Our September featured title is a comprehensive review of the history of Los Angeles football. L.A. Football Confidential spotlights the Rams and the transients (Dons, Chargers, Sun, Express, and Xtreme) who have made Southern California football unique. Author Wayne Byard answered our questions about his love for football, his writing and research process, and his “celebrity status” as the school closings announcer for his district.
Q&A with Wayne Byard
1. What inspired your love for football? What is it about the sport and its players that continues to fuel this passion?
I started covering sports 39 years ago and got to know the players behind the statistics. Sports history is the history of America during the past century. You see the NFL growing from a regional game involving small cities to a corporate behemoth, where the sport is only part of the show. The new Los Angeles stadium at Hollywood Park is a reflection of that. The Rams and Chargers are part of an entertainment package. Beyond that, the NFL, and sports in general, reflect changes in society – race relations, the growth of the counterculture, the rise of corporations and the importance of media – that define American life in general. And, at the end of the day, I like a quirky story. Strip away everything else and you have some unique characters who are driven by the same things that have motivated humans since our ancestors crawled out of the sea.
2. Writing a comprehensive guide and history to Los Angeles football is a daunting task. What is your research and writing process like?
Obsessive. I comb thousands of newspapers, magazines, old books and talk to the sources whenever I can. Through the years I’ve built a 3,000-plus-page database encompassing every NFL team and some that no longer exist. That allows me to put together facts from multiple sources to truly place a player’s career, and life, in context. Where did he come from? What did he do for a particular team? Where did he go?
3. What is it that you love about nonfiction?
You literally can’t make this up. You can’t write a tale more unique than what people actually do. As good as non-fiction authors are about making things up, the human capacity to do the unique, the brave, the cowardly, the just plain weird is infinitely greater.
4. You’re “famous” for your school closure announcements in your district. Do you have any good stories you can share?
There are days when the wrong call is made and I end up out in the bad weather with everyone else. There was actually a day when I slid uphill on a major mountain. (Try doing that some time.) When people holler and yell about what a bad call it was, I can only think “I feel you.”5. What’s next for you? Is there another sport’s book on the horizon?
Three, actually. I have books on the Raiders and Patriots completed. The one I’m really excited about, however, is “An American Legend.” This work is inspired by the life of Spottswood Poles, the man who should have broken baseball’s color barrier in 1922. I’ve adapted the book from an award-winning screenplay that came this close to being produced in Hollywood. This is a passion project that has spanned more than a quarter century.