Pat Toomay was an excellent football player for the Dallas Cowboys, Buffalo Bills, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Oakland Raiders during the 1970's. Toomay played on a Super Bowl winner and loser, started every game for the winless expansion Bucs and finished his career on the rebel Raiders. Right about the middle of his career, Toomay wrote The Crunch.
This book is unlike any other of that day, possibly even now. It is described as "an irreverent trip through the NFL", although I don't exactly agree with the 'irreverent' part.
Toomay's The Crunch is truthful, bold, informative, hilarious and maybe even controversial depending on your views. However, I think Toomay just wrote about what was there. It just so happens that nobody else had done that at the time.
I recently asked Toomay about the origins of The Crunch.
After I got drafted by the Cowboys - in the 6th round, in the spring of 1970 - I started keeping a journal, just to track things for myself. My father was a big pro football fan, so when I ended up making the team, I decided to give him as a Christmas present the pages I had written, which at that point were about training camp and what it was like to survive the final cut. At the same time, I sent a copy of those pages to John Bibb, a good friend who was also a sports columnist for the newspaper in my college town, the Nashville Tennessean. I did this just for John's amusement. I knew he would get a kick out of the narrative. Unknown to me, Bibb passed the pages to John Seigenthaler, his publisher, who then forwarded them to Evan Thomas, who ran a book publishing company in New York, W. W. Norton. I subsequently got a note from one of Thomas' editors, asking if there was more material. I responded by telling him that there wasn't, but there could be. He wrote back saying that he'd like to see something if I decided to continue. So that's what got me going. For me, a big part of the impetus to write was to resolve the cognitive dissonance I was experiencing as a player vis a vis my experience of the game as a kid growing up. Growing up, my exposure to the game was primarily through my father's lens, which was largely informed by those mythic images put out by NFL Films, with John Facenda narrating in that incredible voice. While what I was experiencing as player seemed quite different, much less heroic, much more human. So in the book I tried to maintain that perspective.
That was exactly the point for me. Sure, football players might have lost a bit of their mythical status, but I felt I knew them better. I felt like I understood the entire game better.
As much as I appreciated The Crunch, some NFL officials and players weren't so amused by it. Yet Toomay states that most players "having experienced the same feelings themselves, understood what I was trying to do".
Now, thirty-five years later, I think the book still stands as a one-of-a-kind look at football. Toomay feels that The Crunch now actually "looks kind of quaint" considering books then and since. Toomay continues, "I simply presented information and let the reader make up his/her mind."
That's probably another reason why I loved The Crunch. Toomay let me make my decisions about people and events. He didn't force the issue.
Pat Toomay recently put up his Facebook page for fans of his and for retro football fans in general. Toomay's page contains a lot of his writings for ESPN and book links. It's interesting already and I look forward to watching the features grow.I was already a fan of Toomay's when I read the book. I have since reread it several times. Each time I find more humor and insight. I really appreciate Toomay's time and consideration in discussing The Crunch. Check back here in a few weeks for another look at Toomay and his other book On Any Given Sunday.