On Any Given Sunday

A Life of Bert Bell

Bob Lyons
Book Cover

HC: $40.50
EAN: 978-1-59213-731-2
Publication: Nov 09

Ebook: $40.50
EAN: 978-1-59213-733-6
Publication: Nov 09

352 pages
6 x 9
20 halftones

The first biography ever written about the man who some considered the greatest commissioner in the history of professional sports

Read Chapter 1 (pdf).


Bert Bell, a native of Philadelphia, has been called the most powerful executive figure in the history of professional football. He was responsible for helping to transform the game from a circus sideshow into what has become the most popular spectator sport in America. In On Any Given Sunday, the first biography of this important sports figure, historian Robert Lyons recounts the remarkable story of how de Benneville “Bert” Bell rejected the gentility of a high society lifestyle in favor of the tougher gridiron, and rose to become the founder of the Philadelphia Eagles and Commissioner of the National Football League.

Bell, who arguably saved the league from bankruptcy by conceiving the idea for the annual player draft, later made the historic decision to introduce “sudden death” overtime—a move that propelled professional football into the national consciousness. He coined the phrase “on any given sunday” and negotiated the league’s first national TV contract. Lyons also describes in fascinating detail Bell’s relationships with leading figures ranging from such Philadelphia icons as Walter Annenberg and John B. Kelly to national celebrities and U.S. Presidents. He also provides insight into Bell’s colorful personal life—including his hell-raising early years and his secret marriage to Frances Upton, a golden name in show business.

On Any Given Sunday is being published on the 50th anniversary of Bell’s death.

Table of Contents

Foreword by Don Shula
1. The Early Years
2. The Quarterback of the Quakers
3. A War Hero Tastes the French Nightlife
4. Back to Penn as Captain of the Quakers
5. Bert Bell's Coaching Career Begins
6. The Roaring Twenties- Off the Field
7. Frances Upton: One of America's Brightest Stars
8. The Yellow Jackets Become the Eagles
9. The Eagles Struggle under Bell and Wray
10. The Player Draft Comes in 1936
11. Additional Shock Waves from 1936
12. The Struggle to Survive: 1937 to 1939
13. Bert Bell and Art Rooney Get Together
14. Bert Bell Ends Up in Pittsburgh
15. Bracing for World War II
16. The Steagles
17. The Card- Pitts
18. The New Commissioner
19. Mysterious Negotiations with the AAFC
20. A Gambling Scandal Nipped in the Bud
21. Blizzards, Gamblers, and a Rebellious Club Owner
22. A Dispute with Walter Annenberg and a Truce with the AAFC
23. Buffalo, Dominoes, and Television
24. Finally a Home of Their Own
25. The Dream Game Turns into a Shocker
26. Problems with the Federal Government
27. “Listen, Sonny, Just Sign the Contract!”
28. Baltimore Rises from the Ashes
29. More Warfare and the Sermon on the Mount
30. Flare- Ups, Pile- Ups, and a Move to Oust the Commissioner
31. The Commissioner's Working Style
32. At Home in Narberth
33. The NFL Welcomes Bubble Gum Cards and CBS- TV
34. “You Can't Quit Now, Pete Rozelle!”
35. The Players Finally Get a Union
36. The “Hands- On” Commissioner
37. “On Any Given Sunday . . .”
38. “Sudden Death” Finally Arrives
39. Anxiety over the AFC, the Pension Plan, and the Pro Bowl
40. A Poetic Ending at Franklin Field

About the Author(s)

For more than 35 years, Robert S. Lyons has covered professional and college sports for the Associated Press and has contributed articles to numerous national publications. He is the author of Palestra Pandemonium: A History of the Big Five, and co-author (with Ray Didinger) of The Eagles Encyclopedia (both Temple). He is the former director of the La Salle University News Bureau, editor of the university's alumni magazine, and an instructor in the school's Communications Department.