Two of the qualities that are most noticeable in sports books are the depth of research carried out and the passion of the author for the subject. On both of these qualities Spies on the Sideline scores incredibly highly. The book is a detailed, well-researched look at how NFL teams gather information through both conventional and unorthodox means. Bryant is a former Special Agent with decades of experience collecting and safeguarding information for the Department of Defense. He has combined his professional experience with a passion for American football into a very interesting book.
The book presents the myriad ways in which NFL teams seek to gain intel and seek to prevent other teams from doing the same. Bryant recounts countless anecdotes gleamed from a tremendous volume of research as to just how far teams, coaches, owners and others are willing to go to get even a tiny edge to win football games. Most fascinating is how far back many of the stories go, showing the determination to win at all costs existed long before NFL became a multi-billion dollar business. Stories about the Bears v Packers rivalry, Al Davies’ many antics, and the Patriots under Belichick (obviously) are plentiful in particular.
While the book provides a fascinating insight into what modern scouting and analysis entails, unsurprisingly it is at its most interesting when discussing the less legitimate ways teams gather information. As well as telling countless stories, Bryant analyses and brings his own expertise and that of industry professionals in highlighting the steps taken by teams to counter intelligence gathering efforts.
Bryant’s passion for the subject shines through on every page. It results in a fascinating book that provides a unique angle on an aspect of professional football that typically goes undiscussed (until the next time the Patriots get caught!).
Spies on the Sidelines is published by Rowman & Littlefield on 13 July 2022.