February 18, 2007

I'd Like To Have An Argument Please

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.)

18 comments:

L-girl said...

"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."

CHB is their colleague, after all. If you're going to call b/s on his one claim to fame, you have to hold him blameless, or at least pay lip service to the idea.

Just calling it "the biggest joke in the..." and not asking a question about it says it all.

Nice review, thanks.

redsock said...

Better to not mention the C word at all, then.

(I'll admit it took on a life of its own beyond the book, but the CHB referred to it as much as anybody. It's not a diss to state that fact. At times, his columns were little more than book commercials.)

Jere said...

I would say Yankee fans and media were the ones who really made the fake curse take off. Then again, I've always lived in the NY area and mainly read and heard only NY news until fairly recently.

Jere said...

Also, back in 2004, Mad Dog Russo couldn't stop talking about his book, which was about the 100 greatest sports arguments. I just looked that one up, and the cover looks just like these city-specific ones, but is from a different publisher. I wonder what the deal is with that.

L-girl said...

Better to not mention the C word at all, then.

No way! It's better to say it's crap. They did good by doing that.

It's not a diss to state that fact.

For you, it's not. For them, it is.

BlackJack said...

I'm sorry, this is abuse - you want room 12A next door.

Devine said...

Blackjack beat me to it.

"You vacuous, toffy-nosed, malodorous pervert!"

L-girl said...

I'm sorry, this is abuse - you want room 12A next door.

???

Jere said...

Arguing. Monty Python. For all anyone knows, I knew that and didn't just Google the two quotes. Whoops.

L-girl said...

I'll admit I googled the quotes. I just don't get the exchange. Oh well. I'll live.

"A Wood, Vt Menace" is back in the Old Country right now. The really old country, not NYC.

L-girl said...

OK, I just got it. Man I am slow to catch on today. Slower than usual, even.

Jere said...

"A Wood, Vt Menace": I'm waiting for "the menace" to move that one up to number one on my all-time list, above Jhonny Peralta's dgo. I also loved his reaction when he first saw it.

Now we'll see if people can figure out what WE're talking about.

Eklof 22 said...

''The book is entertaining -- Did Don Zimmer Have It Coming?, Who's Had A Better Career, Ben Affleck Or Lou Merloni?''

I can not wait to get my hands on this - looks awesome!

L-girl said...

I'm waiting for "the menace" to move that one up to number one on my all-time list, above Jhonny Peralta's dgo.

I am still totally gobsmacked (Brit-ism there, speaking of Monty Python) that you are the "Brak Brak" guy. That the same guy who posted that is now our blog-friend Jere. A great coincidence.

We say "Brak Brak" every time we see Jhonny Peralta. And I mean every time.

I don't know which is better, "A Wood, Vt Menace = we move to canada", or "Brak, brak, I'm Jhonny Peralta's dgo".

L-girl said...

Eklof22, nice site. I have a long-time fascination with Ireland. I never thought about a baseball connection.

Alex said...

I couldnt find your contact email so I thought I would leave it here... I just started a new Red Sox Blog called Red Sox 24/7 and it is located at http://redsox247.com I already own celtics247.com and that has been going strong for over a year now. I really like your site and was hoping we could exchange links and become affiliates... as soon as I get the O.K. I will add your link to our list, but can you please email me at tjlamro@hotmail.com so I know you got the message? Thanks!

redsock said...

I added you. My email address can be found on the right-hand side after the list of Red Sox blogs.

9casey said...

Redsock,,,where did you go I am having withdrawals