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The Ones Who Hit the Hardest: The Steelers, the Cowboys, the '70s, and the Fight for America's Soul [Hardcover]

Chad Millman , Shawn Coyne
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

Sept. 7 2010
A stirring portrait of the decade when the Steelers became the greatest team in NFL history, even as Pittsburgh was crumbling around them.

In the 1970s, the city of Pittsburgh was in need of heroes. In that decade the steel industry, long the lifeblood of the city, went into massive decline, putting 150,000 steelworkers out of work. And then the unthinkable happened: The Pittsburgh Steelers, perennial also-rans in the NFL, rose up to become the most feared team in the league, dominating opponents with their famed "Steel Curtain" defense, winning four Super Bowls in six years, and lifting the spirits of a city on the brink.

In The Ones Who Hit the Hardest, Chad Millman and Shawn Coyne trace the rise of the Steelers amidst the backdrop of the fading city they fought for, bringing to life characters such as: Art Rooney, the owner of the team so beloved by Pittsburgh that he was known simply as "The Chief"; Chuck Noll, the headstrong coach who used the ethos of steelworkers to motivate his players; Terry Bradshaw, the strong-armed and underestimated QB; Joe Green, the defensive tackle whose fighting nature lifted the franchise; and Jack Lambert, the linebacker whose snarling, toothless grin embodied the Pittsburgh defense.

Every story needs a villain, and in this one it's played by the Dallas Cowboys. As Pittsburgh rusted, the new and glittering metropolis of Dallas, rich from the capital infusion of oil revenue, signaled the future of America. Indeed, the town brimmed with such confidence that the Cowboys felt comfortable nicknaming themselves "America's Team." Throughout the 1970s, the teams jostled for control of the NFL-the Cowboys doing it with finesse and the Steelers doing it with brawn-culminating in Super Bowl XIII in 1979, when the aging Steelers attempted to hold off the Cowboys one last time. Thoroughly researched and grippingly written, The Ones Who Hit the Hardest is a stirring tribute to a city, a team, and an era.

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About the Author

Chad Millman a deputy editor at ESPN The Magazine, is the author of The Detonators and The Odds and co-author of Invincible and Pickup Artists. He lives in Montclair, NJ with his wife and two sons. Visit his website at .

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Most helpful customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars old news repackaged May 6 2011
By Brian Maitland TOP 500 REVIEWER
The concept of this book is great looking at the Pittsburgh Steelers and, to a lesser extent, their main Super Bowl rivals, the Dallas Cowboys with the steel industry of Pennsylvania given its due in here to understand the era and th rivalry with the Cowboys.

The problem is, if you have seen the America's Game TV series that was broadcast on the NFL Network or have watched the DVDs of both teams' Super Bowl seasons, then you'll find a lot of this repetitive. Many of the quotes in here are from that series so don't seem fresh at all. Why didn't the authors go and interview many of the main protagonists who are still alive (Cowboys' coach Tom Landry and Steelers' center Mike Webster excepted)? It seemed they relied too much on quotes from past publications. That's fine for the neophyte just learning about the era but not for anyone who grew up on '70s NFL football.

The weaving of the steel industry's fights with its union is fascinating as well as the description of what life was like in the company towns near Pittsburgh. It gave a fuller picture but one huge problem is the authors do not finish that story. It basically ends abruptly with the last union leadership election result. Could they not explain how the US steel industry thereafter pretty much disappeared completely and how the Pittsburgh diaspora was spread across the nation. This makes any Steelers' road game now almost like a home game in many stadiums due to these loyal followers forced to leave Western Pennsylvania for hobs elsewhere.

