Going Deeper With 'The Last Headbangers'

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Football in the 1970s has been mythologized in countless books and documentaries. It was the time of the Raiders and the Steelers, teams who won hard by hitting harder. Kevin Cook's latest book is another foray into the strange and wild world of football before it became America's pastime.

Bill's thoughts on The Last Headbangers: NFL Football in the Rowdy, Reckless '70s, the Era That Created Modern Sports:

The sub-subtitle of Kevin Cook's new book about pro football during the '70s claims that the era "created modern sports." I don't know about that, but the era certainly featured some dramatic stories about the twisted behavior of several members of the Oakland Raiders. They prepared for games by eating various medications intended for horses. If that's "modern," then so be it.

Howard Cosell features prominently in this book, but football fans will probably want to read it anyway.

It would be tempting to characterize those "rowdy, reckless '70s" in the NFL as unforgettable, except that so many of the players at work in the league during that time have forgotten them and everything else. Getting hit in the head a lot and laughing off the hits as "getting your bell rung" will apparently do that to you.

This account begins with a story of Phil Villapiano, a Raiders player during the '70s who used to bang his head against a wall in order to make his helmet fit tightly. It ends with a story about Villapiano's teenaged son, who doesn't tell his coaches about the concussions he has suffered. He and his dad have agreed that if he did that, the youngster might miss games, and "he couldn't win scholarship offers sitting on the bench."

This segment aired on September 1, 2012.


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