In his 1972 novel Semi-Tough, the late Dan Jenkins imagines a version of the New York Giants that are no longer owned by the Mara family. Billy Clyde Puckett, the star running back of the G-Men, takes us with him through the week leading up to their Super Bowl appearance against the New York Jets. He introduces us to a slew of fictional misfits (his best friends), as well as his team… including a quarterback whose last name is Manning? Hmm…
Clearly, the book was far ahead of its time on many accounts. And while it is a work of fiction, it also presents a semi-accurate portrayal of American football in the late 1960s and early ‘70s. Puckett uses the phrase “semi-” as a prefix not meaning “partly,” but “majorly,” which, by the end of the tale, shows an attempted humility in the midst of the crass satire. As our narrator and his team prepare for their championship matchup on the west coast, they navigate adoring fans, their “dog-ass” rivals, women, and parties, as well as their new ownership, the ad agency DDD and F, which has taken over after the new Commissioner has foiled the Mara family’s plan to move the team to Bermuda.
While the world of the novel is plausible as a whole, it’s hard to imagine a Giants team without the Maras at the helm, a football world without the semi-brilliance that the Maras gifted to the league, or the semi-greatness that has graced the sports media landscape as semi-inspirations of the Maras and their work.
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