Book Review: Saturday’s America
What can you say about a book on college football when the latest edition of the Game of the Century was Arkansas-Texas, and Jack Mildren was a heralded prospect instead of the losing QB in the next (and probably actual) Game of the Century. The book is Saturday’s America by Dan Jenkins, legendary SI college football writer. I picked this up (for less than the current $41.29 Amazon list) after noting it seemed to be the source of the best anecdotes in Mandel’s Bowls, Polls. Yup, the anecdotes are in there. They’re also the best anecdotes in the book, which speaks well to Mandel’s judgment. SA is a largely chapter-based looking at the college football landscape that was back then. As someone who’s only really been a fan of the Saturday game during the television era, when you get a national perspective, it’s really hard to imagine what football was like back then. Jenkins’ book has some interesting glimpses, but it’s not really an “overview”-type book the way Mandel’s is oriented; the book it reminded of the most was Langewiesche’s The Outlaw Sea, which was just some repackaged articles from Atlantic Monthly. Some brief searching in the SI Vault suggests the chapters didn’t all start as SI articles, but I’m sure they had their genesis in reporting for the magazine.
Ultimately, Jenkins’ book remains just a glimpse as some of what college football was like back then. To the extent it’s an iconic book on college football, it is because of the lack of alternatives, not because it demands the position. It is, at least by default, the best look at what college football was two score years ago. By all means, if that sounds interesting to you, go ahead and pick up a copy. Or, just read Mandel and get the anecdotes.