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Now I Can Die in Peace: How ESPN's Sports Guy Found Salvation, with a Little Help from Nomar, Pedro, Shawshank and the 2004 Paperback – September 5, 2006
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*Starred Review* Thirtysomething Simmons, author of the witty "Sports Guy" column on espn.com, tells of his life as a Red Sox fan in this hilarious, irreverent account. Simmons recalls reading the Boston Globe sports pages before he was in grade school, taking in as much Red Sox lore as he could garner. When he came across a copy of Al Hirschberg's What's the Matter with the Red Sox? in first grade, he didn't want to believe that his beloved team was cursed. But as owners and players made one bonehead move after another, he could only sit back and wallow in the collective suffering. The reversal of the curse began, according to Simmons, with the acquisition of Pedro Martinez, the first sign that the front office was after young players approaching their prime rather than looking back at it. From that fateful day in 1997, Simmons, blending his reprinted columns with new material, tracks the essential moves that brought the Sox to the 2004 World Series and made possible their sweep of the Cardinals in four games. (The last 100 pages or so are a diary of the season's final weeks, the play-offs, and the series). The footnotes, cleverly arranged like sidebars, make for fascinating reading in and of themselves. Whether familiar with "Sports Guy" or not, readers will enjoy this refreshing, funny take on Boston's reversal of fortune. Mary Frances Wilkens
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
"Bill Simmons is the funniest sportswriter of his generation." -- Chuck Klosterman, author of Killing Yourself to Live
"Destination reading for anyone who worships at the twin altars of pop culture and sports." -- Entertainment Weekly
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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.
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!
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.