Book Review: The Ones Who Hit The Hardest

In a strange turn of events, I have actually started reading over the last couple of years. Like, for real. As it turns out, being on the road all the time with a band, be it a 6 hour flight from San Fran to Philly, or an all day drive from Tulsa, OK to Taos NM, there’s always plenty of time to read.

And I certainly have enough books laying around to keep myself busy.

Like any normal human being, I go to the store and buy a book and it sits by my bed and never gets read. Doesn’t really matter how much I want to read it, or how great I know the book is, it just never happens. Well, about 6 months ago I got a gift from my wife, the book The Ones Who Hit The Hardest: The Steelers, The Cowboys, The 70’s, and The Fight for America’s Soul.

If that’s not the most interesting title for a Steelers book, complete with a picture of Jack Lambert standing over a player from the Cowboys in a “that aughta cool you off” pose, I don’t know what is. I finally picked the book up a month later when I left on a two and a half week tour of the greater Midwest and mountain coutry and by the time I was in Denver, I was finished.

It was tough to put down.

Alternating between Pittsburgh/Steelers history (turns out those two things are one in the same), and Texas Million(billion)aires/Cowboys history (also one in the same), the book brings us from the spawn of football and it’s popularity at the college level, all the way through the 1970’s. I must admit, at times, and this is particularly for the Cowboys’ chapters, the book seemed to drag on a bit. I wasn’t really interested in the Cowboys at all, and since I happen to hate the Cowboys with the fire of a thousand suns, it made it tough for me to be objective while reading.

That being said, I was interested to learn just how interwoven the Steelers were/are with the working class in Pittsburgh, and how instrumental the Steel industry was in developing the Steelers franchise. Our authors Chad Millman and Shawn Coyne walk us through all of the different social implications of the Steel industry strikes, layoffs, rehires, and then ultimately layoffs again, and how that created a fan base in Pittsburgh that saw the team as another blue collar group of men, just working for a pay-check (before money got ridiculous in the NFL). Steelers games were a chance for these men to forget about how close to death the were that day at work, and enjoy some football.

On the Cowboys’ side, I was interested to learn how they attacked the draft in the 1970’s. A special computer built by Texas Instruments (the same company that made your graphing calculator…boycott???) for the Cowboys in order to rank draft prospects according to what the Cowboys thought they needed to win championships. As you are well aware, it worked.

The book also walks us through Chuck Noll’s first moments at a Steelers head coach, and his first moves in creating a different kind of team through the draft. Where the white-collar owners and coaches of the Cowboys were using a computer to calculate players’ compatibility with the Cowboys’ game plan, Art Rooney Jr and Chuck Noll worked tirelessly around the clock to come up with the most spectacular draft classes over the next 5 years that would define our franchise forever. The Steelers drafted Hall of Famer after Hall of Famer starting with Mean Joe Green, and culminting in 4 Super Bowl wins throughout the 1970’s.

A little bit more impressive than a computer, no?

It is that juxtaposition of these two franchises that makes this story so interesting to me. There is so much detail surrounding Chuck Noll and building his team, and the Steel industry that it’s hard to sum up here. Being a young Steelers fan, I didn’t live that 1970’s Steelers ride like many of our readers did. I did, however, come home to my dad popping in the tapes he had made of the Steelers’ Super Bowls and sitting and watching with him for hours while he explained each player and his significance to the Steelers. I sat and listened as he told me all the Lambert stories, and the Joe Green stories, and so many others. I was always captivated by the history of this team and it’s fan base and this book was the perfect way for me to grasp a better understanding of the history of our franchise, and the magic of the 1970’s.

That’s why you have to go grab this book off the shelf and read it. You will not be sorry you did.

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