My friend Salena Zito helped me connect with the Rooney family when I first started reporting on The Color of Sundays. As a North Side girl — ahem, I mean, Allegheny City girl — she has that kind of street cred.
Salena brought it back around today by having me on her podcast to talk about the book. We had a great conversation and got a little more into the book’s larger themes. You can listen to us here.
Reminder: Book signing Saturday at Fort Days in Ligonier. I’ll be at Second Chapter Books on Main Street, somewhere near Jim O’Brien!
Just found out the Pennsylvania Bar Association picked my cybersecurity reporting as the winner of its journalism competition for a special report/series. This is a big deal for the Trib and a nice recognition from a group of professionals that I respect.
The story looked at how hackers are targeting lawyers because they often have great information on their clients that is propriety, highly valuable and typically very well organized! The Bar Association plans to give out the William A. Schnader Print Media Award for Special Report/Series in November.
While The Color of Sundays is definitely a football story, it also has strong themes tied to the history of American Civil Rights and the role of the Pittsburgh Courier, as the nation’s voice for black Americans during much of the 20th Century.
That larger story comes out in my conversation with Paul Guggenheimer, the host of Essential Pittsburgh, a daily talk show on 90.5 WESA-FM, Pittsburgh’s NPR station. He really wanted to know a lot more about Bill Nunn Jr.’s early years, his motivations and the challenges he and other blacks faced.
It’s definitely one of my favorite interviews so far. You can listen to it here.
The Westinghouse High School basketball team with Bill Nunn Jr., top row, third from the right. Teammate Chuck Cooper, first row, second from right, went on to become the first black player drafted into the NBA.
For anyone into football history, few jobs could be better than the one Kent Stephens has.
He works as historian and curator for the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta. The building now also houses the Black College Football Hall of Fame. Kent has been working on an exhibit about the Black College All-America teams that the Pittsburgh Courier started naming in 1925.
Kent took out a little time to read The Color of Sundays. His take…
“There are countless untold stories tracing back through the history of racially segregated sports. Conte tells the Bill Nunn, Jr. story in a way that will leave you inspired, but also angered at the injustice that he and millions of others had to endure. This biography will leave you with a desire to learn more about this aspect of football’s past.”
The Tribune-Review featured The Color of Sundays with a full-page story and excerpt…
When the Steelers were in the midst of winning four Super Bowls the 1970s, credit was given to the players, coaches and owners. But one of the most important men contributing to the team’s success remained in the background.
According to Andrew Conte, author of “The Color of Sundays: The Secret Strategy That Built the Steelers’ Dynasty” (Blue River Press, $25), scout Bill Nunn Jr. arguably was as essential as Chuck Noll, Joe Greene, Terry Bradshaw and Lynn Swann. Nunn’s ability to find talent at small black schools brought Mel Blount, Donnie Shell, John Stallworth, L.C. Greenwood and Glenn Edwards to the Steelers.
“I think the key factor to them winning their first four Super Bowls was their willingness to go out and try these players nobody else was looking at,” said Conte, a reporter with the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “Just look at the defensive line. … Without Nunn, you get (Joe) Greene but not Greenwood. You don’t get Stallworth in the ’74 draft. You don’t get Donnie Shell. You don’t get Glenn Edwards. You don’t get Sam Davis.”
Read more: http://triblive.com/sports/-topstories/9171892-74/nunn-steelers-conte#ixzz3nazfiLPz
The challenge of writing about history is making the information as accurate as possible — but also relevant to a contemporary audience.
When I first thought about doing this book, I started out by meeting with Samuel Black, the director of African-American Programs at Pittsburgh’s Senator John Heinz History Center. He had put together a detailed exhibit on the Pittsburgh Courier newspaper and that gave me a lot of insight.
It was important to me, then, to get his take on the finished product. I sent Sam an advanced copy of The Color of Sundays, and here’s what he had to say…
“It was a great read because I am a fan of Bill Nunn Jr. … His impact on the Steelers is immense and I am glad you were able to get inside that history and bring it out. This book reveals a man’s journey through 20th Century American sports – highlighting Black College football and the professional ranks as well. His quiet journalism and eye on society helped to integrate much of professional sports and paved the way for open opportunities for players, coaches, and front office staff.”
First sports talk interview: 10:40 a.m., Sunday, on 93.7 The Fan.
My friend Joe Starkey, radio host on 93.7 The Fan and sports columnist (still), received one of the first advance copies of The Color of Sundays. It’s always difficult sending out the book to people I respect. Starkey would be at the top of the list. I mean he still writes because he *wants* to keep writing!
Here’s what Joe had to say…
The great 1970s Pittsburgh Steelers had an edge, and his name was Bill Nunn Jr., who could find football players where others would not look. “The Color of Sundays” tells that remarkable story but also takes us deep into the fascinating, groundbreaking adventures of one of Pittsburgh’s treasured sports figures, from Nunn’s ride to the airport with Roberto Clemente after Game 7 of 1960 World Series to his journeys into the Deep South to find little-known athletes destined to become stars.
Bill Nunn Jr. with four of the six Lombardi trophies he helped the Steelers win.
Few sports figures were closer to the center of the sweeping Civil Rights changes of the 20th Century than Nunn, an iconic Steelers scout who doubled as a do-it-all sportswriter for the groundbreaking Pittsburgh Courier. “The Color of Sundays” masterfully weaves Nunn’s personal story — eschewing a spot with the Harlem Globetrotters to work in newspapers at the start of his career — with the social changes of the times.
What was Roberto Clemente feeling in the moments after the 1960 World Series? How did John Stallworth feel after a failed tryout in front of NFL scouts? And what of Jackie Robinson after an uncharacteristic tirade at Forbes Field? The answers might surprise you. Many things from the life of the great Bill Nunn Jr., a key figure in the rise of a 1970s football dynasty, might surprise you.
I’m grateful Joe took the time to read the book — and that he liked it. Tune in Sunday morning to hear us talk about the Steelers, Nunn and his living legacy.