Questions about capturing the soul of America

Wed, Oct 20

Here's a rather insightful Q&A with my friend and colleague Chad Millman on his latest book: "The Ones Who Hit the Hardest: The Steelers, The Cowboys, The '70s and the Fight For America's Soul".

Gotham Books America's Team and the Steel Curtain represented more than life on the gridiron.

Flem: Well, there are books about sports and then there are sports books. This is a sports book. By that I mean the national appeal of this work is that it's as much about Pittsburgh, the city, the gut wrenching decline of the steel industry and the pathos of America in the 1970s as it is about football. What kind of stuff did you guys uncover that will just stop us dead in our tracks? Are there eerie similarities to today's economy?

Chad: The sheer volume of people who were out of work at the time was astounding. Steel mills, which for so long had been the engine that drove the American economy, were shutting down at such rapid rates, which meant hundreds of thousands of men who assumed that would be all they did their entire lives had to rethink their life's plan. What was also interesting was how the relationship between Dallas and Pittsburgh, the rivalry, extended beyond football. When oil was first discovered in Texas it was the industrialists from Pittsburgh who imported it out and made a lot of the money off of it. But in the '70s, one of the last mills was bought by a guy from Dallas.

Flem: Maybe all that stuff is why the Cowboys are so easy to hate? What do you think?

Chad: They do things big and without apology. Back then they were the first team to really grasp the importance of running a team like a business, not like a family hobby. They built a new stadium away from their down-market, downtown fan base and charged PSLs because they wanted to attract a high-end crowd. They were the first to use computer databases when scouting rookies. They were smart and streamlined and, in a lot of ways, soulless compared to a lot of other teams from that era. Even though that's not the case anymore, the feelings have been passed down from generation to generation.

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