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Volume 23 No. 18
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Best of the best in pop culture

The NFL has long been at the center of pop culture. Here are some of its most memorable contributions. — Compiled by Ted Keith

 

BEST TV SHOW

“Hard Knocks”
HBO, 2001-02, ’07-’10, ’12-present

HBO’s annual peek behind the curtain with one team is the most reliably interesting part of training camp each year. It has created unknown stars (Browns offensive line coach Bob Wylie), immortalized coach-speak (former Jets coach Rex Ryan telling his team, “Let’s go eat a g--damn snack!”), and taken viewers inside the lives of players and organizations like nothing else.

Photo: getty images
Photo: getty images
Photo: getty images

BEST PLAY

“Lombardi,” 2010-11

Admittedly, football has not had much of a run on The Great White Way, and even this production only lasted 244 regular performances before closing. Still, Dan Lauria effectively channeled the legendary Green Bay Packers coach, and Judith Light was nominated for a Tony Award for her portrayal of his wife, Marie.

Photo: getty images
Photo: getty images
Photo: getty images

BEST SONG

“Super Bowl Shuffle”

The Super Bowl-winning Bears of 1985 may have had one of the best defenses of the modern era. They were certainly the best pop stars, producing a gold record — recorded more than a month before they thrashed the Patriots 46-10 in Super Bowl XX — that sold over half a million copies and featured such immortal and appropriate lines as, “We’re so bad, we know we’re good.”

Photo: getty images
Photo: getty images
Photo: getty images

BEST BOOK

“Paper Lion,” 1966

George Plimpton’s brand of participatory journalism met its Walter Mitty pinnacle in the book “Paper Lion,” in which the author recounted his noble turn as a (very) backup quarterback in training camp with the 1963 Detroit Lions. The book has endured for marrying an insider’s exclusive account with an outsider’s curious perspective.

 

 

 

BEST VIDEO GAME

“Madden NFL,” EA Sports, 1988-present

It took four years for Electronic Arts founder Trip Hawkins to convince the former Raiders head coach and legendary broadcaster John Madden to lend his name to a football video game. But once it was released in 1988, the game grew rapidly in popularity, and in 2005 it signed an exclusive licensing deal with the NFL and NFL Players Association. It now stands alone as the king of sports video games.

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