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

10 thoughts on “My worst book”

  1. So much of this is interest, Jeff.

    I read both your Cowboys book and your Mets book and enjoyed them both. I enjoyed the Mets more because I was more interested in that team.

    I have absolutely no interest in Clemens or Bonds. I didn’t read those. (If it helps, I didn’t read Game of Shadows or that NY Daily News version either)

    You could write a Pulitzer-worthy tome on, say, the 1985 Bears, the 70s Yankees, or Kobe Bryant and I would’t use it to line my birdcage.

    On the other hand, you could take four montsh and fart out a book on the 80s-era Lakers, the Kurt Warner/Mike Martz Rams, Jim Brown or the Unitas Colts and I’d read it.

  2. I’ve only read “Boys” and the “Bad Guys Won.” They’re both fantastic.

    I loved the Cowboys book because I grew up watching this team.

    With the Mets book, I just love baseball. It might have been crazy with figurative language, but it worked.

  3. Jeff,

    I’ve read “The Bad Guys Won” and “Love Me, Hate Me”. Really enjoyed the circus atmosphere of the Mets book. Not interested so much in the Clemens book (but I enjoy your style so much so I’ll eventually get to it). Next up for me is “Boys Will Be Boys”. I’ve been excited to read it since you were on Rome’s show talking about the sizzor incident. But, since I’m a full time student, I have to wait until summer. Keep up the good work, can’t wait to see what the next book is about!

  4. Just a slight quibble:
    George Clooney donned the nipple suit in Batman & Robin. It was Val Kilmer who captured our hearts in Batman Forever.

  5. I’ve only read the Cowboys and the Mets books. I really thought they were both great, but, yeah, the Cowboys one did seem to cut a little deeper.

  6. I’m a huge fan of the Cowboys and Mets books, but overall I prefer the Bonds book above all. It surprised me somewhat, given that I was already exhausted from his overcoverage when I read it. But I really felt like you got to the heart of the character, despite him not participating.

    Still have yet to read the Clemens book, but someday will probably read yours and the other one.

  7. I haven’t read Jeff’s Clemens book, Aaron, but I did get the other one at the library. It’s really not that great. Lots of facts, but not much insight.

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