Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category
The complete title of this New York Times Bestseller is “Now I Can Die In Peace – How ESPN’s Sports Guy Found Salvation, With a Little Help From Nomar, Pedro, Shawshank and the 2004 Red Sox”. It was written by Bill Simmons and was published in 2005.
The inside back jacket cover contains the following bio of the author:
- “Bill Simmons writes the popular Sports Guy column for ESPN.com’s Page 2 and ‘ESPN The Magazine’. A former sports reporter for the ‘Boston Herald’, he founded the award-winning bostonsportsguy.com website in 1997 and was a writer for ‘Jimmy Kimmel Live’. He commutes between his home in Los Angeles and Fenway Park.”
“Now I Can Die In Peace” consists of Sports Guy columns which Mr. Simmons wrote between October 1998 and April 2005. Additionally, updates, which occurred to him upon rereading those columns, are included in the margins and form a running commentary on his writing and on Red Sox History.
The page layout consisting of text in the middle with running commentary in the margins looks hard to read, but it works out OK.
While reading this book I came to the realization that there are many similarities between the histories of the Boston Red Sox and of the Chicago Cubs – between Cubs Nation and Red Sox Nation – similarities of which I was not aware. I’m amazed at how similar Bill Simmons’ thoughts about his Red Sox, and my thoughts about my Cubs, are turning out to be.
That is the most striking aspect of this compilation of columns: change a name here and a date there and this book could very well be about the Cubs. In fact, as I was reading “Now I Can Die In Peace”, it WAS about the Cubs. My brain automatically transposed names, places and dates, and I found myself reading about my experiences being a Cubs fan.
As the bumper sticker might say: Same Stuff – Different Names.
One writing technique which Mr. Simmons employs – he very effectively weaves pop culture references into his storytelling. Those references include “The Shawshank Redemption”, “The Godfather” movies, “Rocky IV”, “Karate Kid”, etc.
Here are a few of my favorite quotes from the book:
- “…if there was a God, the Red Sox would have won a World Series by now.”
- “Finally, the home plate ump raised his hands and started waving everyone off the field, like Bruce Willis waving the ‘Die Hard’ hostages off the top of the Nakatomi Building.”
- “I feel like I’m getting a great break on a used car.”
- “There is no such thing as a great break on a used car.”
- “The lesson, as always: Don’t get married.”
- “Through the past seven decades, through all the heartache, we’ve only seen two constants with the Red Sox – the ownership and the ballpark – and both have needed to go for years.”
- “Give me a crazy-competent owner over a cheap-quiet-incompetent owner any time.”
- “Just because they support a superior baseball team doesn’t mean they’re superior. Keep telling yourself this.”
- “We spend 10 minutes trying to remember if anyone won the World Series with an incompetent manager, finally taking solace that it happened with Arizona and Bob Brenly just two years ago.”
- “Lemme ask you – why does MLB ban HGH and steroids, but allow cadaver surgeries for blown-out elbow tendons that give pitchers stronger and more durable arms? What’s the difference?”
- “…you only have so many chances to win a championship, so you do what you have to do. It’s that simple.”
- “That’s the thing about baggage as a sports fan – you can shed this stuff. You just need a few breaks.”
- “First of all, it was released in 1986 – the same year the Pats lost in the Super Bowl…”
(I really enjoyed reading this quote.)
- “Q: What do you call 25 guys watching the World Series? A: The Yankees.”
I truly enjoyed reading this book. A lot more than I expected to.
Anyone interested in experiencing what it’s like to be a CUBS fan, should read “Now I Can Die In Peace”, by Bill Simmons.
The full title is “Christmas is Good! – Trixie’s Guide to a Happy Holiday”. It is written by Trixie Koontz, DOG, and edited by Dean Koontz.
The book features photographs by Monique Stauder and illustrations by Janet Cleland, and both the photographs and the illustrations are great! I should point out that, as this is a Christmas book, photographs feature Trixie with red bows in her hair (just above her ears).
The Koontz website (DeanKoontz.com) describes this book as “an irresistible stocking stuffer full of furry tidbits to maximize your yuletide fun.”
Here is a quote from the dedication page:
- “Trixie, a former service dog for people with disabilities, retired at three with an elbow problem, and came to live with the Koontz family. She is donating all author royalties from this book to Canine Companions for Independence, the wonderful organization that originally raised and trained her.”
Trixie’s Holiday Wish List is included, and it comprises 37 items.
Here is one of my favorite quotes from Trixie’s Guide to a Happy Holiday:
- “Christmas is not about getting. Is about giving. So give me sausages!”
