36 of 39 people found the following review helpful
Following the 2004 season, The Sports Guy wrote the best of the many books about the Red Sox championship run. In preparation for opening day of 2009, he has revised it to include 100 pages of updated columns.
Simmons starts the new section with an analysis of how Sox fans confronted a new and uncursed existence. He asks "What happens when your identity gets stripped away, when you get the chance to start from scratch?" He follows this with: a comparison of Larry Bird and Big Papi, coverage of the Dice-K acquisition, the 2007 championship, the Rocket and the Roids, a defense of Manny being Manny and the 2008 loss to the Rays. Through it all, Simmons writing is more about what it is to be a fan than it is about the team or the game.
If you strip away the occassionally on target pop culture references and the more accurately directed humor, this book is the story of the love affair of Simmons, his family and his city for a team. (Part of that sentence is stolen from Ken Coleman's 1967 Impossible Dream narration.) The Sports Guy proudly wears his passion on his sleeve: "I think like a fan, write like a fan and try like hell to keep it that way." It is a lifelong relationship: "You love sports most when you are 16, then you love it a little less every year."
Reading these columns, another diehard instinctively feels an affinity for Simmons and appreciates his commitment, knowledge and intermittant suffering. This is made easier because the author often recognizes when he has stepped across the line that separates the healthfully obsessed from the not quite well (One of his footnotes points out, "This paragraph made me sound like an a**hole.") He doesn't always know when he is wandering on the borderline of the geek but that lack of concern and authenticity is part of his charm. He is, above all else, one of us.
In The Natural, Robert Redford's Roy Hobbs character asks the sportswriter played by Robert Duvall if he ever played the game. The answer: "No. But I made it more fun to watch." So does Simmons. (This is my attempt at pop culture relevance.) In the 70s and 80s, I didn't consider a Sox season over until I had read what Roger Angell and Peter Gammons wrote about it. That mantle has passed to Simmons. And, apparently, he is not going to disappoint. His plan is to "re-release this book with more chapters every few years, kinda like what God did with the bible."
Keep releasing them. We'll keep reading.
54 of 61 people found the following review helpful
on October 24, 2005
I've read Bill Simmons' ESPN.com columns since they began in 2001. His ability to combine sports with pop culture references made him a unique writer and one who can be wildly fun to read as you never knew what he could come up with. One column may be a running diary of his fantasy league basketball draft while another may deal with using "The Godfather" quotes to summarize the baseball season.
Bill's new book contains columns that he wrote for ESPN.com as well as those written before that time dealing with his obsession with the Boston Red Sox and their attempt to win their first World Series since 1918. If you started reading Simmons on ESPN.com, you'll get about 100 or so pages of columns you've never read before (written prior to mid-2001). The remaining 250 pages will probably seem familiar to you as they all appeared on ESPN.com, but Bill has added footnotes along the edges with additional obsevations, witty comments and thoughts on how he feels about what he wrote at this point in time. He also has appeared to rework his columns, with the most notable change being that he has added considerable profanity to his ESPN.com columns (which was not there when originally published). I thought that was an interesting twist to his reworking of the material.
The ups and downs of the Red Sox, with the gut-wrenching loss in Game 7 of the ALCS against the Yankees in 2003 chronicled as well as the joy he experienced from his team finally winning it all in 2004. He covers all the emotions well. When his 2004 season columns were originally written, I was genuinely happy for him and the other Red Sox fans, as they had gone through a lot over the years.
I don't think Bill is quite as good of a writer as he was 3 or 4 years ago (when, as he would put it, he was throwing in the mid-90s), but this book does a pretty good case of showcasing his talent on a subject that he is passionate about. I still think it is worth the purchase even if you've read the original columns.
I hope Bill puts another collection together of his columns someday. I just hope it doesn't deal with the Patriots!
39 of 47 people found the following review helpful
on September 16, 2005
By compiling five years worth of past articles written for ESPN's Page Two, Bill Simmons manages to write, re-write, comment upon, criticize, and yes-even argue with his infamous Sports Guy musings while telling the story of how the Red Sox finally won the World Series. This is no lazy rehash of old columns. His ingenious use of footnotes (there are at least 2 million or so per page) adds layers of "back story" to the plot. If you are a dedicated Sports Guy reader, you can skip re-reading all those columns again and go straight to the footnotes for his skewed hindsight and hilarious ramblings on serial killers, mullet haircuts, Hoover Dam ,and of course, the Yankees. If you've never read Simmons before, this book is a perfect introduction to the Sports Guy.
