Boys Will Be Boys
by Jeff Pearlman (HarperCollins, $26)
The championship Dallas Cowboys of the 1990s were “one of the wildest teams in history,” said Mark Bechtel in Sports Illustrated. Anecdotes about hookers, strippers, and cocaine saturate Jeff Pearlman’s raucous and “exhaustively reported” history of the dynasty’s rise and fall. But the author also “digs deeper,” capturing the special talents and dedication that made receiver Michael Irvin, pass rusher Charles Haley, and the rest of coach Jimmy Johnson’s gang of social misfits so formidable on Sunday afternoons.

Giants Among Men
by Jack Cavanaugh (Random House, $26)
The great New York Giants teams of the ’50s and ’60s were a different breed, said David M. Shribman in Reading Jack Cavanaugh’s “crisp chronicle” of the franchise’s pre-color-TV moment in the sun, a fan glimpses an era when gridiron heroes were “men, not boys,” and when New York’s savvy, star-studded squad evinced “both a strong spirit and an estimable esprit.” The names Y.A. Tittle, Sam Huff, and Andy Robustelli still resonate for one reason:  “We have not seen their like again.”

War as They Knew It
by Michael Rosenberg (Grand Central, $27)
Michigan versus Ohio State was much more than a sports rivalry when coaching legends Woody Hayes and Bo Schembechler faced off from 1969 to 1978, said Scott Eyman in the Palm Beach, Fla., Post. Revisiting the “10-year war,” waged at a time when the coaches imagined that their players were “somehow holding back the barbarian hordes of the counterculture just by playing football,” Michael Rosenberg has delivered a layered history “worthy of its tormented subjects, and their tormenting times.”

Playing the Enemy
by John Carlin (Penguin, $25)
It’s romantic thinking to believe that a single rugby game could have healed the wounds of South African apartheid, said Bill Keller in The New York Times. But in 1995, the country’s new president, Nelson Mandela did find a way to capitalize on white Afrikaners’ tribal devotion to rugby and turn the World Cup championship into “a profoundly formative moment” in the young country’s history. British journalist John Carlin creates so much drama in his telling of the story, “you’ll be inclined to grant him his poetic license.”