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David Fleming's "Breaker Boys"

Nathan Hartle

Brisk and unflinching, David Fleming's chronicle of the Pottsville Maroons recounts the story of that seminal team's inaugural NFL season. Set against the backdrop of the 1920s cultural renaissance and the brutal grind of Pennsylvania's coal country, "Breaker Boys" relates the team's origins, rise to fleeting glory and the overreaching ambition that helped bring it down. In many ways, the Maroons were the embodiment of their times.

Though the story seems ready-made for Hollywood, Fleming's real power lies in his descriptions. No football expertise is necessary to feel the impact of pads on flesh, or to catch the buzz of a bygone era. (ESPN, 320 pages, $24.95.)