Welcome to the last twenty years of my life.
That’s how long I’ve spent gathering material for The National Forgotten League — just because, well, somebody had to. It’s always amazed me how little literary attention has been paid to pro football’s early days. Baseball historians have put the game under a microscope. There’s probably a book out there that’ll tell you what Babe Ruth ate for breakfast on the day he swatted his 714th home run.
The story of the NFL’s formative years, on the other hand, is still largely untold. Not that there isn’t a good reason for this. Newspaper coverage was sparse in the first few decades; there simply wasn’t much reportage beyond the games. So it’s hard to get a real feel for what pro football was like in that period — and even harder to learn much about the players and personalities who helped lift the league out of the primordial swamp.
Good luck, for instance, finding an article in any 1930s publication about John “Bull” Doehring, the Bears quarterback who could throw a ball 60 yards behind his back. If you want to write about Doehring — or any number of other subjects in this book — you have to do it brick by brick, gathering information here (game accounts), there (interviews with teammates), and everywhere (team media guides, the odd mention in the paper). There are no shortcuts.
Which is why The National Forgotten League was so long in the making. In the past two decades, I’ve read everything I could get my