The heart of the "controversy" is that you can't build a team just by looking at stats. Of course, nowhere in the book does Beane argue that you can. Old-school scouts and baseball people especially felt (and still feel) threatened by the increasing use of statistical analysis of past performance to predict a player's future performance and value. In essence, it's a very old controversy, between fans who like (and believe there's much truth in) stats, and fans who'd rather focus on other aspects of a player's makeup (heart, dedication, desire, clubhouse presence).
6. "Out of Their League" by Dave Meggysey
On the heels of "Ball Four" came a slew of titles that didn't just rip coaches, players, and practices, but the very existence and importance of the games themselves. Put Meggysey's book in this category. "Out of Their League," wrote Robert Lipsyte in late 1970, was "the first important, serious, radical insider's attack on the morality of football."
Meggysey, who played linebacker for the Cardinals for seven years, offered his opinion that the NFL was rife with drugs, racism, sadism and a dehumanizing "militaristic aura." In a Look magazine article excerpted from the book, he wrote that "a lot of NFL trainers do more dealing in drugs than the average junkie," citing, among other things, a wide use of steroids. The establishment dismissed Meggysey as a disillusioned marginal pro turned hippie, but his book was a bestseller. For the past 24 years, Meggysey, who expressed a desire that the NFL be done away with entirely, has been Western Regional Director of the National Football League Players Association.
5. "Meat on the Hoof" by Gary Shaw
This huge 1972 bestseller has been largely forgotten, but in its time it was a bombshell, a condemnation of the University of Texas football program and head coach Darrell Royal, who led the Longhorns to three national titles in the 1960s.
Shaw, a reserve left tackle who started playing for Royal in 1963, wrote about brutal practices, indifferent medical attention for the subs, hazing, racism, grade tampering and cheating on NCAA scholarship rules. Royal comes off especially bad, like a sadistic drill sergeant who has the luxury of dispatching minions (assistant coaches) to carry out his wishes.
"There were a lot of people back then who said Shaw merely made up a lot of what he alleged," wrote Kevin B. Blackistone in the Dallas Morning News shortly after Shaw died in 1999. "He had teammates go on national TV and say the book was far off base. Royal was said to be so taken aback by the expose that he considered quitting. He denied the rumor, but coached just five more seasons after the book hit the shelves."
4. "Into Thin Air" by Jon Krakauer
The climber and writer's account of the deadly 1996 Everest climbing season spawned much criticism from other climbers and paid guides, who were especially targeted in Krakauer's account. The fact that the author was there as both witness and participant added to the firestorm, despite his own admission that he, too, was partly to blame for the many things that went wrong on the mountain during summit day.