Book Review: Fanatic, 10 Things All Sports Fans Should Do Before They Die by Jim Gorant
I like books. Books are my friend. That being said, I rarely read sports books. I've read a few Cubs' books, including Cubs Nation and Wrigleyville, but I haven't read Ball Four or The Bill James Baseball Abstracts or any of the classics.
I know, I know...I suck.
So, when I was approached with this book by Jim Gorant, it was with a relatively fresh sports-book mind. I'm not really sure what that means, but I think it means that I went into this book with an open mind and freshly laundered clothes. Alright, I really don't know what that last part meant. Let me just start over.
I liked this book. How's that for the start of a book review? Jim Gorant is a Senior Golf Editor for Sports Illustrated, but he doesn't write quite like I would expect a golf guy to write. I guess I would expect him to write in whispers. Or with a British accent. But his writing style really fit my reading style. It was conversational and engaging and this style emerged within the introduction and set the reader (me) at ease. At that point, I was happy to settle in and read.
Okay, the premise: the author decided to make a list of the ten things every sports fan should do before they die (hence the title) and then did all of those things. Not a bad way to make a living. The list was, as follows (parenthetical comments by Jason):
1. The Super Bowl (obvious)
2. The Daytona 500 (isn't that the wrong 500)
3. The Final Four (sure)
4. The Masters (yes)
5. The Kentucky Derby (I've heard good things)
6. Wimbledon (shhhh)
7. Chicago Cubs vs. Atlanta Braves (sorry he had to see that)
8. Ohio State vs. Michigan (no Notre Dame?)
9. Lambeau Field (It's no Soldier Field, but it'll do)
10. Fenway Park, Opening Day (nice one)
Alright, so going in, I was most interested in the Daytona 500 and, obviously, the Cubs. The Daytona 500 just out of curiosity because I didn't realize that the Daytona 500 was any different than any other hundred in the NASCAR circuit. My first thought was, did he really mean Indianapolis 500 (but maybe that's just because I'm from Indiana)? So, with that, when I made it to chapter 2, I was most interested to figure out what it was all about.
As it turns out, it was my ignorance that lead to my failure to understand the significance of the Daytona 500 (shocking, I know). Apparently, the Daytona 500 is really the granddaddy of NASCAR and has a long, rich history. Plus, you can pull a trailer right up to the track, which clearly rocks. This chapter had a couple really great characters and It definitely helped unravel some of the mystery of NASCAR.
But, the readers of this site are probably most interested in the Cubs chapter. Aww, the Cubs chapter. I felt bad for the guy. He had to go see the Cubs in 2005 when, if he had just waited two years, he could have seen the FIRST PLACE CHICAGO CUBS (exclamation point). Then, I think, he would have quickly found the reason why Wrigley is the greatest place to watch a baseball game. He could have been a part of the electric atmosphere where every single pitch sounds like the last pitch of game seven of the World Series. Of course, that would hardly be representative of Cubs history, but it would have been a lot of fun.
But I guess that wasn't the point. The point was to see if Wrigley had an intrinsic museum-like romance that could be picked up immediately by the non-Cubs fan (in a game against the Braves, no less). I'm too close to the action to know if this is the case, but I think it would be hard to pick that up if you just attended one game in the summer. Although, Jim, if you're reading this: you didn't miss anything by not getting into the bleachers. Seriously. The Bleacher Bums have been replaced by the Trixies and Chads and it's one of the least nostalgic/romantic places on earth. Well, it's romantic in that you can probably get a hook up for the night, but that's the extent of it. If you want the best baseball experience, head up to the grandstands and find a seat next to a family of diehards. Watch a kid learn to keep score with his parents. That's the way to go, in my humble opinion.
In the end, this book isn't a Cubs book. It's a sports book and it's a good sports book. What seemed like a generic concept turns out to be a pretty unique book and a great story of a guy and his cross-country tours. When it all comes down to it, I would be happy to have a beer with this guy, so he's got that going for him.