posted: Sep. 6, 2005  |  Feedback

Hope everyone enjoyed the three-day weekend as much as you can enjoy a weekend when there's a national catastrophe going on. If you haven't given to the Red Cross yet, here's the link. Make sure you click on the "Hurricane Katrina" choice so the money goes directly to the relief effort in New Orleans. And yes, it's tax-deductible.

Along those same lines ...

1. I thought Bill Maher's HBO show, "Real Time," on Friday night was the highlight of his career. He made all the right jokes and raised all the right questions, and the panel segment was particularly good -- it was just a superb show from start to finish. Like many others, I'm carrying a significant amount of anger about how the government (both federal and local) handled this entire thing last week, and the Maher show tapped into all of it. I remember watching "Cinderella Man" this summer, seeing the Depression scenes and thinking, "Wow, I can't believe that happened in America!" Never thought I would be saying that about something that happened here in the 21st century.

2. They didn't show Kanye West's spectacular ad-lib from Friday night's charity telethon on the West Coast, but we did find it on the Web (The Intern has the link) and Mike Myers' stunned reaction immediately joined the Pantheon of Faces -- along with the Tom Cruise "I'm trying to cry" Face in "Top Gun," the Derek Lowe Face, the Stan Humphries "I've just been concussed again" Face and everything else. I kept expecting him to turn into Wayne from Wayne's World and say, "No ... way!" Just an unbelievable TV moment. Frankly, it could alter Myers' career -- will you ever be able to look at him without thinking of him glancing at Kanye West in sheer disbelief?

• As you may have guessed, I received a good chunk of WNBA-related e-mails last week, although I was surprised that nine out of 10 e-mailers liked the column and agreed with it. Thought the number would be closer to 70/30 or 60/40. One e-mail stood out though, from a reader named Andrea in New York City:

"As a woman who is also a big sports fan, I was slightly shocked but mostly impressed with your WNBA article. I think it is sad to say that someone who speaks their mind is brave, but that's the only word I can come up with right now. In this overly PC world we live in, it's nice to read an article where someone speaks from their heart, giving facts to back up their claim, and isn't afraid that they might be offending a few people. That's the great thing about this country -- we don't all have to agree, but we do have to respect each others views. You may receive a lot of nasty letters from certain fans, parents and sports writers alike, but YOUR fans respect you because you talk like we talk. It's great that women who are talented basketball players can fulfill their dreams of becoming professionals in the U.S., but it doesn't mean the entire U.S. has to watch it. As a woman, the fact that I feel this way doesn't mean I'm betraying my sisters, and men who feel this way are not being sexist -- we're just being honest. Thank you for your honesty."

Here's what scared me about that e-mail: Our society has become so politically correct and so uptight that, after I chose to write a thought-out, factually driven, cheapshot-free opinion column about a sports-related subject (and you have to admit, I avoided every possible easy joke in that column) somebody actually felt the need to congratulate me for having the "courage" to speak my mind. Does that creep anyone else out? Is that really where we are as a country? Whatever happened to freedom of speech, or every American having the constitutional right to express his opinion in a nonconfrontational way? Have those rights been thrown out the window and nobody told me?

Anyway, here are two pages worth of WNBA-related e-mails -- they're pretty entertaining and I appreciate everyone taking the time to write in, whether you agreed with the column or not. I did my best to include all kinds of e-mails that reflected the various perspectives on both sides:

1. E-mails supporting the column
2. E-mails disappointed by the column

• Finally, I don't have my weekly recommendation for a sports book because I didn't have time to reread any of the classics this weekend -- I spent way too much time watching the New Orleans coverage, and then A&E started its "24: Season 4" marathon on Sunday morning and I was done for the weekend (the Sports Gal and I have plowed through the first 16 hours already). But since they stuck the banner for my upcoming book on the "Sports Guy's World" page today (coming out on Oct. 1), I thought I would provide a brief explanation of "Now I Can Die In Peace" without spoiling the book if you actually want to read it.

In February, I went through every Red Sox-related column I ever wrote -- dating back to 1997 on my old "Boston Sports Guy" site -- picked out 50 or 60 that stood out, then tried to figure out the best way to patch together a collection of my Red Sox columns and make the collection different enough that it would be worth it for A) longtime readers to buy the book, and B) non-Boston fans to buy the book. I also wanted to figure out a way to include as many columns as possible, which was difficult because absolutely nobody wants to read a 700-page book. And I wanted to curse, tell inappropriate stories and make fun of TV announcers when warranted -- that was an absolute necessity for me.

So I made four decisions:

1. Since I didn't want the book to be perceived as your typical "quickie about the 2004 season," I decided to gear the book around my life as a Red Sox fan, which meant I would have to write a meaty prologue about everything that happened before the Pedro Era, as well as a childhood spent growing up in New England and getting slowly sucked into rooting for a tortured team. Then I split the book into four sections from 1998 to 2005 and wrote new material leading off each section, with the actual columns providing the heart of the book. I like collections (if they're done correctly) for two reasons. First, if you don't like a certain column, you can skip to the next one. Second, each column is a snapshot of how many people felt at the time, which gave certain columns a different feel reading them after the fact (especially the Nomar and Pedro stuff).

2. Since I needed to hone down those 50-60 columns down as much as possible so they complemented one another, I decided to treat them like first drafts in a journal, almost like nobody had ever read them before. And honestly? Those columns were like first drafts. My biggest flaw as a writer is how I procrastinate until the last possible minute before writing anything, so most times, I'm handing in stuff that could have and should have been better. So I looked at this book as a chance to tackle some of those columns again and make them better -- not by changing what I wrote, but simply by trimming the fat in each column (especially in some of the older columns, when I really didn't know what I was doing as a writer) and tinkering with the structure of some of them. (This is all explained in the book.) If the original columns were like a movie, then this book is like a director's cut of that same movie.

3. I absolutely hate when writers release a collection of columns and pretty much say, "Here they are!" Drives me crazy. So I wanted to do something different that would make the book stand out. Ultimately, I decided to write footnotes for each column -- almost like a director's commentary on a DVD. Some of the footnotes make fun of what I wrote, others expand on what I wrote, others have goofy stories and comparisons, ramblings, statistical evidence and everything else you can imagine.

As it turned out, I had so much fun writing the footnotes that I got a little carried away -- suddenly there were like 800 footnotes for the 50 columns and the footnote gimmick was threatening to overpower the book. I narrowed them down to about 500 for the final edition, which we're running on the sides of every page instead of the bottom (so they're easier to read). We'll see if it works.

4. The ultimate goal: Fifty cohesive Red Sox columns that complemented one another, didn't waste a word and remained coherent enough that anyone could enjoy them. And I think I did that. Again, we'll see.

Just so you know, I thought long and hard about whether a Red Sox book should be my first book, ultimately deciding that it doesn't matter what you write about, as long as it's entertaining. For instance, one of my favorite books (as I mentioned a few weeks ago) is "Wait Till Next Year," which concentrates on one year in New York sports (1988). Well, I hate New York sports -- I could care less about any of their teams from that year. But the book was entertaining and well-written, and it holds up to this day, whether you like New York teams or not.

So I rolled the dice and wrote my Red Sox book, and hopefully, you'll read it and feel like you didn't waste your time. Just so you know, I spent an impossible amount of time working on this thing -- every word has been examined, considered and reconsidered about 10 times over -- and it's the absolute best I can do. That's all I can promise you.

Here's the link again: "Now I Can Die In Peace."

Back on Thursday and Friday with new columns.

September 2005