Trixie’s favorite Christmas movie is “Die Hard”.
A recipe for “Trixie’s Special Christmas Gift Dog Treats” (aka “Peanut Butter Training Bites”) is included at no extra charge.
I recommend this “Big Little Book of Holiday Fun” as a stocking stuffer “for Dogs and Their People”.
The book is titled: “A Christmas Blizzard – A Novel”. It’s the latest effort by Garrison Keillor.
First let me tell you this little book is a gem. And it is a “little” book.
It must be a very popular book. I had a hard time finding it. When I finally came across it, I could only check it out for 2 weeks, with no renewals.
Also, the little tab on the book’s spine, the ones which sometimes say “mystery” or “suspense” or “new book”? This one says “HOT” in red and yellow letters!
So what is this book about? Well, it’s not about Lake Wobegon.
I hope I’m not giving away too much when I tell you the book opens with a husband and wife living in Chicago. How’s that for local interest?
Turns out the wife is originally from Wauwatosa (aka “Tosa”), Wisconsin, adding even more local interest.
Again, I hope I’m not giving too much away when I tell you the story occurs around Christmastime. And includes a place called, roughly, “papa-oooh-mau-mau”.
I really cannot tell you any more about it, but I will include this one quote:
- “That’s the whole problem with marriage. Trying to maintain your course and not get sucked into the gravitational field of someone else.”
“A Christmas Blizzard” is 180 pages of Garrison Keillor hitting nails on the head. I enjoyed reading it and I recommend it very highly.
I want to preface this post by saying that this is not a post that is in any way sponsored by ACTA Sports. The reason this post is up is because I believe in their products. I’ve been a reader of their publications for as long as this blog has been in existence and I can honestly say that I don’t think I’ve had a clunker come through my door yet.
This holiday season they have three books available for purchase and all three are well worth the money.
The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2011
This is probably my favorite of all the regular books they publish. It’s a collaborative effort of the writers over at The Hardball Times and not only recaps the season, but has a host of commentary and articles on all things baseball. I’ve been working my way through the 314 page monster so far since receiving it, but so far there are a number of great topics in this year’s annual. Just to give you a taste, here are some that I really enjoyed or excite me to read.
- The Year in Frivolity – by Craig Calcaterra
- The Booms and Busts of 2010 – by David Golebiewski
- The Business of Baseball – by Brian Borawski
- How to Handle a Pitcher – by Craig Wright
- Everything is About to Change – by Rob Neyer
- The Best and Worst Benches of All Time – by Chris Jaffe
- Do Catchers have an ERA? – by Sean Smith
That is just a small snippet of all the nuggets this book has to offer. I highly recommend picking this one up. It’s a perfect read on the toilet. (Purchase the book from Acta Sports)
The Graphical Player 2011
I’ll be honest with you. I’m going to warn you in advance so you have no excuse. If you hate the graphs we posted in the game recaps this season, this book is probably not for you. If you’re a fantasy / rotisserie baseball player, this book IS for you. It has dollar values as well as player comparisons and various graphs on all the players you’d be looking at for 2011 including 10 year treads to help you evaluate what a player’s career path is. (Purchase the book from Acta Sports)
The Bill James Handbook 2011
Every year when this one arrives in the mail I immediately open it up and show it to Mrs VFTB. Every year she rolls her eyes and asks who in their right mind would want a book loaded with stats. Every year I answer the exact same way. “ME!!!!!” This has stats stats and more stats. Acording to the Acta site the other features include:
- Exclusive! Fielding Bible Awards
- New! Bill James’ Hall of Fame Monitor
- New! Plus/Minus and Runs Saved fielding data for every player
- Updated! Park Indices (including Target Field)
- Relief Pitching Analysis
- Manufactured Runs Analysis
- Career data for every 2010 major leaguer
- Instant Replay History
- Pinch Hitting Analysis
- Pitcher/Hitter Projections
- Player Win Shares
This is an overwhelming one if you’re not looking for stats, but it’s a great resource to keep with you for reference if you’re away from the computer. (Purchase the book from Acta Sports)
The complete title of this book is “Bigger Than The Game – Bo, Boz, The Punky QB, And How The ‘80s Created The Modern Athlete”. It was written by Michael Weinreb, and was published in August 2010.
I must say, the biggest reason I picked up this book, was because there’s a photo of the Punky QB on the cover, and, being a lifelong Bears fan, I was curious.
