09 November 2009

Game Time

I bought Bill Simmons' "The Big Book of Basketball" when it was released two weeks ago. I'm nearly done with it now and it's not because it's taken me that long to finish it but because I've been going as slowly as possible. Like I won't allow myself to read it for more than an hour or so at a time. See, I don't want the experience of reading it (for the first time) to end. But yet I want to know what happens. Yes, I know, it's a non-fiction book largely devoid of plot, but a lot of things happen. Like Bill reconstructing the Hall of Fame in pyramid fashion, Bill figuring out who the most invincible NBA champion was, and Bill digging deep into the reasons for a basketball team's success -- unearthing "The Secret."

"But how do you keep stats for 'best chemistry' and 'most unselfishness' or even 'most tangible and consistent effect on a group of teammates'? It's impossible. That's why we struggle to comprehend professional basketball. You can only play five players at a time. Those players can only play a total of 240 minutes. How those players coexist, how they make each other better, how they accept their portion of that 240-minute pie, how they trust and believe in one another, how they create shots for one another, how that talent/salary/alpha-dog hierarchy falls into place... that's basketball. It's like falling in love. When it's working, you know it. When it's failing, you know it."
This thing is super thick. Like 700+ pages thick. The list of books I've read with similar page counts is pretty short. The Bible, The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, some of the later Harry Potters, maybe one of the Twilights and um, that's about it. This isn't really a seven hundred page book though, because there are lots of footnotes and you can pick it up and put it back down pretty easily. Bill himself says, "At the very least, it's a book that you can stick next to your toilet, read 5 pages at a time and finish five months from now."

Though I'd love to recommend this book to anyone interested in basketball, I'll be honest and say that unless you're a die hard fan, you probably won't get that much out of it. It's chock full of references to NBA history, insider jokes, and things like that so if you're only aware of basketball because of that Michael Jordan guy, you'd probably get lost pretty quickly. Here's a quick test for you. If you can get a passing grade on this Sporcle quiz (and love taking it because it's hilarious), you should read this book. And if you do turn out to be a basketball loony, this is the book you've been waiting for. There's a reason I've been waiting so long for this book and it's the same reason I've been trying to take my sweet time devouring it. Because yes, it's fan-tastic.

One of the many reason to love Simmons is his take on many things pop culture and his numerous theories on life. For example, this one is a doozy, The Tipping Point Friend. I have much to thank Bill for in this life and this is just one of them.

Actually, I tried to go see the mighty BS when he came down to San Diego for his book tour last weekend. I knew I wouldn't have time to get him to sign my book but I wanted to see him in person anyway. Like pay my respects by attending, if only for fifteen minutes. At seven o'clock, I hopped into the Borders and it was packed. Like there were a million guys jammed in there (plus a few obligatory wives and girlfriends dragged there). Not a recommended place to hang out on Friday night if you're a single male -- actually, the guy-girl ratio wasn't that far off from what you'd see at some of the local clubs I guess, but I digress. Anyway, there were two lines: one to buy the book and another to get Bill to sign it. Rough estimates put it at a two hour wait. I was running to a movie so I just jammed into the crowd to sneak a few pictures to prove I was within hailing distance of Simmons and then jetted. Sigh, he's my hero...

And I can't imagine this would interest anyone but my keeper basketball league has just reset and restarted with sixteen owners. For the last two weeks we've been email drafting and I've been more attached to my iPhone than usual. We're keeping six players each season in perpetuity and it's going to be like running a real NBA team (okay, not really). I've chosen to build around Deron Williams as my franchise guy. Our league blog is here, SlamNation.