Also, the stuff on the Cowboys (and on local Pittsburgh area native Tony Dorsett) was great from an explanation of how the team used computer analysis to draft such excellent teams.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.8 out of 5 stars  35 reviews
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved this one Sept. 13 2010
By Paul G - Published on
I'm a Steelers freak, and I thought I knew a lot about Bradshaw, Franco, Swan, Jack L and the rest of the crew. But I didn't--not until I read TOWHTH. The background on the coaching and ownership side was fascinating. I also loved the Pittsburgh history, especially the stuff about the growth and collapse of the steel industry, and the corresponding demise of the union. It really gave me a sense of the desperation with which these guys played ball--not just to feed their families but also to honor the underdog who was getting his head kicked in during the 70's: the working man. When you're a kid, you see these gladiators on tv, and you think they're all millionaires, but many had second jobs. And as somebody who loved to hate Dallas, I found that side of the story remarkable as well. My worst fears were confirmed--The Cowboys were a money machine--but I found a new appreciation for them, especially in Tom Landry. I'd thought he was a cold-blooded pragmatist, but he was much more nuanced than I'd imagined. And again, not every Cowboy was a millionaire, I learned. Many came from Steelers-type backgrounds. I think my favorite parts were when Shawn Coyne's family history ties into the major events going on at the time. It gave the book a "you are there" feel. Seriously great read--and a fast one too.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Burying the Lead--Too Bad May 8 2012
By Roger D. Launius - Published on
Verified Purchase
Talk about burying the lead, on the last page of this interesting but also infuriating book the authors finally address, albeit briefly, what they promised that "The Ones Who Hit the Hardest: The Steelers, the Cowboys, the `70s, and the Fight for America's Soul" would be about. When the Steelers beat the Cowboys in Super Bowl XIII a radio broadcaster quipped that the game represented "the triumph of the blue collar over the white collar" (p. 242). This is presumably what the book was to have been about: the demise of industrial America in the 1970s, especially the Rustbelt cities of the northeast, and the movement of population and opportunity to the Sunbelt and to other economic activities and how the fortunes of the Dallas Cowboys and the Pittsburgh Steelers characterized this larger dynamic.

I am not a fan of football and I really never have been, but I recognize its place in the social history of modern America. And this could have been an outstanding study of the sport and how it played off the Sunbelt and the Rustbelt and what those football teams represented for their regions and the economic fortunes of their fans. Unfortunately, what we got in "The Ones Who Hit the Hardest" was a blow by blow account of the building of the two franchises into powerhouse teams that dominated football in the 1970s and met in the Super Bowl. We learn a lot about Art Rooney, Chuck Noll, Terry Bradshaw, Mean Joe Green, and other players on the Steelers side and Tex Schramm, Tom Landry, Roger Staubach, and other players for the Cowboys on the other, but not that much about the stories of the two cities. There are some chapters on steel workers, the union, and the like, as well as oil men and the birth of the American Football League but not much attempt to put it all together.

The very promising premise that sportswriters Chad Millman and Shawn Coyne offer for readers of this book falls flat from the very beginning. I thought they would get to the core story--the relationships between regions, teams, and economic fortunes--but they never really delivered. Instead we are treated to recitations of games, highlights of play, and the like. This may be fine for a fan of football--especially the Steelers and the Cowboys--but I had expected to see the sport used to illuminate broader perspectives. There is still a need for such a study, and it could be a blockbuster, but "The One's Who Hit the Hardest" is not that book.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting view of a city and how its team helped it survive rough times Nov. 11 2010
By R. C Sheehy - Published on
The ones who hit the hardest is a fascinating view of how the Pittsburgh Steelers because perpetual doormats and losers and rose to become one of the NFL's great franchises. The story telling is straight forward and direct and tells the story concisely and with some flair. The writing is interesting and crisp and is told from a home town perspective so don't expect an unbiased story here.

I liked the angel focusing on the steelworkers and how the union was struggling just as the Steelers were emerging as a powerhouse. I find the one glaring error in this story is that there is no post script to tell us how things ended up for the majority of the Steelers players, the union leaders and the steel industry itself. That in my mind is the major weakness of this book.

