A few months back, you may recall I mentioned winning a copy of Bill Simmons’ The Book of Basketball from CBC Radio 3 through an e-mail contest. Honestly, it was one of those moments of “Har, har, I’m going to send an entry because wouldn’t it be funny if the Yankee fan won a book written by the Yankee hater!” And then I did. Again, many thanks, Vish!
So a funny thing happened: I actually started reading it this summer, mostly because I have a friend who’s a huge fan and I’m constantly teasing him about his manlove for Simmons. I thought it was time to see what the fuss was about. And you know what? I don’t hate it.
Now let me be clear: I’m not finished the book yet. I just can’t devour books the way I used to – I blame the internet, having kids and deciding to take an undergrad degree at the age of 30.
At any rate, here’s my take so far: if you like Simmons’ column on Page 2, you’ll dig the book (now I realize that if you dig his column, you probably already have the book.)
I don’t often enjoy Sports Guy’s columns. I still don’t understand why he has such a problem with the WNBA, I could live without the references to poker and porn, and yes, he desperately hates my Yankees. But he did write a column on baseball stats a while back that – while it made some bloggers cringe – was an honourable effort. And the fact that he’s a Springsteen fan and doting father is admittedly endearing.
So back to The Book. As you can tell from my posts I’m really not a big basketball fan. I keep an eye on what’s going on but honestly, I could count on two hands the number of games I’ve watched since Jordan last played for the Bulls.
And to Simmons’ credit, that’s what makes his book remarkable. I truly enjoyed the journey through his boyhood in the opening pages – a boyhood spent for the most part (literally and spiritually) at Boston Gardens with his dad. It seemed to transcend discussing the sport and entered some rather touching emotional territory, but without coming off as sappy or trite.
I’ve also enjoyed the trips through history, through a time before either one of us would have been born. That would be his breakdown of Russell vs. Chamberlain: Who Was Better. You’ll have to read that for yourself. Trust me, it was an impressive argument.
Mind you, I get irritated now and again (Yeah, Bill, we get it. You like poker and boobies. That said, I’m sure if I wrote a book about baseball, he’d be all “Yeah, we get it. You like Jeter and forearms and knitting!”) I don’t quite get the fascination with trashing Kareem. And then there’s the footnotes. Sometimes entertaining, but sometimes it’s like OMG, COULD YOU ADD ANY MORE FOOTNOTES?! I CAN’T BELIEVE GLADWELL THINKS YOU’RE A GENIUS AT THESE!!
But overall, it’s an entertaining read so far. I may not always agree with his opinions, but Simmons can engage an audience. He’s managed to hook this extremely minor basketball fan into reading his gospel on the sport, and that’s worth noting. It’s a good summer/off-season read.
So what did you think of Simmons’ “Book of Basketball”? Brilliant? Ick? What are you reading this summer anyway? Please don’t say “Breaking Dawn”.