posted: Oct. 4, 2005  |  Feedback

Hey, it's me! Remember, the guy who used to write a column for ESPN?

Right now I'm flying from Boston to D.C. for the next stop of my book tour, which takes place tonight (Tuesday) at the ESPN Zone. I know, I know ... you're tired of hearing about the book. Well, I'm tired of talking about it. Tired of answering questions about it. Tired of signing it. Tired of thinking about it. When I was trying to fall asleep on Friday night, I was so tired that I started having this weird pseudo-dream (you know those dreams when you're not quite asleep yet, only it feels like you are?) that I was signing books for people, and I just wanted to fall asleep. Only people kept shoving books in front of me, and they kept going faster and faster, and after a few minutes, I started to feel like Tom Cruise in "Vanilla Sky."

I'm telling you, there isn't a weirder process than selling a book. Not only do I hate pimping myself under any circumstances, I like to keep a relatively low profile -- a lethal combination for the PR people in charge of promoting any book -- so it's been a struggle from beginning to end. I am of the opinion that, other than the signings, none of this crap matters -- if people are going to buy the book, they're going to buy the book. But the book industry feels the exact opposite about the process, and who knows? Maybe they're right.

The best part about releasing a book? The signings. I like meeting everyone, seeing the people in line, seeing the gender breakdown of my readers, that kind of stuff. In fact, we're probably going to add a West Coast swing later in the month because the signings are always enjoyable -- even if my right hand is slowly morphing into a claw.

The second-best part about releasing a book? Seeing it displayed in a bookstore. I can't possibly explain what that feels like -- I don't know if you ever get over the, "Holy s--t, I wrote that!" feeling. The first time was at the Grove's Barnes and Nobles in Los Angeles, where it was featured in the "New Releases" section in the front. After staring at it the same way drunk guys stare at a knockout stripper in Vegas, I ended up taking up a spot about 15 feet away, then standing there to see if anyone would pick the book up. I think it was the most self-centered moment of my life. Finally one guy walked over and started thumbing through various new releases, and I was just standing there watching him, thinking, "Pick mine up, go ahead, pick it up, come on, you know you want to ... " before realizing that I had briefly lost my mind. So I left.

Anyway, I had a chance to quickly zoom through some e-mails, and an inordinate amount of people seem to be ticked that I haven't been writing as much lately. Trust me: This part of the book process is an all-consuming thing. It isn't just the signings as much as the never ending e-mails and phone calls -- I spent so much time on my cell phone over these last two weeks, I think I'm going to end up with one of those giant tumor/scars on the side of my head like Kimberly in "Melrose Place". So give me 7-10 days and my column schedule will be regular again -- please bear with me. I don't ask for much. Other than for you to buy the book, dammit.

While we're here, some random thoughts from the past week or so ...

• During Saturday's game, some of the Red Sox employees were kind enough to bring me and my buddy J-Bug into their offices to show us the 2004 trophy. At least, I think that's what happened -- laying eyes on that trophy was like seeing someone remove their head, then hand it to you and say, "Hey, here's my head." There's simply no adequate reaction other than complete disbelief -- not just that it was the World Series trophy, but that it belonged to the Red Sox.

The poor thing is pretty banged up, actually. After touring all over the country and hitting every town in Massachusetts, it's covered in fingerprint residue, and some of the flags are bent... basically, it's the Tara Reid of trophies. When the season ends, they need to "restore" it before it completely falls apart. The trophy also weighs about 40 pounds, and you're nervous holding it to begin with, so you end up handling it like a 40-pound newborn baby -- you're cringing the entire time.

They gave it to me first. I clutched it to my chest and gave birth to the "Good God, I'm holding the 2004 World Series Trophy that the Red Sox won!" face. After about ten seconds, I freaked out and handed it to J-Bug, who hugged it before his eyes started misting up, finally saying, "I have to put it down" so he could wipe his eyes. I saw his reaction after the Pats won their first Super Bowl in 2001, and I saw his reaction when I explained to him how the Internet was really a convoluted excuse to look up copious amounts of porn in 1996 ... he looked more excited than both of those moments combined. Finally, we picked up the trophy again. Good times all around.

• For the first time in three years, I can honestly say that another team out-and-out walloped the Patriots. That game wasn't a fluke. More in Friday's football column ... but I'm very depressed about this. Football is an unforgiving sport -- sometimes, you can lose one too many button-pushers and you're not the same team anymore. I also think that the last two years (38 games in all, a bullseye on them in every one) could be finally catching up to them. They looked dead in the second half against San Diego -- even Belichick looked resigned to what was happening. I will now chew broken glass.

• Caught the first 30 minutes of SNL on Saturday night -- some new cast member (can't remember his name) did a world-class Pacino impersonation. Absolutely nailed it. I'm intrigued. Speaking of TV, back in L.A., my TiVo has been (hopefully) recording all the relevant shows from the last 8-9 days (and counting) ... I'm way out of the loop with Survivor, Lost, Curb, SNL, My Name Is Earl (tremendous show) and everything else. So don't e-mail me about any of those shows. Or I will have to kill you.

• Speaking of e-mails, the reaction on Friday's column seemed to be split -- some Boston fans were disappointed in my Belichick-Theo comparison, and upon further review, I'm agreeing with them. The comparison itself was important and relevant, but I didn't explore the studio space enough with it. It should have been its own column and demanded a more worthy treatment. The way Belichick has constructed the Pats can be applied to any sport, I just didn't do a good enough job of explaining this. So I'm going to take another crack at it (in a Cowbell) when I get back, and only because Halberstam's book was that fascinating to read.

