As a fan of all things AFL, I am constantly on the lookout for books that contain even the most tangential of AFL info. I have all of the TSN guides, The Other League, Touchdown!, We Came of Age, Remember the AFL, and many more. I also branch out into team chronicles and biographies, even if the subject player spent just a year in the American Football League. At this point I probably have close to 200 books in my AFL library, but who’s really counting?
Back in 2006, former Green Bay Packers and Denver Broncos running back, Al Carmichael, published his autobiography, 106 Yards, in conjunction with his son, Chris. I don’t recall where I first learned of the book, but I remember thinking that it might be an interesting read because there is just so little available on the 1960 Denver Broncos, of which Carmichael was a member. So I looked the book up on Amazon, and admittedly did a double-take when I saw the $125 price tag. “Probably a nice book,” I thought, “but not one for my shelves…”
Fast forward to a few weeks ago when a copy of 106 Yards, came up for sale on eBay. At $40, the opening price was a bit more palatable. Still, before placing a bid, I took a look at Amazon to see if the retail price had held over the years. To my shock, some of the used book sellers had brand new, overstock copies available for $1.89 plus shipping (though they are $3.91 now). I placed my order, sent off my six bucks, and awaited some new reading material.
A few days later, a rather large package arrived on my doorstep. I guess I hadn’t paid close-enough attention to the description, because my first impression of 106 Yards was, “Man, this book is massive!!” Measuring 11.5″ x 13″, with 399 pages and weighing nearly eight pounds, this is more than your standard book. But frankly, the surprises were just beginning when it came to Carmichael’s work.
I have spent some time reading this monster, and admittedly, I read in greater detail the AFL section than I did the rest. But with that admission now made, I feel compelled to say that this is one of the most beautiful books that I have ever seen, regardless of subject. Al Carmichael’s story is interesting by itself – growing up in Southern California, playing Marine Corps football, then on to Santa Ana Junior College and USC (where he scored the winning touchdown in the 1953 Rose Bowl), the Green Bay Packers and ultimately 1960 Denver Broncos, all while threading in a career in acting and movies throughout his off-seasons and post football days. It all makes for a very interesting story of professional football in a day, age and style that will never be lived again by modern athletes. For that alone, the book is worth a read.
However, what Carmichael has done with this book is taken a wonderful story, and wrapped it in the most exquisite package imaginable. Throughout the 399 full-color, glossy pages, are not only the expected personal and team-related photos, but also images of ticket stubs, game programs, player contracts, trading cards, newspaper and magazine articles, playbook pages, correspondences to Carmichael from teams and teammates, and all sorts of ephemera from throughout his career. All of these items have been beautifully scanned, and laid out in a clean and visually-appealing manner. One advantage of the larger format of the book is that these items can all easily be read, adding a new layer of insight not only into Carmichael’s life, but also into the teams with which he was associated.
One of my pet-peeves of sports books, and especially biographies, is that authors often use the platform as an opportunity to overcome weak writing by bragging incessantly about themselves, putting down their opponents (and sometimes teammates), and trying to convince the world that they were the smartest/toughest/greatest athlete to ever set foot upon a field – ever seen Keyshawn Johnson’s Just Give Me the Damn Ball!?. 106 Yards is not like that. Perhaps it is simply the classier nature of generations past, but Carmichael relays his story in clean text, free of unnecessary chest-thumping and self-aggrandizing.
Truthfully, I cannot say enough about this book. I really, really enjoyed it. At $125, I would have never bought it, but I can certainly understand the price now, because with all of the quality put into this piece, it must have cost a small fortune to produce. However, someone’s overstock misfortunes translate into our great luck. At $1.89 (or $3.91, or prices higher) this is one of the nicest books that I have ever owned, and it will hold a nice (and large) spot on my AFL library shelf.