10 Most Controversial Sports Books Ever


Image: Glenn Francis and Regan Books

Candid, behind-the-scenes sports books can provide a glimpse into the personal lives and locker rooms of the most famous athletes and sports teams in the world. These books can give away trade secrets and expose a team or game’s inner workings, revealing personal details that some feel should remain behind closed doors. In some cases, such books can even change the way a particular sport operates.

The truth is, controversy sells – and the more scintillating and contentious the anecdotes, the more enthused the response. With this in mind, here’s a look at ten of the most controversial sports books ever written.

Image: Macmillan Publishers and Vimeo/Jaehoon Kim

10. You’re OK, It’s Just A Bruise: A Doctor’s Sideline Secrets About Pro Football’s Most Outrageous Team – Rob Huizenga, M.D. (1994)

Dr. Rob Huizenga didn’t just work for any NFL team and owner. He worked for the bad boys of football, the Oakland Raiders. And his boss was Al Davis, one of the most litigious, aggressive and iconoclastic owners in NFL history, and the man who helmed the Raiders from 1972 to 2011. Unlike most sports books, this was a team physician’s insider account – from the sidelines to the locker rooms. What’s more, Huizenga revealed how football players were pressured into playing even if they were seriously hurt, how they were subjected to immoral medical practices, and how they were often left in the dark about the seriousness of their injuries. It also lifts the lid on recreational drug and steroid taking in the league. Huizenga – who left the Raiders in disgust in the early ‘90s – sheds light on what it was like to work for a boss who saw himself as an infallible, world-conquering dictator. It also deals with corrupt team doctor Dr. Robert Rosenfeld, who often described serious, sometimes career-threatening injuries with the saying, “You’re okay, it’s just a bruise.” Reality is often scary, and this candid book has been described as “harrowing and hilarious.” Interestingly, Oliver Stone’s hard-hitting 1999 sports drama Any Given Sunday was partly based on the book. Huizenga even worked on the film’s screenplay, although he actually sued Warner Bros-AOL over a crediting dispute.


Image: Keith Allison and HarperCollins

9. A-Rod: The Many Lives of Alex Rodriguez – Selena Roberts (2009)

Published months after contentious baseball legend Alex “A-Rod” Rodriguez’s February 2009 ESPN confession that he had used performance enhancing drugs (PEDs), this book by ex-Sports Illustrated and New York Times writer Selena Roberts is rife with controversy. In retaliation, Rodriguez accused Roberts of stalking him and trying to break into his home, where his “children were sleeping.” The book explores Rodriguez’s alleged PED use, claiming that it dates back to his high school playing days, and provides simplistic pop psychology explanations – abandonment issues, a thirst for attention – for this and his apparent love of the limelight. It also alleges that the Yankees third baseman tips off opposing batters about what pitch to expect, so that they do the same for him, and accuses him of mopping his mouth with $100 bills. The hype surrounding the book added to the general media frenzy when it was published. However, as the years have passed, the legacy of the book has paled in comparison to the mess the highest-paid baseball player’s career has become.