• Stopped by Bristol on Thursday ... it's officially a Division I campus. Huge. So many ESPN buildings that they have shuttle vans to drive everyone around. I'm not making this up. If they make "Austin Powers 4," Dr. Evil needs to set up his offices here.

• I spoke at my old college (Holy Cross) on Thursday, which was terrifying for about 90 seconds until they were willing to laugh at every one of my jokes. Then I was fine. Turned out to be a special night for me ... although the football team was VERY upset over some recent comments I had made to a local paper about the demise of the program, so we hashed that out after the signing. I couldn't have felt worse because it's not the fault of the players that the H.C. administration doesn't give a crap about the program (and hasn't for 14 years), so I should have been more careful about how I phrased things. On the bright side, we beat Yale this weekend, so maybe I should rip them more often.

• From a baseball standpoint, last weekend was pretty anticlimactic. We headed into it feeling like it was do-or-die, but then the Indians started shoving giant wads of chicken bones down their own throats and that was that. (Note: Normally I would poke fun, but the poor Cleveland fans have suffered enough -- they have officially replaced Red Sox fans as the most tortured fans in the American League.) Saturday turned out to be the key game of the Yankees series, as any Sox fan knew we were in trouble from the moment Wakefield's knuckler wasn't knuckling.

Two things stood out from the game ...

1. An MVP performance from A-Rod, who waited until the Yanks were up 6-2 before he ripped a long home run, then followed that up with two more big hits. The weird thing about A-Rod is that there's nobody more terrifying in a big game ... when you're down by 4 runs. There really isn't. It's like he goes to another level.

2. Since Mirabelli was catching Wake, you would have thought Francona would stick Millar in right, play Big Papi at first and DH Varitek against the Big Unit, right? Of course not. He sat Varitek and played Nixon, who stinks against lefties -- with all due respect to Trot, the Sports Gal's favorite player, I think Cynthia Nixon would have a better chance hitting Randy Johnson. Meanwhile, Torre did a masterful job handling Randy Johnson, even coddling an extra out from him (Ortiz) in the eighth before sending him off. If Francona had the upper hand over Torre last October, it appears Torre has the upper hand right now -- any time you can coax 95 wins out of a season in which you used 75 starting pitchers, that's a pretty good managing job.

• Speaking of that, some predictions for the playoffs:

National League
I like Houston. This feels like we're headed for one of those goofy World Series where every score is like 9-7 or 10-8 (a little like '93 with the Phillies and Jays); I could just see Minute Maid having a 22-18 WS game and Joe Buck's head exploding.

I hate saying this (seriously, you have no idea), but the Yankees, as presently built, have the best Round 1 team in the American League. In a short series, you need 4-5 reliable bats, one money starter, two decent starters, one quality set-up guy, one quality closer, some luck, a manager who won't kill you, and that's about it. They have all of those things. Can't say the same for Anaheim/California/Los Angeles.

Fascinating series. One of the things that made the White Sox such a great regular season team was their pitching depth -- they didn't have one crappy reliever, and they had so many starters that Brandon McCarthy (one of the more talented young pitchers this season) didn't even make their playoff roster. Well, here's the thing about pitching depth -- in a five-game series, it's irrelevant unless you're playing a 12-inning game (which seems inevitable because I just jinxed it). And when you throw in their bats (meager on paper, somehow they always manage to scrape together 3-4 runs), it's hard to see how they would translate well in a short series.

On the other hand, you have the Red Sox ... somewhat of a mess right now. Their Game 1 starter (Matt Clement) hasn't been the same since that line drive nailed him in the face in Tampa last July. Their two most "reliable" money pitchers (Wells and Schilling) are a combined 70 years old. Their 39 year-old closer (Timlin) pitched 81 games this season (and counting) and can't come into a game with guys on base. Their flame-throwing set-up guy (Papelbon) has been superb, but nobody truly knows how he will respond this week. The rest of the staff is shaky at best, although Bronson Arroyo's CD was spectacular. Offensively, Big Papi, Manny and Damon have been the only reliable bats down the stretch. Varitek wore down as the season went along, and Nixon and Millar never really got going. Graffanino has been a pleasant surprise (like an Italian Marty Barrett), although my Dad grumbled this weekend, "Most of his hits come when we don't need them." (I don't agree, but we'll see.) Mueller is okay. Renteria ... ugh. And so on. It's certainly not the same running-on-all-cylinders offense from last October, that's for sure.

Still, it's the Little Things that kept hurting this team -- Renteria's staggering errors (30 in all), poorly-timed defensive plays (like Millar botching the line drive on Saturday), double plays that aren't made, runners getting thrown out at home by 20 feet, Francona stupidly bringing in Timlin in the middle of innings ... you get the picture. For instance, on Saturday, with Johnson's pitch count edging over 80 after four innings and New York's decrepit middle relief corps looming, Renteria/Ortiz/Manny swung at 5 pitches combined in the fifth inning. What??? That NEVER would have happened last season.

With that said, they're still built for a short series better than the White Sox, mainly because of the Wells-Schilling combo (does anyone think these two won't show up this month?), and the brilliance of Big Papi, and the fact that Manny is currently in one of those red-hot Manny Zones (giving the Sox two dangerous hitters, back-to-back, that can win this series pretty much by themselves). If and when they lose, it will be because of the Little Things. I just don't think it's happening this week.

The pick: Red Sox in four.

October 2005