Freeman's reporting is solid in most of Bloody Sundays, and examines intriguing issues about the NFL that are not explored in daily media. He brings the reader inside the closed doors of coaches' and players' lives, and shows the reader that the everyday problems that dot the lives of most Americans also affect those in the NFL. The first four chapters on Jon Gruden, Emmitt Smith, Michael Strahan, and Steven Thompson are well reported and based seemingly on fact.
He holds up Gruden as the model of NFL coaching success, and trails the coach's move from Oakland to Tampa Bay. He reveres Smith as the standard by which athletes should be measured because of his durability at such a perilous position. Strahan is portrayed as a dominating defensive end who uses his intellect more than his team and the league would prefer. And Freeman's expose of the plight of gay players like Thompson (a pseudonym -the author agreed to a confidentiality deal with the player) is groundbreaking reporting that really is the backbone of the book.
There are other good parts of the book - his portrayal of Condoleeza Rice the football fan and the would-be commissioner is valuable and interesting. The explanation of the state of domestic abuse cases among players and the league's slow movement to curtail it is a credit to Freeman.
Too much of the second half of the book, however, devolves into irreverent musings and listings of his all-time favorites among categories of NFL players and franchises. There is nothing necessarily bad about this writing, but it did not gel with the solid reporting in the first half of the book. I was very impressed with the book through the first four chapters, and I was eager to read more. But I was disappointed to read through Freeman's lists of top five running backs, top five franchises (which laughably included Cleveland as a near-miss but excluded New England), and his unrealistic list of ways to improve the Bengals.
The chapters about the best players by position and the reasons why football is better than baseball are light reading. They are what they are - by that time I had realized that the book had lost its edge and I merely flipped through them. They would work fine as a Saturday sports column, but they did not belong in a book that could have enhanced the great reporting it laid out in its first half.
The book was enjoyable, and I do recommend it. The first six chapters (before Freeman begins his lists of favorites) are worthwhile and deserve reading by those who are serious fans of the NFL or those interested in what NFL life is like. The remaining chapters do not sink the book.
Freeman obviously has great experience covering the NFL, and must be a good reporter if he received access to numerous subjects he portrays in the story. I hope he follows up this book with one that is devoted entirely to a through reporting of issues that the daily NFL news media cannot explore.