There is a testimonial for this book on the back cover. It is accurate. Here it is:
- “There was a time when sports were mostly legend; today, they’re mostly marketing opportunities. Michael Weinreb has figured out when that evolution happened and how that transformation worked. Deeply researched and kinetically narrative, “Bigger Than The Game” is technically about the year 1986, but it’s actually about the jarring recognition of a new reality we can’t escape.” Chuck Klosterman
Let me add that although most of the action takes place in the middle 1980s, the preambles began earlier, and the ramifications continue to this day.
The inside front jacket cover tells us: “A mesmerizing look at the era when athletes became superstars, mavericks replaced heroes, and sports moved to the forefront of American culture.”
The inside back jacket cover states: “…’Bigger Than The Game’ recounts how excess, media, and the lust for fame changed American sports forever.”
Author Michael Weinreb has been a regular contributor to “The New York Times”, “Newsday”, and ESPN.com. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.
The title and the photos on the front cover of the book suggest that “Bigger Than The Game” is about Bo Jackson, Brian Bosworth & Jim McMahon. While those three constitute a large part of the narrative, Michael Jordan, Len Bias, Ronald Reagan, Barry Switzer, Mike Ditka, the 1985 Bears & The Super Bowl Shuffle, Chris Berman & ESPN, Jimmy Johnson and the Miami Hurricanes, Joe Paterno and the Penn State Nittany Lions, Nike, and others also are presented.
In a discussion about the use of drugs by athletes, the following observation is included:
- “’Early in use, all of the positive things about cocaine are true,’ one researcher told The New York Times. ‘As use continues, all the negative things become true’.”
Wow! That description applies to a lot of things.
I learned quite a bit about Jim McMahon’s background, including: where he came from; why he went to BYU; how he enjoyed life among the Mormons; the 1985 Super Bowl Bears; and the Super Bowl Shuffle. On the subject of McMahon’s recruitment to Brigham Young University, Jim’s father is quoted as telling a lead BYU recruiter: “My son’s going to school to play football. I don’t want him to take all those religion classes.”
In discussing the phenomenon of the Super Bowl itself, the author observes that “…the game was becoming less about the game and more about the show surrounding the game”.
Weinreb researched the origins of the Nike Company’s affiliations with athletes, and states that Nike was: “…on the verge of becoming a ‘brand’, of discovering that the real work, as author Naomi Klein wrote, ‘lay not in manufacturing but in marketing’.”
Here are some of my favorite quotes from the book:
- “Let us tell those who fought that war that we will never again ask young men to fight and possibly die in a war that our government is afraid to let them win.”
- “The American ideal is not just winning; it’s going as far as you can go…”
- “This was a new breed of college football team, an NFL developmental squad disguised as amateurs.”
- “McMahon doesn’t watch much football anymore. He finds the precision and repetition and the careful and conservative marketing of the modern quarterback to be dull and robotic; even the controversies seem contrived, the celebrations lifelessly choreographed.”
- “…he merely responded by saying that he’d never had to use the word ‘job’ in his entire post-NFL career.”
I enjoyed reading “Bigger Than The Game”. It’s apparent that I knew very little about the perfect storm involving athletes, sports & marketing which exploded in the 1980s. There is enough background information here to hold the interest of any sports fan.
The complete title of this book is “Mike And Mike’s Rules For Sports And Life”. It was written by Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic, with Andrew Chaikivsky, and was published in 2010.
The back cover contains the following testimonial, attributed to Publishers Weekly: “Resembles ‘Seinfeld’, with its lightly humorous yet serious renditions of everyday minutiae.” I’d agree with that assessment.
The inside front jacket cover lists a number of “rules for sports and life”, and the last one is the one I agree with most: “No more designated hitter!”
I opened the book and said to myself: “I haven’t seen typeface like this since Dennis Rodman was writing books”.
The following information comes from the “About The Authors” page at the back of the book:
- “Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic are co-hosts of ‘Mike and Mike in the Morning’ on ESPN Radio and ESPN2”.
- “A graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, Mike Greenberg is also an anchor on ESPN’s ‘SportsCenter’ and was host of the ABC-TV game show ‘Duel’. His first book, the ‘New York Times’ bestseller ‘Why My Wife Thinks I’m an Idiot’, was nominated for a Quill Award as one of the best sports books of 2006. He is married with two children.