Rather than being the typical sports retrospective play-by-play of the 2004 World Series, Simmons manages to tell a very personal and very funny story about becoming and staying a true believer. Sure, sure-we all know the ending of this story-the Sox finally win. In Simmons' hands, the ending is hardly the point. Rather, it's the five-year ride he takes us on, with stops in Hollywood, Fenway, matrimony, and even fatherhood. It makes no difference if you love the Sox, hate the Yankees, or even care about sports. Read this book if you enjoy sharp, opinionated, fast moving, and funny writing.
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on October 13, 2005
Reading the Sports Guy has always been a mixed experience for me. There are times when he makes me laugh out loud, but for every guffaw, there's an equal feeling that I've just spent five or so minutes of my life that I'll never get back. This book helped me understand why I have these feelings.
The pluses: There are some laugh out loud funny moments. And I enjoyed reading the earlier columns from the pre-ESPN days.
The minuses: 1. the 500 marginal "footnotes." They're not superfluous; in fact, as the book progresses, they're more readable than the original text itself. But the way they're placed along the page margins is very distracting; and more than that, as I continued reading, I concluded that they were an extremely lazy way of putting these columns into context. It's as though Simmons couldn't have been bothered to write short essays introducing each section, where he could have made these marginal thoughts into something special, because it would have required some real reflection and construction in his writing. Which brings me to...
2. Reading The Sports Guy in a concentrated dose in print instead of online two or three times a week is a very different experience, and what works as you're reading online over morning coffee doesn't carry over as well in print. Simmons's writing style can best be described as, "let me just throw everything up against the wall, and if some of it sticks, OK, and if none of it does, that's OK, too." The book made me realize just how much I've skimmed through the online columns.
And I agree with a previous reviewer: the typos, as well as factual errors make we wonder if anyone read galley proofs, or if everything was just downloaded as is.
And Simmons should re-read his own footnote 426 and take his own advice where his copious TV and movie references are concerned. If he is serious about being a good writer rather a purveyor of cheap yuks, he'll take his own advice.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on October 25, 2005
I've read the Sports Guy for five years and was lukewarm about the subject of this book. I basically wanted an encyclopedia of his old work or entirely new observations done in his typical style. I pretty much knew where he stood with the BoSox. Ultimately, I bought it because I wanted a first edition when it quickly went to second edition. I am glad I did for reasons completely unrelated to getting a collector's edition of an instant sports/pop-culture classic.
I truly can't put it down. (sorry, it's true).
It's like reading his column for hours. Fun footnotes on the side of the pages are basically like a running diary of him narrating the columns and giving you funny and enlightening asides.
I am unhealthily addicted to reading it (just ask my wife). I'm telling you, it's like intellectual crack. Buy it if you like the Sports Guy. Buy it if you like to sit down with your buddies and crack jokes and watch sports. Buy it if you just appreciate a fresh writing style unencumbered by the need to be "literary" in the hoity-toity sense.
21 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on November 16, 2005
I first discovered Bill Simmons from [...] "Page 2" site during the afterglow of the 2004 World Series and became an immediate fan if only because he seemed to share some of the better traits of English writer, sports fan, and pop culture junkie Nick Hornby and also seemed to be without a doubt the closest thing to a "soul mate" I could expect to find in a sportswriter. Not in terms of amorous or emotional desire/attachment, I mean...but this guy seemed to be writing the thoughts that existed in my own head regarding...well, pretty much everything (or at least all things sports-related) and putting those thoughts down in writing EXACTLY as I would do it myself.
Anyway, "Now I Can Die In Peace" is essentially a "Best Of..." collection of columns that Simmons himself compiled in the five years leading up to (and shortly following) the 2004 World Series won by (do I really need to say that at this point?), detailing his own devotion to his boyhood team, examining how it has affected him, his family, and indeed an entire fanbase. This is not done in a cynical fashion (as with Dan Shaughnessy's "Curse Of The Bambino" efforts) or with any degree of schmaltz (the Farrelly Bros. re-make of "Fever Pitch" immediately comes to mind), but in an openly contemplative prose where he at times reaffirms his devotion in one column while questioning it in another (specifically questioning whether raising a child as a Red Sox fan is something that should be done to ANYONE, let alone a child of his own). Simmons is also repeatedly defensive over the impressions of Red Sox Nation to the nation as a whole; he refutes the cynical notion that Red Sox fans wouldn't know what to do with themselves if the Sox ever won it all, that somehow their lives would literally lose all meaning were it to actually occur. He insists that no one ever set about to back in the "glory" of 85 years of romance with the tragedy that was the Red Sox between 1918 and 2004, that all they ever wanted was to be fans of "just another team" that people couldn't mock and deride with chants of World War I-era years. They don't need to win EVERY World Series (Yankees fans); just one (Braves fans) will do, thank you...preferably during the lifetimes of the writer and his father.
