Here’s what folks are saying about my new book on the formative years of the NFL written with the son of Hall of Fame Commissioner Bert Bell. Upton Bell not only grew up in the midst of the NFL but was personnel director of the Super Bowl III and Super Bowl V Baltimore Colts before becoming the youngest GM in the NFL when he took over the then hapless New England Patriots in 1971.
He would go on to also own a franchise in the World Football League and then, after a failed attempt to purchase the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, he would get behind the microphone and launch a successful second career in radio and television in which, among other things, he would become the first to broadcast the NFL Draft which his father created on live television.
Here is what long-time Sports Illustrated football writer Peter King had to say about “Present At The Creation’’ in this week’s Monday Morning Quarterback (MMQB) column.
“I think this could be the Underrated Book of the Year: “Present at the Creation: My life in the NFL and the rise of America’s Game,” by Upton Bell with Ron Borges (University of Nebraska Press),’’ King wrote.
“I say it’s really good though I’ve read only four chapters. The title of the book is pretty accurate. Upton Bell worked and scouted for the Colts in the Johnny Unitas glory days of the sixties, then ran the Patriots in the seventies, then was a radio host in Boston, then … well, let me tell you about what happened earlier in his life. Bell’s father, Bert Bell, was the commissioner of the National Football League before Pete Rozelle. “He put the schedule together on the kitchen table,” Upton Bell writes. This was 60 years ago. Bert Bell died of a heart attack watching his beloved Eagles in Franklin Field, and the story of Upton racing to get to his side when he lay dying is truly touching.
“But the stories from Bell, a white man from the North, about scouting in the South in the sixties are eye-popping. In 1965, he stopped to get gas at a filling station in a time of great tension, and he said to attendant when he saw the WHITE and COLORED signs for the bathrooms, “That’s terrible.” Bell writes the attendant looked at him and said: “Keep that up and you may get your brains blown out. If you don’t think so, I’ve got my gun in the office, mister.” Hours before Martin Luther King was murdered in Memphis in 1968, Bell was in the city to watch spring practice at Memphis State, and an assistant coach told him he’d better go home. Bell flew back to Baltimore, and heard the news of the King assassination when he landed.
“Present at the Creation is on my night table, and should be on yours if you’re a football history buff.’’
Here’s a few other opinions on the book as well.
“A highly enjoyable book that should be on every football fan’s reading list.”—John Maxymuk, Library Journal starred review
“This is a fascinating behind-the-scenes story of a young man who was beside his father, NFL commissioner Bert Bell, through all the major events as pro football became America’s No. 1 sport; he then became the chief scout of the Baltimore Colts’ championship teams and then the general manager of the New England Patriots. A must-read for any fan of pro football.”—Ernie Accorsi, former general manager of the New York Giants
“Upton Bell did not grow up like you and me. Your father was not the NFL commissioner who created the draft model now followed by all professional sports. Your mother was not a Broadway star. His parents were each of those things. You were not a thirty-three-year-old general manager of a pro football team, or a radio and TV host. I can say with certainty you have not met the people he’s met or had the experiences he’s had. And, no offense, I doubt you are as funny or insightful as Upton Bell is on a variety of topics. This is an extraordinary life story of a unique individual. The epilogue alone is worth the price of the book.”—Bob Ryan, Boston Globe sportswriter, author, frequent ESPN panelist, and recipient of the Curt Gowdy Media Award from the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame
“An extremely informative, definitive work by a dynamic personality who witnessed firsthand the development of the NFL, from his father’s contributions to his own personal achievements that helped cement the foundation of what has today become the most popular sport in the United States.”—Ron Wolf, former general manager of the Green Bay Packers and Pro Football Hall of Fame member
“It didn’t start with Joe Namath or Joe Montana or Tom Brady leading an impossible comeback in Super Bowl LI in Houston. This is the history of professional football in America. If you ever played football, played fantasy football, or just tossed a few bucks in an office pool, this is the book for you. Upton Bell lived it and Ron Borges covered it. A stronger combo than Belichick and Brady.”—Dan Shaughnessy, Boston Globe columnist and New York Times bestselling author
“Upton was the best, and we always worked well as a team. He and Carroll Rosenbloom were the best thing that ever happened to the Colts in the 1960s, and he covers it all here.”—Lenny Moore, Baltimore Colts running back (1956–1967) and Pro Football Hall of Fame member
The book is available now on amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com, University of Nebraska press in hardcover or for Kindle and at your local book stores.