Review: Newton’s Football: The Science Behind America’s Game

Newton's Football: The Science Behind America's Game
Newton’s Football: The Science Behind America’s Game by Allen St. John
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Here’s who’ll love this book: fans of football and science. Too bad I know next to nothing about football. I was lured in by the book’s description “In the bestselling tradition of Freakonomics…”, but while FREAKONOMICS is all about paradoxal thinking in a conventional world, NEWTON’S FOOTBALL is more about the scientific evolution in the history of football.

Some things were very interesting, such as knowing the original football was made out of pig bladders and how helmets make the game more dangerous. That’s the type of stuff I signed up for when diving into this book. I also enjoyed the scientific nature of looking into movies like Shrek, or how football video game developers struggle to get the ball to bounce realistically. The comparison of Newton-type predictability thinking versus quantum probability thinking is really cool. But that’s all for the folks that like the science and life stuff. It’s the other half, the football stuff that I struggled with.

Why get a book about football if I’m not into football? Well, good question. I was reading THE FIRST SEASON, which is about Vince Lombardi, and I found that book captivating. I didn’t need to know much about football to really enjoy the story of it all. I thought NEWTON’S FOOTBALL would be equally, or more captivating. It wasn’t. When the football terms came up (e.g., certain pass plays, positions, and historical information), it caused me to glaze over. Not until I nearly finished the book did I discover the glossary. There is a glossary for football terms and a glossary for science terms, but both of them still seem a bit lacking; they labelled one football position, but not the rest.

Like I said, this makes a great book for fans of both subjects. Maybe they were aiming for the football and science fan market, but I’d imagine they could have widened the market to make this topic more enjoyable for people that may not have been as interested in either topic. I’m sticking with my ranking, based on my personal enjoyment.

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