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Now I Can Die in Peace: How The Sports Guy Found Salvation Thanks to the World Champion (Twice!) Red Sox Paperback – March 24, 2009
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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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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The book contains articles written between 1998 and 2006 (in the new paperback), and it covers those Red Sox teams pretty extensively, with a HUGE focus on the 2003-2004 teams. Even so, Simmons occaionally provides the readers with tales from earlier Red Sox seasons (and other Boston sport teams too).
He's not an objective columnist by any standard: he lives and dies with the Red Sox, and it makes his book both personal and entertaining. Through his writing, we get to know his friends, wife and most significantly, his father. He weaves in college anecdotes, family arguments, weddings, drunkalogues, and a myriad of pop-culture references into most of his articles. They fit in and add to his topics.
It's a fun book. A must for any Red Sox fan, and along with "Mind Game", it's the best book about the 2004 Red Sox.
One final note: I'm a Yankee fan.
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.