King Football

Sport and Spectacle in the Golden Age of Radio and Newsreels, Movies and Magazines, the Weekly and the Daily Press

By Michael Oriard

512 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 50 illus., notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8078-5545-4
    Published: February 2004
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-0-8078-6403-6
    Published: December 2005
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-7361-3
    Published: December 2005

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Awards & distinctions

A 2002 Choice Outstanding Academic Title

This landmark work explores the vibrant world of football from the 1920s through the 1950s, a period in which the game became deeply embedded in American life. Though millions experienced the thrills of college and professional football firsthand during these years, many more encountered the game through their daily newspapers or the weekly Saturday Evening Post, on radio broadcasts, and in the newsreels and feature films shown at their local movie theaters. Asking what football meant to these millions who followed it either casually or passionately, Michael Oriard reconstructs a media-created world of football and explores its deep entanglements with a modernizing American society.

Football, claims Oriard, served as an agent of "Americanization" for immigrant groups but resisted attempts at true integration and racial equality, while anxieties over the domestication and affluence of middle-class American life helped pave the way for the sport's rise in popularity during the Cold War. Underlying these threads is the story of how the print and broadcast media, in ways specific to each medium, were powerful forces in constructing the football culture we know today.

About the Author

A former football player for Notre Dame and the Kansas City Chiefs, Michael Oriard is Distinguished Professor of American Literature and Culture at Oregon State University. He is author of four previous books on American sport and sports literature, including Reading Football: How the Popular Press Created an American Spectacle, which focuses on the sport from the late nineteenth to the early twentieth century.

For more information about Michael Oriard, visit the Author Page.


"[Oriard] captures the self-aggrandizing illogic of the game's cultural role in his absorbing study of early 20th-century culture."--New York Times

"Oriard offers a rich and comprehensive survey. . . . King Football is an important successor [to Reading Football], tracing the sport's evolution in the media right up to 1960, at the doorstep of the television age. In a country where sports continue to be deeply ingrained in the national identity, this is a topic worth examining."--ForeWord

"In this unique, detailed book Oriard describes and analyzes the game of football from the 1920s through the 1950s. . . . Documentation of sources is exceptionally well done and painstakingly detailed. This book is highly recommended for general readership."--Choice

"For the fan with a scholarly bent."--USA Today

"Oriard shows that the media were a powerful force in constructing the football culture we know today. He also shows how football culture reflects broader changes in U.S. society. . . . A book football enthusiasts will enjoy, this is recommended for all libraries."--Library Journal

"This excellent book should be required reading on any American Studies course worth the name. . . . Oriard's detailed and well-written work shows us how the game has been constructed through notions of national, gendered and ethnic--and, as he insists, also class--identities."--Journal of American Studies

Multimedia & Links

Read Oriard's posts at the Washington Post's NFL blog, The League.