I don't know how I missed this.
But since I did, and since I've now un-missed it, allow me to say that Pete Gent's novel, "North Dallas Forty," is the single best novel ever written about pro football that doesn't involve the words "Dan Jenkins" and "Semi-Tough". It's the sad, hilarious, unbelievably tragic story of a step-above-journeyman wide receiver, Phil Elliott, his quarterback/sidekick Seth Maxwell, and a host of other skillfully rendered characters/caricatures.
In its portrayal of professional football as a soulless meatgrinder that destroys the human body and treats players as replaceable parts, it was remarkably prescient; written in the early 1970s, it all but anticipates the horrendous toll we're seeing from that era now, with player after player dying in his mid-50s or earlier.
Oh, yes: And besides that, "North Dallas Forty" also got turned into one of the two or three best football movies ever made (the Blob, for one, ranks it No. 1). Just the opening scene alone, with a crippled-up Nick Nolte (as Elliott) struggling to get out of bed in the morning is enough to make every bone in your body ache in sympathy.