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The Genius: How Bill Walsh Reinvented Football and Created an NFL Dynasty par [Harris, David]
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Longueur : 401 pages Word Wise: Activé Composition améliorée: Activé
Page Flip: Activé Langue : Anglais

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Extrait

Chapter One


“A LITTLE BIT OF DIGNITY AND CLASS”

It all began with “Mr. D.,” though in the fall of 1978 few in the nine Bay Area counties used such terms of endearment when identifying Edward J. DeBartolo Jr., the hapless owner of their favorite football team. Nor was he yet referred to with the more hip “Eddie D.,” or even the double- edged “Junior.” Instead, it was “that rich kid whose daddy bought him a football team” or “that mafioso dipstick who destroyed the Niners” or, for short, “that asshole.” Every fan within two hours’ drive of San Francisco knew who you meant. DeBartolo had joined the NFL in the spring of 1977 as its youngest franchise owner, hoping to become a man of stature in the sports world, bringing honor on his family while realizing his own deeply held aspirations for belonging, triumph, and acclaim. So far, however, Eddie— barely thirty- two years old, short, pudgy, and in charge for the first time in his life—was a complete flop. And he finally figured out late that fall that he had to do something radical to reverse the situation before it was too late. The most personally trying element in Eddie D.’s dilemma was his fear of disappointing his father, Edward J. DeBartolo Sr., the original “Mr. D.,” who was described by his son as close enough to him to be “like my brother.” DeBartolo Sr., now sixty- nine, was the architect of the family fortune. Born in the impoverished “Hollow” neighborhood in Youngstown, Ohio, in 1909, three months after the death of his natural father, Anthony Paonessa, “Senior” had taken the family name of his stepfather—an immigrant who neither read nor wrote English—and followed him into the concrete contracting business. Then, at the insistence of his mother, Senior worked his way through engineering school at the University of Notre Dame during the Depression by laboring all night at construction sites. He rejoined his stepfather’s Youngstown contracting business until the Second World War, when he was drafted into the Army Corps of Engineers for the duration. Senior returned from the war with an officer’s commission and a $1,500 nest egg reportedly won in military crap games, which he used to capitalize the Edward J. DeBartolo Corporation shortly after his first child and only son was born. 

DeBartolo Sr. threw his new enterprise into the still-infant shopping center business and developed some of the first malls at a time when there were fewer than a dozen in the entire United States. Eventually his company built the largest enclosed shopping mall ever, as well as hundreds of similar properties in more than a dozen states, ranking as the nation’s largest shopping center developer by the time the 1970s began. He also acquired several banks, numerous hotels, three horse racing tracks, the Pittsburgh franchise in the National Hockey League, and some seventy other subsidiary enterprises, all headquartered in Youngstown. 

By the time Eddie fell on his face out in San Francisco, the privately held DeBartolo family business was worth at least $400 million and Edward Sr. would soon be listed in the Forbes 400 directory of the wealthiest Americans. He was also suspected of Mafia connections, largely because he was a rich Italian contractor from Youngstown. Eddie’s father dismissed the innuendo with great annoyance. “This kind of talk is the curse of anyone successful whose name ends in an i or an o,” he complained. “I got where I am by working my ass off every day of my life. I could have turned to certain characters in this town. I’m not saying I don’t know them. But I solved my own problems.” 

Edward Sr. was the archetypal patriarch—almost as short as his son but thin, quiet, dignified, and always dressed in a dark suit. One friend who had known him for forty years said he had seen Eddie’s father only twice without a tie, both times when he was wearing swimming trunks. In public he kept his tongue but in private was known to swear like a teamster. Such was the original Mr. D.’s stature around Youngstown that a thief who stole his briefcase returned it untouched as soon as he discovered who owned it. In more than forty years of working, Senior had never taken a vacation, and if he wasn’t traveling he was always home for dinner at the end of his customary fourteen- hour shift. He started his day at five- thirty over a Styrofoam cup full of coffee, usually with Eddie. Senior’s idea of a good time was to watch three televisions side by side, tuned to three different football games. His corporation’s two- story brick headquarters in suburban Youngstown was just down the road from his enormous house and from his son’s of similar size. When Senior traveled, he used one of the corporation’s three Learjets— flying more than five hundred hours a year—and was surrounded by a small swarm of aides charged with executing the decisions he made on the spot. Upon his return, his son greeted him with a kiss. 

Not surprisingly, Junior grew up wanting to be Senior more than he wanted to be anybody else. The expectations Eddie put on himself with that identification were “brutal,” he would later admit. “It almost broke up my marriage before I realized I can’t fill those big shoes. I can’t be Edward DeBartolo Sr. and I don’t have to be. I have to carry on a tradition, not an identity, and I’ll do that in a different way. He’s helped me by letting me handle things my own way, to be my own man.” During the fall of 1978, however, that evolution was still very much in process. 

