Wait Till Next Year
Anyone who knows me knows that I read Bill Simmons “The Sports Guy” columns on ESPN with an almost religious fervor. I used to be that guy - you know, the one who would email things he thought was funny to all his friends. Most of those emails were snips from Simmons’ columns.
Well, a few years back he recommended a book called Wait Till Next Year as probably the single best sports book he’d ever read, noting sadly that it was out of print. (Note – this shouldn’t be confused, though it easily is, with Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book of the same name, about rooting for the Red Sox.)
When that column came out, I headed over to half.com where the only copies I could find were upwards of $75.00 or so. Because, of course, Simmons has a huge fan base, and they were all doing the same thing. Down the road, two things happened that allowed me to pick up this book – which is still out of print – for a reasonable price. First, I found Alibris.com, which is now where I work, and found a large amount of inventory there – because of the second thing I did, which was look for the book at a time nowhere close to when Simmons had written about it.
And man, am I glad I persisted. This book is fantastic – and I don’t support a single New York team.
The book takes place during 1987, a year that sports fans will recall is the year after both the Mets and Giants (that’s the football Giants, kids) are coming off of championship seasons. What’s more, expectations are reasonably high for the Yankees, Nets and Knicks as well. (Thankfully, the book doesn’t bother with hockey, a sport I neither know nor care about.) The two authors follow each team from their own unique perspective (more on this in a second) as “what should have happened didn’t and what could have gone wrong did,” as the subtitle suggests.
Those two authors? The first is William Goldman, brilliant screenwriter and novelist of such gems as The Princess Bride, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and Adventures in the Screen Trade, among others. He’s the fan, who writes “A Fan’s Notes,” which are passionate, funny and brilliant. He talks about not jinxing the Mets by assuming they’ve won a game which – by doing exactly that – the Mets lose on a Terry Pendleton homerun. He calls this a day that will live in infamy and refers to the date in question repeatedly. (What makes this a bit creepy is that this date is September 11, albeit 14 years prior to 2001.)
Goldman isn’t your ordinary fan – he has access to the press box and sometimes, the locker room. But he still writes as a fan, one given to routines and obsession, one who knows he’s being foolish in his fanaticism, but who can’t imagine sports any other way. I suspect Mr. Goldman plays fantasy sports these days.
The other author is Mike Lupica, who many may recognize as the little beady eyed guy from The Sports Reporters -- or, as one of the better sportswriters around. His chapters are called “The Reporters Notebook” and have tons of insight I hadn’t known about – Steinbrenners true mania, how Keith Hernandez leaked information to the press while acting like an angel, and so on.
The book is fantastic. Simply fantastic. (A note – the image here looks pretty bad, because it’s actually my own copy which I scanned. Couldn’t find a single image elsewhere on the web, which is…a first.)