Pulse: 60-Second Critic: Nonfiction: Last Team Standing

Last Team Standing
By Matthew Algeo
(Da Capo Press; $26)

In 1943, the National Football League faced a serious problem: Most of its best players had been drafted into WWII duty. Rather than suspend play, team owners decided to fill their rosters with 4-Fs—guys declared unfit for military duty. They also allowed


Last Team Standing
By Matthew Algeo
(Da Capo Press; $26)

In 1943, the National Football League faced a serious problem: Most of its best players had been drafted into WWII duty. Rather than suspend play, team owners decided to fill their rosters with 4-Fs—guys declared unfit for military duty. They also allowed the hapless Pittsburgh and Philadelphia franchises to merge for a year. The story of that team, the Steagles (as they quickly became known), should make for a can’t-miss tale: Seabiscuit in cleats! All the ingredients are there: a lovable, ragtag group of players; a dramatic backdrop; a feel-good ending. Alas, while Algeo does a fine job evoking the bizarre state of pro football at this time, the story’s most important characters — the Steagles players, coaches and owners — never really come to life. And he overreaches by pushing the dubious notion that these men "saved" pro football; it should be enough to celebrate the hybrid team for what it was—the unique, inspiring product of extraordinary circumstances.