All in all a good and enjoyable book. One I am sure Steeler fans will enjoy!
12 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The good guys won (twice) Sept. 4 2010
By Felicity - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is a good read for any Steelers fan, but particularly those of us who grew up in the 70's and watched this team grow to dominate the NFL.

The authors do a good job of explaining how Chuck Noll's unique personality and drive were instrumental in building the Steelers dynasty. The football narrative smoothly interweaves with the decline of the steel industry and its impact on Pittsburgh. The chapters contrasting the origins and development of the Cowboys provide enough detail to reinforce my dislike of "America's Team". Landry was uptight and unable to connect with his players, and the Cowboys had some jerks like Cliff Harris and Thomas Henderson. The good guys definitely did win in Super Bowls 10 and 13.

The only issue I had with the book was that there were times when I felt like I was reading transcripts from NFL Films and the "America's Game" series in particular. Some of the quotes and anecdotes were direct lifts from those shows. Which is ironic since the authors actually manage to get their facts wrong in places (for instance, Cliff Harris didn't give Terry Bradshaw the concussion in SB10, nor did Roger Staubach's final pass that game fall incomplete - it was intercepted by Glenn Edwards). A little more original research, some new interviews and better fact-checking would have made this good book really great.

The 70's Steelers were a once-in-a-lifetime team, where the good guys (Rooneys, Noll) managed to assemble a tremendous group of athletes who beat some fine but flawed teams - especially the self-promoting Cowboys.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Seventies, Smash-Mouth Style Sept. 28 2010
By Steven Pressfield - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The Seventies were so thoroughly and unrelievedly awful that many or most of the memories one treasures of them are of sporting events: the literally incredible Ali-Foreman rumble in the jungle, Reggie Jackson's three home runs in one game against the Dodgers in the World Series ... and most of all, for me, Super Bowl XIII between the Steelers and the Cowboys on January 21, 1979. It was and remains the best Super Bowl in history. (The good news: I watched it with a houseful of our friends and neighbors in our new home in Brooklyn Heights, dandling on my lap my four-month-old son--the baby they told us we couldn't have--and I had the Steelers. The bad news, as every red-blooded American male of a certain age cannot forget: the Steelers didn't cover the spread.)

Imagine, then, my inexpressible joy at discovering Chad Millman's and Shawn Coyne's genuinely great new book, "The Ones Who Hit The Hardest: The Steelers, the Cowboys, the '70s, and the Fight for America's Soul." The Seventies, you'll remember, was the decade of the great decline in heavily-unionized commodity manufacturing--nowhere more dramatically than in the steel mills of Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania. And those years saw the coming of the Sunbelt: the middle class, corporate ascendancy most perfectly symbolized by Dallas. Thus, the rise of the Steelers and the Cowboys to face each other as the decade ended is not just a great football story; it is something in the nature of a sociological study, with one way of life passing and the other coming into its own.

Millman and Coyne follow the development of pro football as it came to the forefront of American life, through the rise of the AFL and its eventual merger with the NFL; they then home in on the starkly different styles and personalities of the Steelers and the Cowboys against the background of the contrasting fortunes of the cities they fought for. (Shawn Coyne is a native of Pittsburgh, and his dad, Steelworkers' union official Pay Coyne, Sr., is as much a character in this story as are Art Rooney, Terry Bradshaw and Joe Greene--to marvelous effect.) This is a simply beautiful book, a must-read for everyone who remembers the times, as well as for those who ought to know more about them. It's not just for the football fan--though it is certainly for him or her--nor for Pittsburghers or Texans. It's for everyone who treasures good sportswriting--and even good writing, period.

[This review was written by Nick Murray and published in the current 9/27/10 edition of his Newsletter, NMI. It's only credited to Steven Pressfield at the top because SP did the posting from his computer and that's how Amazon's software works. Nick, I ain't trying to steal no credit from you, baby! (And I love "The Ones Who Hit The Hardest" too.)
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