According to Eddie, his greatest gift from his father was “the common man’s touch,” largely passed on during his childhood in Youngstown. Halfway between Pittsburgh and Cleveland, the DeBartolos’ hometown had once hosted a legion of steel mills, fabricators, and blast furnaces, many of which were empty and rusting by the time Eddie got into the football business. And football was also part of his Youngstown inheritance. No region in America was more wedded to the game than the industrial Midwest and, rich or not, the DeBartolo scion was anything but an exception. He played on the junior varsity squad during his freshman year at Youngstown’s Cardinal Mooney High School, but, still an inch and a half and several pounds short of his adult five feet seven and a half inches and 160 pounds, he was doomed as a player. Junior swallowed his disappointment and settled for making a lot of working- class buddies from the team who became regulars at the DeBartolo mansion for games of pool. Because he wanted to be just one of the guys, Eddie D.’s only distinguishing feature as a teenager was his sartorial flair. “Eddie came up the easy way,” one of the Mooney High School faculty remembered, “but, other than his clothes, he never showed it.” Even when he was an adult, one of Eddie’s closest friends was a foundry worker from his JV days. 

After Cardinal Mooney, Junior followed his father’s footsteps to Notre Dame but Senior still kept track of him, using a contact in the football program to give him updates on how his son was doing. After graduating with a degree in business, Eddie was moved into the corporation and shuffled through assignments to learn all the company’s functions. At each stop, other corporation executives were tasked with reporting to his father about the son. When on assignment in Dayton, Eddie reprised his Youngstown days and began hanging out with a group of players from the University of Dayton football team. He married his high school sweetheart along the way, fathered three daughters, and had just been named the family corporation’s executive in charge of sports operations when the DeBartolos began pursuing the possibility of purchasing the Forty Niners early in 1977. The year before, they had made an unsuccessful $16 million bid in the auction to secure rights to the NFL expansion franchise in Tampa, Florida, a state where DeBartolo Corp. had numerous business interests. 

By then, Eddie had begun the process of becoming his “own man,” and, though often imitative of Senior down to the smallest details, Eddie’s “own man” was also anything but a carbon copy. For starters, Junior was every inch the party animal that Senior was not. One acquaintance who enjoyed Eddie’s typical restaurant hospitality recalled, “There was just bottle after bottle. I finally had to stop drinking because I couldn’t function, but Eddie and his buddies just kept going.” The younger DeBartolo also had a serious attachment to gambling, especially at the tables in Las Vegas, where he would soon establish a reputation as a high roller. Dressed to the nines in very expensive Italian suits, Edward DeBartolo Jr. “loved life,” one Forty Niners employee explained, “and loved living it.” When traveling for pleasure, he usually brought along an entourage of his Youngstown buddies and was rarely seen without his bodyguard, Leo, a very large man with a bump under his armpit where he kept his pistol. 

“Eddie may not have been a gangster,” one San Franciscan remembered,&#160...

Revue de presse

“Exemplary . . . the rare biography that lives up to its subtitle’s lavish claims.”—New York Times Book Review

“[David] Harris illustrates [Bill] Walsh’s incredible passion for the game, his competitive drive, and even his whimsical sense of humor. Walsh was one of the NFL’s greatest coaches, and Harris’s book does him justice.”—Booklist

“The personal drama of Walsh’s career is told with such verve that even nonfans will be riveted.”—Publishers Weekly

“Because of [Harris’s] exhaustive reporting, the reader feels in good hands.”—Wall Street Journal

“Recommended.”—Library Journal, starred review

Détails sur le produit

  • Format : Format Kindle
  • Taille du fichier : 1796 KB
  • Nombre de pages de l'édition imprimée : 401 pages
  • Editeur : Random House; Édition : 1 (2 septembre 2008)
  • Vendu par : Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Langue : Anglais
  • ASIN: B001F76U2E
  • Synthèse vocale : Activée
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  • Word Wise: Activé
  • Composition améliorée: Activé
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Commentaires client les plus utiles sur Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x90a76f9c) étoiles sur 5 27 commentaires
15 internautes sur 17 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
HASH(0x90806c18) étoiles sur 5 Coach of the Decade (the 1980's) 14 septembre 2008
Par C. Hutton - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
Bill Walsh was the brilliant, insecure coach who won immortality with the the San Francisco 49ers in the 1980's. Mr. Harris follows his career from the Bengals of Paul Brown to Stanford (and other stops in-between) to the 49ers. He perfected an air attack that became known as the West Coast Offense and drafted the players to carry it out (Joe Montana, Dwight Clark, Jerry Rice, etc). The book is heavy on football and light on his personal life which is a pity -- he was eccentric enough that his personal life merits a deeper look. Having died a year ago of leukemia, Walsh won three Super Bowls (1982, 1985, 1989) in his tenure as coach before retiring on his own terms. Mr. Harris interviewed the coach extensively before his death and got the details right.
12 internautes sur 15 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
HASH(0x91337120) étoiles sur 5 A Behind the Scenes Look with Some Irritating Quirks 12 novembre 2008
Par J. A. Walsh - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
Harris does a really nice job of telling how Walsh's timing passing game and West Coast offense - the corrollaries and descendants of which are on display in every game every weekend in the NFL of today - "reinvented" football and created the 49ers 80's dynasty.

