Terrific new book recounts when prep football was king

Before the Greatest Generation went off to war to save Western Civilization, they survived the Great Depression and played and followed high school football.

How big was high school football in 1939 when the nation was on the cusp of WWII?

It was so big that Paul Brown was a high school coach in Ohio and Vince Lombardi was an ASSISTANT high school coach in New Jersey. And high school games were played before big crowds and were covered like college football, which then dwarfed the NFL.

Eighty years later, it is almost hard to imagine what America was like in those days.

And veteran sportswriter Hank Gola has captured that time perfectly in his book “City of Champions” (Tatra Press) about how an underdog team from Garfield, N.J. beat Miami High School to be crowned the mythical national champion high school team in the country on Christmas night in 1939 at the Orange Bowl.

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NFL needs less instant replay, not more

One of the more interesting developments in the continuing controversy about reviewing pass interference calls and non calls was a report that some NFL officials may be having buyer’s remorse about the new pass interference rule it passed in March the wake of the pass interference no call in the Saints-Rams game.

Let’s hope the report is true and they make changes.

Judy Battista of NFL media reported the owners will consider a proposal at its upcoming owners meeting to allow the Competition Committee to modify the rule without needing a vote of all the owners.

They would consider allowing coaches to challenge offense or defensive interference throughout the game, including the final two minutes of each half, instead of having the replay official control the review in the last two minutes.

Forcing the coaches to use a challenge to review pass interference in the last two minutes would probably cut down on the number of delays and challenges.

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New book by Bert Bell’s son an enjoyable read on rise of the NFL

Upton Bell’s mother, who was a musical comedy actress on Broadway and a member of Ziegfield’s Follies, was once invited to a dinner with Al Capone.

As Bell recounts the dinner in his book about his long and colorful career, “Present at the Creation, My Life in the NFL and the Rise of America’s Game,” written with Ron Borges, she had a question for Capone.

“She naively asked Capone why all the women were sitting with their backs to the door,’’ he wrote.

His father was Bert Bell, the NFL commissioner from 1946 until he died of a heart attack in 1960 watching the Eagles play in his hometown of Philadelphia.

Upton said that his father was asked (Bell doesn’t say who asked) to check with Capone (who was in prison at the time) if the Lindbergh baby kidnapping was the work of the Mob. Within 48 hours, Capone got back to him and said it wasn’t.

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