Pete Gent's most famous work was reissued a few months ago and hopefully it garners as much attention now as it did when originally issued. Ostensibly a thinly veiled semi-biography of his own pro football experiences, the book, when originally issued, was considered scandalous as it exposed the underside of the professional football world.
At the center of the novel is Phil Elliot, a fairly talented tight end who relies on pain killers to get him through the season. He carouses with the quarterback, only to ultimately find that the man he considered his closest friend when not be there for him in the end, and downs alcohol and drugs with a sense of abandon. To Elliot's mind, he is a team player because of his willingness to play with pain, taking painful, burning shots of cortisone in his knees in order to practice and play. But to his coaches, he is a loose cannon who they will only tolerate so long as he is useful to the team.
Ultimately, Elliot loses the game he loves. He learns that his only real value to the team is his ability to perform and when the side issues with him outweigh his talent to catch a pass, he loses that which he loved above all else (even if he would not admit it to himself): the game.
If you've seen the movie, you've only gotten a taste of the novel. Gent has written other books, but this remains his best. The book exposed a raw nerve at the time of its first release and was decried in many corners as nothing more than the fanciful tirade of a embittered former player. Instead, over the years we've learned that Gent's revelations regarding sex, drugs, and alcohol abuse in the NFL were all too true. And despite stringent drug testing rules, all of the problems exposed in his novel are still present in the NFL today.