrated Players, Teams, Coaches, and Moments in NFL History, Paolantonio presents a bunch of teams, players, coaches, and moments, and gives 1-3 pages on why each is underrated or overrated. The statistics are frequently cherry-picked, fail to take into apparent differences over time, and are poorly thought out. These are perorations from Mount Sinai, not actual “arguments.” The level of depth rivals that of sports talk radio. Indeed, Reuben Frank, who co-wrote the book (read did most of the heavy lifting, probably), is a sports talk radio host.
Ok, fine, perhaps my hatred of inane (redundant, I know) sports talk is coloring my review of the book. I will therefore summarize Paolantonio’s “argument” for one of his most controversial claims, namely that the 1985 Chicago Bears are “The Most Overrated Team in Super Bowl History”. Ready for this? Are you sure? Here’s a summary of his reasons why:
1. The Bears went 14-2 in 1986, but “there was something missing.”
2. In 1986, the Bears lost at home to the Redskins in their playoff opener, 27-13. The Redskins QB that game was Jay Schroeder. The Redskins scored the last 20 points of that game.
3. The Bears won their division with an 11-4 record in 1987, but lost their first playoff game to the Redskins.
4. The Bears won a playoff game in the fog in 1988, but were “demolished” by the 49ers, “a team assembling a true dynasty, true greatness”, at home.
5. In the 7 years where the Bears were good, they only made the NFC championship game twice, and only won once.
6. The 1986 Bears and 2005 Colts are the only teams to win 14 games and not make the conference championship game, and the Colts won the Super Bowl the next year.
7. After winning Super Bowl 20, the Bears won only 2 more playoff games in 7 years under Ditka.
Perhaps I’m being delusional, but none of those strikes me as a reason (not a very good reason, just a reason at all) why the 1985 Chicago Bears were not really, really good and thus should be deemed overrated. They instead sound like reasons why, outside of 1985, the Chicago Bears underachieved under Mike Ditka.
I hope that gives some level of understanding as to why this book is so terrible. Surprisingly, I don’t feel too bad about reading it, because it was at just the right level of depth and intellectual difficulty for simulating a bunch of seasons on Madden, so I can get to the goalposts of light that apparently show up about 25 years into franchise mode. But there are plenty of other books that are readable in just as intellectually taxing a circumstance, and you should read one of those instead. I’m very glad this was a library rental, and one I did not pay money for. If I did, however, I would strongly consider burning it in my fireplace as the most satisfying further use of it.
*-It’s almost certain I’ve left out several other terrible books-I mean, I almost forgot to mention Catcher in the Rye when I wrote that. But, that’s just to give you an idea of the depths you sink to.