Blurbs

So I was reading a friend’s book tonight, and the book-jacket blurbs made me laugh. They were very glowing, very energetic, written by some of the best sportswriters out there.

And. They. Mean. Diddly.

Every writer knows the ritual. As a book release approaches, we scurry far and wide to find notables to provide us with book-jacket blurbs. Do these people even read the books they’re blurbing? I’d say, oh, 60 percent of the time.* Usually, the blurbers are either friends, friends of friends, friends of friends of friends or people who owe a favor.

Take my four books, for example.

1. The Bad Guys Won!

Blurbers:

• Jody Berger, Rocky Mountain News—Close friend and former SI co-worker.

• Bill Fleischman, Philly Daily News—Close friend and my former journalism professor at Delaware.

• Steve Rushin, SI—Good friend and collague.

2. Love Me, Hate Me.

Blurbers:

• Leigh Montville—Friend, former SI colleague and a guy who’s written enough books to know how terrible it is to seek blurbs.

• Buster Olney, ESPN—Friendly colleague who’s written enough books to know how terrible it is to seek blurbs.

• L. Jon Wertheim, SI—Very close friend who’s written enough books to know how terrible it is to seek blurbs.

3. Boys Will Be Boys.

Blurbers:

• Mark Kriegel, FoxSports.com—Good friend who’s written enough books to know how terrible it is to seek blurbs.

• Jonathan Eig—Good friend who’s written enough books to know how terrible it is to seek blurbs.

• Selena Roberts, SI—Good friend who’s written enough books to know how terrible it is to seek blurbs.

• Randy Galloway, Ft. Worth Star-Telegram—Dallas writer and incredibly nice guy.

4. The Rocket That Fell to Earth.

Blurbers:

• Jemele Hill, ESPN.com—Good friend/colleague.

• Will Leitch, New York Magazine—Friendly colleague who’s written enough books to know how terrible it is to seek blurbs.

• Steve Cannella, SI—Very close friend who felt my pain.

• Wertheim, SI—Can’t go to the well too often.

That’s not to say blurbers are lying, or that there’s something wrong with the whole business. I don’t think any of my blurbers would have put their names atop pieces of crap. But, truth is, they’re folks I knew I could turn to; folks who are decent and trustworthy.

Oy.

* I learned my lesson the very hard way. A couple of years ago Drew Magary, editor of Kissing Suzy Kolber, asked me to blurb his book, Men With Balls. I agreed, skimmed it, then wrote up a couple of lines. Book came out and someone said to me, “How could you blurb a book like that?” I said, “Like what?” He said, “Something so offensive and tasteless?” I said, “Uhm …” That was the first, and last, time I’ve blurbed a book without reading it thoroughly (This isn’t to say Drew’s book was bad. Just that I didn’t pay enough attention).

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