My worst book


Two or three posts ago I referred to Christina Aguilera, and how one should never slam his/her own work—because someone out there probably thinks it’s the best thing ever. George Clooney has spared no words to destroy Batman Forever, and now some 10-year-old kid has no life meaning. Mandy Moore insists Candy—her only real hit—is garbage, so why should anyone listen to it?

I wrote that I have one book that doesn’t thrill me, but I’d never real it because, somewhere, maybe there’s a dude who considers it his personal baseball Bible (unlikely, but one never knows).

Naturally, I was immediately hit by the what-book-are-you-referring-to? question from multiple outlets; a genuine question when someone says so-and-so isn’t that good. At first, I wasn’t going to say anything. But, in retrospect, that’s sorta dumb. If Batman Forever sucks (and, indeed, it does) why shouldn’t Clooney tell the truth? What’s the harm in being honest; in saying “I was paid $20 million to wear a nippled bat suit (really, it had nipples), so I took the dough”?

Why not be honest?

Hence, my rankings of my own books (from best to worst, in my opinion):

1. Boys Will Be Boys

2. Love Me, Hate Me

3. The Bad Guys Won!

4. The Rocket That Fell To Earth

In brief: The Bad Guys Won! isn’t my biggest seller (the Cowboys book is), but it has the largest cult following, hands down. I get approached by Met fans quite often, and it’s usually, “Man, I’ve read that book X times!” I’m flattered beyond flattered. It’s an honor to hear such words. But, if I could write the book again, I’d do two things:

A. Delve more deeply into the backgrounds of the players.

B. Avoid 90% of the metaphors and similes that damn the writing.

Love Me, Hate Me was a research monsoon—interviewed more than 500 people, dug deep, deep, deep into Bonds. Which was hard, because he wanted no part of it, and finding people who actually like him was a beast. I’d probably have better feeling for Love Me, Hate Me had it not been released … two friggin’ weeks after Game of Shadows. That might be the most crushing development of my career, because I bled a kidney for that book.

Boys Will Be Boys is my best work, because it combined the tenacious reporting/digging of Love Me, Hate Me with the joy and wildness of The Bad Guys Won!—minus the scattered writing. Football happens to be an easier sport than baseball to write about, primarily because of sheer numbers. An average MLB team might have 35 guys on its roster in the course of a season. NFL clubs, however, double that. Many, many more voices and stories to be had.

Now, The Rocket That Fell to Earth. I like this book—especially the reporting I did on Roger Clemens’ boyhood and college days. But relatively early on in the project we found out that the Daily News was also releasing a Clemens book, and we were not going to be second again. So they moved the deadline up. And up. And up. And up. Hence, it feels a little incomplete to me. I reported it hard; f***, haaaaaard. Horrible 18-hour days; lengthy stretches of isolation. I mean, the experience sucked. But truth is, a biography takes time. And development. You need to get to know the subject matter, sort of like an old friend. And while I certainly came to know young Roger, I never felt entirely comfortable with Roger the Blue Jay and Astro.

Hence, it’s No. 4.

PS: Interestingly, if I were to rank the covers I’d go:

1. The Rocket That Fell to Earth

2. Love Me, Hate Me

3. The Bad Guys Won!

4. Boys Will Be Boys