- “Captain of the 1984 Notre Dame football team, Mike Golic played defensive tackle for nine seasons in the NFL. While playing for the Philadelphia Eagles, he began his television career with a weekly feature, ‘Golic’s Got It’, on ‘The Randall Cunningham Show’, for which he was awarded a Mid-Atlantic Emmy. He joined ESPN in 1995 and continues to serve as an analyst for the network’s NFL programming. Married with three children, Golic lives with his family in Connecticut.”
- “Andrew Chaikivsky is a contributing editor to ‘Esquire’ magazine. He lives in New York with his wife, Liz.”
Here are a few of my favorite quotes from the book:
- “The rest of us, just like Mike and Mike, lay down the law, pound the table, and hurl statistics like harmless hand grenades. Like the Mikes, we are often in error but never in doubt.”
- “Mark Twain said that the first thing you should do every morning is swallow a live frog, so you will know that the worst part of your day is over.”
- “When you live on the road, you can count on this: every day, you’re somewhere else, but it almost always looks the same.”
- “…well, that’s all you can ask first thing in the morning after a long night somewhere else…”
- “As long as there’s mornings, I hope Mike and Mike will be on the air. It’s a reason to get going when all you wanna do is turn over and sleep off the night before.”
- “Go with the one who loves you last.”
- “Rule 2.39 – Athletes with multimillion dollar contracts who complain about getting disrespected don’t deserve your respect.”
- “Character is what you do when no one is watching.”
- “No matter how much of a loser anyone tells you that you are, if you offer to buy people things, they will like you.”
- “You laugh. You cry. It’s all part of life. And if you turn off your emotions completely, you’ve got no reason to live.”
- “I like fall the best. I’m a big fall guy…..When it’s warm and then all of a sudden it starts getting cool, and you have to put on a long-sleeve shirt, or maybe a sweater, I just love that.”
- “If you can walk, you can play.”
- “Can I buy you a beer?”
- “I gotta dog. Named him Mike.”
- “Six words are four too many.”
- “Everybody looks like somebody else.”
- “Rule 5.23: If you’re in charge of people you normally aren’t in charge of, don’t act like you’re in charge of them.”
There’s a photo on p.181 of these guys throwing out the 1st pitch at Wrigley (on June 26, 2008) and they didn’t even wear Cubs jerseys? Gotta question their judgment.
On the other hand, Mike and Mike both married girls from the Chicago area. Smart move on each of their parts.
On page 207 Greeny reviews 2 books I never heard of, by two authors I never heard of.
Although I had heard of the “Mike and Mike” show on ESPN radio before I picked up this book, I had never become a regular listener to the show. After reading the book, I asked myself “Why?”. They seem like nice enough guys, fun and entertaining and all. So why have I not become a regular listener?
I did some research and figured out why. Their show is broadcast early in the morning. I make it a point of honor to be sound asleep at that time of day.
I enjoyed reading this book. It is fun and entertaining. If I’m ever awake in the wee hours of the morning, I’ll tune in to their ESPN show.
The complete title of this book is “Don’t Vote – It Just Encourages The Bastards”. The author is P.J. O’Rourke. It was published in 2010.
I have read a number of previous books by P.J. O’Rourke, and I’ve enjoyed them. So when I saw this one, picking it up off the “New Books” shelf was a “no brainer”.
Here is P.J.’s bio, from the inside back jacket cover: “P.J. O’Rourke is the author of thirteen books, including ‘Parliament of Whores’ and ‘Give War A Chance’, both of which were #1 New York Times best sellers. His most recent book is ‘Driving Like Crazy’.”
Mr. O’Rourke is a conservative with a sense of humor. I enjoy his writing and his sensibilities. Some of his references are very deep, very dry, very obscure, and very over my head. But overall, I enjoyed reading this book.
There is vulgar language in this book. The author apologizes, saying that politics is a vulgar subject.
Some of the topics the author delves into include: Happiness (and the pursuit thereof), Economic Freedom, Political Systems, More Freedom, Morality (in Politics), Taxes, The Bailout, Health Care Reform, Climate Change, The End of the Automobile Industry, The Trade Imbalance, Campaign Finance Reform, Terrorism, Foreign Policy, Piracy, and others. P. J. O’Rourke actually makes those topics interesting and fun.
I was very disappointed to read that P.J. O’Rourke was once one of those troublemakers who ride around in cars and bash mailboxes with baseball bats. He’s lucky to have survived.
Here are a few of my favorite quotes from the book:
- “We don’t vote to elect great persons to office. They’re not that great. We vote to throw the bastards out.”
- “‘Fat Cat’ would be the wrong epithet for Trump. If someone other than paroled former Enron accountants were keeping his books, he’d probably be shown to have a net worth less than that of your twenty-pound tabby who just shredded the drapes.”
