The Best Boston Sports Arguments: The 100 Most Controversial, Debatable Questions For Die-Hard Boston Fans by Jim Caple and Steve Buckley (Sourcebooks)
Sports fans love lists. Making them, reading them, defending them. Best this, worst that, Top 5 those ... It's in the DNA of most sports fans.
There are two ways to go about writing a book like this: a serious, analytical approach that runs the risk of being dry and boring (quite the opposite of a heated argument) or as a series of short takes written in a breezy, humorous style. Caple and Buckley opt for the latter.
The book (which was sent to me by the publisher) includes debates about the Celtics, Bruins, Patriots, and Boston sports in general. However, since I'm a one-sport guy -- and more than half of the questions involve the Red Sox -- I'll stick to the baseball portion.
While some of the questions are of a very recent vintage -- Is Johnny Damon A Traitor? Did The Red Sox Give Nomar Garciaparra The Bum's Rush? -- most of them involve the standard historical debates: greatest clutch performer, biggest villain, most important season, best pitcher, all-time team, most memorable pitch, greatest game, lowest moment, most bonehead front office decision, etc.
The "answers" to each of the 100 questions are no more than 2-3 pages (and some of the questions are not answered definitively at all). Caple and Buckley write as one voice; space limitations probably prevented them from disagreeing with each other in print.
The book is entertaining -- Did Don Zimmer Have It Coming?, Who's Had A Better Career, Ben Affleck Or Lou Merloni?, Was Freezing Ted Williams All That Crazy? -- but it doesn't offer much actual analysis (or give you much ammo to argue your case).
When asking "Who Was The Best Pitcher In Red Sox History?", Caple and Buckley base their argument almost solely on wins -- a horrible way to gauge a pitcher's importance. They barely mention ERA or the time period in which the various pitchers pitched and how that affected their numbers. In the end, they admit their top choice "may not have been as dominant" as the runner-up.
Caple and Buckley get cheers for Question #45 -- which is presented as a statement: "Why 'The Curse' Is The Biggest Joke In the History Of The Universe". However, they also call the CHB's error-filled book "a must-read" and try to convince us that he's not to blame for the Curse's popularity. When it comes to whether Shaughnessy milked the Curse and pimped his book in his columns and TV appearances for more than a decade, there is no debate.
I liked their choice for the one Boston game they would go back in time to attend (it's a Red Sox game). They also explain what the Red Sox really meant by what became known as "closer by committee", though they fail to mention the Shithead who couldn't figure out this simple theory.
According to Caple and Buckley, Wade Boggs is the 2nd best hitter in Sox history, Carlton Fisk deserves more blame than Ed Armbrister, .406 is more impressive than 56, Dent hurt worse than Boone, the greatest Sox game also included the greatest Sox home run, John Goodman's "Babe" is the 5th best Boston sports movie, and the biggest hit in team history was a bunt single.
Of those seven conclusions, I strongly disagree with at least four of them. Let the arguments continue!
(Sourcebooks has also published similar books for New York and Chicago.)