Reading: Matthew Futterman

David Locke Hall
Matthew Futterman

Players: The Story of Sports and Money, and the Visionaries Who Fought to Create a Revolution

April 25 at 7:00pm
 For fans of Michael Lewis, the astounding untold story of how professional sports transformed, in the span of a single generation, from a cottage industry into a massive global business.

In the cash-soaked world of contemporary sports, where every season brings news of higher salaries, endorsement deals, and television contracts, it is mind-boggling to remember that as recently as the 1970s elite athletes earned so little money that many were forced to work second jobs in the off-season to make ends meet. Roger Staubach, for example, made only $25,000 in his first season as the starting quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys and wound up selling commercial real estate in the summer. Today, when Fortune reports that every athlete on its Top 50 list makes more than twenty million dollars per year, it’s clear that a complete reversal of power occurred under our eyes.

Players is the first book to chronicle the astonishing business story behind modern sports—a true revolution that moved the athletes from the bottom of the financial pyramid to the top. It started in 1960, when a Cleveland lawyer named Mark McCormack convinced a golfer named Arnold Palmer to sign with him. Within a few years, McCormack raised Palmer’s annual income off-the-course from $5,000 to $500,000 and forever changed the landscape of the sports industry. Futterman introduces a wide-ranging cast of characters to tell the story of athletes, agents, TV executives, coaches, and owners who together created the dominating and multifaceted industry we know today.

Players is a riveting, fly-on-the-wall account of the creation and rise of the modern sports world, and the people who fought to make it happen. From landmark moments such as the 1973 Wimbledon boycott and baseball pitcher Catfish Hunter’s battle to become MLB’s first free agent to the outsize influence of companies like IMG, Nike, and ESPN, this fascinating book details the wild evolution of sports into the extravaganza we experience today, and the inevitable trade-offs those changes have wrought.

“The business of sports has been completely transformed over the course of my lifetime, and Players is a riveting behind-the-scenes look at the beginnings of that revolution. I couldn’t put it down.”
—Billy Beane

“Finally we have the full story of business and sports, told with a mastery that only a writer of Matthew Futterman’s years of experience in both fields could bring to the table. As I read Players I was reminded of Michael Lewis’s Moneyball because it’s one of those great stories that’s been hiding in plain sight, and it also shows us how the games themselves were changed by the action off the field. Anybody with an interest in money or sports will devour this book.”
—Jim Nantz

“Sports is big business. We all know that today, but how and why did football, baseball, basketball, and the Olympics become so big? And what does that mean to athletes and fans? Matthew Futterman provides the answers in this revealing and wonderfully readable book. Players is a winner.”
—David Maraniss, author of When Pride Still Mattered, Clemente, and Rome 1960

Matthew Futterman is a senior special writer for sports with The Wall Street Journal. He has previously worked for The Philadelphia Inquirer and the Star-Ledger of New Jersey, where he was a part of the team that won the Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News in 2005. He lives in New York with his wife and children. 
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