- “At the end of 2008 and the beginning of 2009 America conducted an economic intervention that kept businesses that were staggering around, intoxicated by overtrading, and blinded by MBA moonshine from falling down the manhole of liquidation.”
- “It’s over. The social class known as assholes won.”
- “And when does life begin, legally? Right-to-life activists claim they know. But what if the soul is in the egg and we have to arrest every ovulating woman who failed to get laid? What if it’s in the sperm, and every adolescent boy has to be tried on a hundred million counts of manslaughter?”
- “Much of what happens in the American health care industry would – in any other business – be called shoplifting.”
- “’…a third of Medicare spending goes to patients with chronic illness in their last two years of life.’ Of course it does, that’s when they’re sick.”
- “Four things greater than all things are, –
Women and Horses and Power and War.”
- “A hundred years ago when foreign aid was unthought of (except as tribute or bribe) we were a respected and admired country. After a century of philanthropy everyone hates our guts.”
- “In a moment of childish innocence I once asked her what the difference was between Republicans and Democrats. She said, ‘Democrats rent’.”
- “And truthfully, all causes are boring.”
- “The aftermath of the 1991 Gulf War still makes me sick. Fine to save the fat, greedy Kuwaitis and the arrogant, grasping House of Saud, but to hell with the Shi’ites and Kurds of Iraq until they get some oil.”
I enjoyed reading “Don’t Vote, It Just Encourages The Bastards”, as I have enjoyed reading all of P.J.’s books. I recommend it, particularly to those who are willing to read about politics.
The complete title of this book is “Got Fight? – The 50 Zen Principles of Hand-to-Face Combat”. The author is Forrest Griffin (with Erich Krauss). It was published in 2009.
This is a book about fighting and Mixed Martial Arts, but it’s fun and interesting. Because Forrest Griffin is fun and interesting.
Just so you know, Forrest Griffin is one of the top-ranked light-heavyweight mixed martial artists in the world.
There are a few testimonials on the back cover. The last one is the best one:
- “Forrest Griffin has written a masterpiece. Not since Hemingway has an author stimulated and tantalized the readers’ senses through such delicate and colorful prose. This book is destined to become one of the greats, an international bestseller for centuries to come. We should all remove our hats and bow to the genius of this thought-provoking work. Bravo, Griffin. Bravo.”
That testimonial was written by Forrest Griffin.
The book is dedicated to 13 entities, first of which is “To my stepfather, Clifford Abramson, for teaching me how to be a man.” It was his stepfather who told Forrest: “Beer is an acquired taste, so you might as well acquire a taste for cheap beer.”
As I said, the title of this book is “Got Fight?”, but Forrest came up with a few alternate titles on his own:
- Who Moved My Nose?
- Fist Meets Face
- Death Is a Journey and My Bags Are Packed – The Forrest Griffin Story
- Punch Drunk
- Face Full of Scars
- A Few Scars More (for the sequel)
Mr. Griffin discussed the importance, to a fighter, of getting the right manager: “By nature, managers tend to be sleazy people. A good manager is still sleazy, he just isn’t sleazy to you.”
Mr. Griffin went to college, and I believe he actually graduated. He was also a police officer at one time.
Forrest has a theory about the difference between those who call themselves “Martial Artists” and those who call themselves “fighters”. His theory is right on the money, although, as he himself points out, it is not universally applicable.
On the subject of cheating, Forrest opines: “I would rather be known as a cheater than a loser.”
Forrest discusses his relationship with fear: “…street fighting isn’t that big of a deal, so there is no reason to let your fear hinder you going out to the bars with your old lady. If you get whomped on, so what. A black eye will disappear and a broken nose can be mended. Fear is a good thing because it keeps you alive, but if it becomes so great that it hinders you from doing what you want, you need to confront it head-on.”
Here are a few of my favorite quotes from the book:
- “Right then I realized that I had been a nice guy, and nice guys have no business being in the ring.”
- “Most intelligent stockbrokers will tell us that the past is not a good indicator of the future, but it’s the best indicator we’ve got.”
- “If you ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying.”
- “Everywhere you go, you have to tell them that they have the prettiest women on the planet.”
- “If you decide to fight, do so hard and fast and without mercy.”
As I said at the beginning, this book was fun and interesting, and I enjoyed reading it. Forrest Griffin has a great sense of humor (or maybe he’s just taken too many head shots), and this is an entertaining book. I recommend it to anyone, not just fighters and wannabe fighters.