Saturday, January 9, 2010

Book Review: NOW I CAN DIE IN PEACE by Bill Simmons (ESPN Books, 2005)

It will come as no surprise to any sports fan that the mixing of sports with pop-culture references has become a quick (and, to be honest, rather cheap) way for a commentator to establish "regular guy" credentials with the audience. Simmons, aka "The Sports Guy," takes this trend "several steps beyond," making Dennis Miller's gig on Monday Night Football seem like the return of the business-first Al DeRogatis. Simmons has just come out with a book about the history of basketball that purports to be somewhat Bill James-like in its handling of NBA teams and players. Before getting it from the library, however, I wanted to make sure that I could tolerate Simmons' too-hip-for-words style, so I read this earlier effort, which is subtitled "How ESPN's Sports Guy Found Salvation, with a Little Help from Nomar, Pedro, Shawshank, and the 2004 Red Sox." The phrase "acquired taste" quickly came to mind, but this taped-together, freshly-annotated collection of Simmons' columns on the Red Sox from 1999-2004 was entertaining enough. It helped that I took Linus' advice about reading the Russian names in THE BROTHERS KARAMAZOV and "bleeped right over" Simmons' wonkier references to movies, celebrities, music, etc. I wouldn't recommend that any Yankee fan read this, but, if you like baseball and don't have a dog in this particular AL East fight, you will enjoy Simmons' ramblings.

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