While I think the book offers a lot more for the 49er fan than the general NFL fan, the story of Walsh's rise, the development of his philosophy, his early NFL career as an assistant, his college work, his unlikely rise to Head Coach and GM of the 49ers without an NFL win on his resume and the circumstances that saw him bring together the talent and oversee the Montana/Craig/Lott/Rice 49ers run of Super Bowls are all interesting enough to hold interest.

There is a lot of Walsh's own voice coming through in the book, and that makes you wonder about the author's motives in book entitled "The Genius," where there was clearly a lot of reliance on subject-generated info.

Also, Harris has a habit of not identifying other sources -- even quoted sources -- by name. He'll call someone "a 49er lineman" or "one of Walsh's teammates," and it just seems a little strange.

Like "Patriot Reign," or the library of Yankee books out there, this book is probably a real winner for fans of the team. All in all, I don't think there is enough other info on Walsh or NFL/football philosophy here to merit much more than a so-so rating.

In other words, I don't think this is football's "Moneyball," a book that takes any fan of the sport behind the curtain to get a look at the industry, and which tells a personal story in a compelling enough story to hold interest.
5 internautes sur 6 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
HASH(0x91337f00) étoiles sur 5 Well written account of Walsh's football life 31 octobre 2008
Par P. Dunlop - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié Achat vérifié
I grew up a 49ers fan and was in hog heaven during the Walsh era. The Genius is a well-told story of how Bill Walsh came to direct the 49ers to four Super Bowl victories from 1979-1989.

The author takes readers through Walsh's early years and describes his days as a frustrated high school and college quarterback. He then moves on to show Walsh's road to coaching in the NFL. The most crucial bump in that road occurred in Cincinnati, where Walsh had worked for several years as a sort of assistant head coach under Paul Brown. When Brown retired, he chose someone else to assuming his head coaching duties, delivering a electrifying jolt to Walsh. Brown then told Walsh he was staying on as an assistant, like it or not, and that he'd never be a head coach in the NFL (Walsh's contract was up and he left quickly). The shock nearly ended Walsh's coaching career, but probably also provided some of the drive that resulted in his rise to Genius status. How fitting that two of Walsh's Super Bowl victories would come against the Bengals.

This book is very well-written and difficult to put down if you were a fan of Walsh and/or the 49ers during the 1980s. The author makes use of interviews with players and coaches and uses many secondary books, newspaper clippings, etc. Although we hear that Walsh was a diverse fellow with significant interests and connections outside football, the book never quite proves that point. My guess, only a guess, is those details were cut to keep the focus primarily on football and how Walsh truly did reinvent how teams coach and deal with players. The book truly shines in this area, although it depicts Bill Walsh as a moody and insecure genius. The man was certainly conflicted in his relationships with many players and also with then-49er owner, Eddie DeBartolo.

One interesting tidbit. The book shows that Walsh and quarterback Joe Montana were not always on the same page as coach and player. Their friendship truly bloomed after both were retired from the game, talking and playing golf regularly. Montana was one of two who spoke at Walsh's memorial service. Curious, then, that Montana does not appear to have been interviewed for the book...although many of his contemporaries, including Ronnie Lott, Dwight Clark, etc., were. I thought that was strange. Still a great book and recommended.
1 internautes sur 1 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
HASH(0x91337cc0) étoiles sur 5 Great bio in showcasing the depth of Bill Walsh 12 septembre 2012
Par NFL Fan - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié Achat vérifié
I got this book because I always found what Walsh did to football strategy fascinating. I'm young enough that I grew up in the 1990s, well after Walsh retired from coaching, and for someone as profound as him, there seemed to be a lack of material on him.

This book is far more about Bill Walsh than it is about football, whereas the actual on the field summaries of the games are rather vague, and often gloss over details from in games, Harris does a great job showing how each game affected Walsh and his players in varying ways. It dives very deeply into the relationships that Walsh had with his family, his players, other coaches, and his owner, Eddie DeBartolo.

One aspect I did not expect was how motivating the book was while explaining how Walsh approached the game. More so than other bios I have read, Walsh's strong work ethic is really evident.

I'm a die hard football fan, but Bill Walsh was such an interesting and complex person, that despite any shortcomings on technical football detail, I thoroughly enjoyed it and would highly recommend it. Additionally, it is a very quick read.
1 internautes sur 1 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
HASH(0x90ec836c) étoiles sur 5 This is a great book for SF Bay area football fans. 24 mars 2013
Par David Eric Moore - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Format Kindle Achat vérifié
A very interesting account of the Bill Walsh and the 49ner after living though the lean years of the 49ners in the early 70's. To see Walsh’ impact on today’s NFL’s strategy 25 years later is a testimony to his genius. However, if your teams were the Giants, the Cowboys, Rams, Bengals and Dan Marino’s Dolphins, during Walsh’s tenure, you might find the book boring or worst painful if you were a Brown’s fan. To understand Walsh’s greatness with less pain, I would suggest reading Chapter 4 on Bill Wash in Ron Jaworski’s book “Games that Changed the Game to understand how Walsh’s impact still is felt today. Even Raider fans could see what was happening across the bay.
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