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Football & Politics: 'Big Game' Delivers Inside Look At NFL

Penguin Random House

Editor's note: This piece was originally published Sept. 11, 2018.

Football is like politics. We support our leaders when we agree with them and want to throw the bums out when we don’t. The intersection between professional football and politics is pretty substantial, as Mark Leibovich learned over the past few years.

"[NFL team owners are] like politicians in that they're sort of entitled and they have these little kingdoms and they're used to a certain amount of deference. But the big difference is they don't have to run for re-election," he notes.

Leibovich is the New York Times Magazine’s chief national correspondent. The longtime political reporter’s latest book is called Big Game: The NFL in Dangerous Times, and it took Leibovich around the country, to such exotic locales as Green Bay, Wis., for his reporting. 

During his four-year research period, Leibovich went beyond the NFL sidelines to learn about the players, NFL commissioner, and owners of the teams. Despite the amount of power team owners have, Leibovich says he was "not impressed."

"I’m not a sportswriter, I’m a political writer. And I will say that if you’re putting together an elite corporate board of like, Federal Express or Bank of America or Apple or something, you would not pick a lot of these guys to be on your elite corporate board," he says.

"They have an amazing amount of power in their various markets. They're all pretty much billionaires, they're all printing money, and they're all in many cases despised in the markets they're in — and often for good reason." Leibovich adds.

He joined Lake Effect's Mitch Teich to discuss more about what it was like to turn a critical eye to the sport he previously just enjoyed watching, and how it's changed his perspective: