I want to preface this review with the fact that the Pittsburgh Steelers are not my favorite professional football team, but when they're not playing my favorite team I do root for them to win. One of the main reasons is that I've always felt that the city of Pittsburgh and the people of Pittsburgh represent the heart and inner strength of "blue-collar" America. One of the reasons my life revolved around sports, is because at a young age my Father told me: "It doesn't matter what your Father does for a living, what type of clothes you wear, whether you have a diploma on the wall or not, and no matter what type of accent you speak with, that when you're on an athletic field, it's you against them, and if you're better you'll win!" I was an underdog and so was Pittsburgh, and neither one of us ever stopped striving to win.
This book is the autobiography of Dan Rooney, the son of the "The Chief", Art Rooney Sr. the founder of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Dan, whose 75 years of life coincides with the historical growth of the National Football League (NFL) from a rough scrabble "seat of the pants" operation to becoming the most popular game in America, in addition to becoming a multi-billion dollar enterprise.
The beauty of the author's storytelling is that despite Dan being a Pittsburgh Steeler all his life, his story is told with total honesty and compassion for all sides (teams) involved. Dan came from an Irish Catholic family and when I read about his youth, I closed my eyes, and as I imagined a movie being made about his life, I could only imagine one actor in the history of the cinema that would be perfectly cast in the lead role... "Jimmy Cagney"! Dan takes us from his childhood which included him being at the knees of NFL legends such as Papa Bear Halas, Bert Bell and other NFL founders who now all reside as does Dan in the Hall Of Fame, all the way through to the Steelers' five Super Bowl Championships. What gives this story so much more emotional impact than most biographies, is the reader can't fail but notice how unflinchingly Dan admits his and his team's mistakes as easily and as openly as most biographers gloat about their successes. To me one of the most endearing traits of Dan's is how many times he agonizes on how the Steelers' didn't keep, in his own words; "THE GREATEST QUARTERBACK OF ALL-TIME JOHNNY UNITAS!" They drafted him but never gave "Johnny U" a chance, then cut him. And the rest is history!
In the first few pages of the book Dan says that on December 23, 1972 with 22 seconds left on the clock in a game between the Oakland Raiders and his beloved Steelers that "THE MOST INCREDIBLE PLAY HE EVER SAW" took place: "THE IMMACULATE RECEPTION!" Over 200 pages later he states: "I BELIEVE THE IMMACULATE RECEPTION IS THE SINGLE GREATEST PLAY IN NFL HISTORY!"
By the end of this book, the reader realizes that you've gotten to know a unique individual, that despite being in a most competitive business is known for his dignity and integrity. When I finished reading Dan's story, I realized I read much more than the sports biography I thought I was going to read. What this book really is, is an open love letter to Dan's family, to the people of Pittsburgh, the State Of Pennsylvania, the Steeler players and fans, and to all NFL fans in the world. If you want to learn the history of the NFL this is the book for you. Or if you're simply tired of reading about all the spoiled, pampered, criminal elements in sports today, and want to simply read about a good man, then you've hit the "mother-lode" with this book.