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Randall Reads: Is this a Lame Book, or What? ESPN’s Tim Kurkjian Produces a Dud

April 14, 2012 Leave a comment

I’m a baseball fan.

I’m not as big a baseball fan as most who have made it their life to work in and around baseball, I would guess.

With this in mind, I’ll have to at least admit that I’m probably not the ideal audience for Tim Kurkjian’s paean to the game he covers for ESPN, “Is This a Great Game, or What?

This would mean there IS, somewhere, an ideal audience for the book. From what I can tell, however, those people aren’t ever going to turn away from discussions about statistics and baseball anecdotes to do much other than watch a baseball game.

There are 16 chapters in the book, each centered on a theme. Each theme is addressed by the insertion of a series of anecdotes.

THAT’S IT! THAT’S THE BOOK!

May of the themes and related anecdotes seem to be meant to bolster Kurkjian’s opinion that baseball is simply superior to other sports in many ways. That is, until you get near the end where he laments the fact that the game seems to be losing the interest of people en masse due to an overall lack of interest in favor of sports with more action.

The fourteenth chapter is a series of 25 questions seemingly meaning to challenge long-standing bits of conventional baseball tradition, which would be fine, but they’re all delivered with a bit of a condescending, eye-rolling tone which makes me think that, when Kurkjian discusses an item such as, “Why do we rank teams by the highest batting average, not the most runs scored,” the underlying thought is that Kurkjian simply is understanding the game at it’s absolute best-level of appreciation and the rest of us all suffer from a similarly elevated level of enlightenment.

It wears thin.

Another major flaw with this book is the feeling it was slopped together. I can think of at least three anecdotes that were repeated in different areas of the book. There’s no doubt that it is interesting that Billy Wagner switched his predominant throwning arm after breaking an arm as a child, but it just needs mentioned the one time. The only thing I get out of it being told a second time is that you should have either hired or fired an editor somewhere between writing and publishing this book.

All that being said, there are some funny bits in the book. I thought the chapter about ESPN’s “Baseball Tonight” was plenty entertaining. Plus, admittedly, there ARE a lot of interesting anecdotes to be had.

Ultimately though, there’s not enough cohesion here to make it a must-read. It might be a good bathroom book, in that you could pick it up and flip to any page and not be any more or less engaged in the whole of the book than would be someone reading it straight through. If the goal of the book WAS to change the mind of a reader disinclined to agree with Kurkjian’s assertions of the superiority of baseball, I think it’s a failure (much like his annoyingly persistent and Candyland theory that Babe Ruth would be as good as he was, if not better, if he were plunked down in today’s major leagues.)

And, to be clear, I’m writing this as I try to listen to and watch the Detroit Tigers baseball game in a different browser window. I DO think it’s a great game; I am just comfortable with my and your level of understanding and enjoyment of it…even if you believe that Babe Ruth nonsense.

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