And of course Simmons is nothing if not witty. Sure, he has points to bring across, and they are valid points, but without his sense of timing and delivery (yes, I know this is a book, but trust me, it carries over into print) he wouldn't be near the entertaining writer that he actually is. I also appreciated how he included the column he wrote after the New England Patriots win in Super Bowl XXXVI (still my favorite piece he's ever done) as well, as if to say to the Red Sox "SEE?! It CAN be done!"), but he probably missed an opportunity when, after New England's second (or third?) Super Bowl win he was called oout (by a Yankees fan, if I remember correctly) for having an increased sense of self-importance derived from the performance of his sports team (the Pats) when he had previously accused Yankees fans of the exact same thing (which of course is true).
Still, if you're a casual fan of Simmons' writing and want a convenient archive of some of his best work (including footnotes spread throughout each column -the literary equivalent of a DVD "director's commentary track", per Simmons himself- that are every bit as entertaining as the columns themselves), this is a terrific book to buy. If you're as big a fan as I am there's no question that it needs a place on your shelf, right beside "True Believers" by Joe Queenan.
24 of 32 people found the following review helpful
on October 6, 2005
I'm not a fan of the Red Sox, rather, I'm a fan of the Sports Guy & baseball in general. I read Simmons' online columns regularly, & therefore was looking forward to this book. I have to say I was disappointed -- I enjoy his writing style & sense of humor, but this book seemed all to familiar to regular readers of his columns. Therefore I'd say this book is worth a read for diehard Red Sox fans and/or those who don't regularly read Simmons online....otherwise, skip it!
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on August 28, 2006
As a religious reader of Simmons' stuff online, I was sketpical about buying this book. The extensive footnotes, however, which contain added jokes, exponential material and goofy asides made it more than worthwhile. The fun of this collection wasn't so much in reading the articles again, but in learning what the author thought about them as time passed.
10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on January 24, 2006
The criticisms of this book seem to be fairly predictable: people either don't like Simmons' writing or they feel ripped off that the book is mostly old columns. I advise anyone considering this book to understand what it is all about before they spend their money and complain despite their own lack of research.
Simmons writes from a fan perspective, which some readers don't get. His opinion vascillates on some topics, he dislikes some teams or people for no good reason, and he often goes for humor and passion as opposed to in-depth analysis. As sports fans, we all act the same way, and shouldn't expect consistent Pulitzer material from a fan perspective. His writing is meant to be entertaining, not earth-shatteringly intellectual. If you're looking for a sports book to read for entertainment, buy this book. If you're looking for volumes of dry sports analysis from some pretentious Ph.D d-bag, look elsewhere.
Because it is a collection of columns over several years, Simmons sometimes inadvertantly repeats jokes or certain themes way too much, which can get a little tedious. Being able to examine the evolution of his Red Sox columns through these years is thoroughly enjoyable, though, and the footnotes added after the fact offer fun insights as he cringes at his own writing or looks back on statements in hindsight.
Bottom line: If you like Simmons' fan-perspective writing and understand that this book is mostly old columns, you'll probably enjoy it. Being a Red Sox fan is not a prerequisite (Go Pirates!). If you do not understand what this book is all about, however, you may find yourself disappointed that you didn't spend that 25 bucks on the Kenny G boxset, you sissy. :)
0 out of 113 Kenny G fans will find this review helpful.
34 of 47 people found the following review helpful
on October 4, 2005
If you regularly read the Sports Guy's column's on [...] then DO NOT buy this book!! If you read his columuns then you have already read 75% of the book for free and the rest is mostly his early work from his first website, which is not as good as his current stuff. To be truthful, I am very disappointed. I anxiously anticipate new columns from the Sports Guy every week and will continue to read those, but this book is geared more towards people who have not followed his writing. The only reason for a Sports Guy fan to buy this book would be to make sure he has the opportunity to write another so maybe next time he will put together some ORIGINAL thoughts that are worth spending your money to read. The Sports Guy is a great writer, but as strange as it is to say, fans should avoid it.