Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Sports Book

"The man had reached the highest level anyone can achieve in sports: the perfect blend of sweat and pain and champagne, a weathered appreciation of everything that happened..."

The Sports Guy Bill Simmons on Bill Russel in The Book of Basketball 

I'm on the last chapter of quite possibly the most entertaining book I've ever read, and I couldn't be more bummed about it. The Book of Basketball; seven hundred pages of free-flowing wit about nothing and everything to do with sports. Although the book is essentially about one, Simmons touches on the pulse of what makes them all so great: entertainment in its purest form, or in other words, artistry.

I didn't grow up a sports fan, much to my father's disappointment I'm sure, but my younger brother did, so luckily I never had to feel guilty about it. I came to love sports merely three years ago*. I had just moved from Boulder to Denver, into a small, nondescript studio apartment on Capital Hill with no real intentions; other than getting buzzed, and getting laid.

I happened to live a few blocks from my good friend, and fellow poker enthusiast, John; who happens to possess one of the most captivating, intellectual minds you'll ever find. He also happened to have a sick TV with surround sound, and a kegerator tapped with good locals brews. Needless to say, I spent a lot of time there. My visits weren't entirely selfish though, it was his mind that I was most interested in, and at that time, it was keenly focused on sports.

We'd spend countless hours watching them, and with me being such a novice spectator (everything was foreign to me: names, places, rules, everything), John was able to fully realize his pent-up desire to share all that he knew. He'd wildly, and frantically break down every aspect of whatever game was on; the intricacies of it, the background of the players of it, the financial state of it; all of which became fascinating to me.

Over three years later, sports are all I can pay attention to, quite literally. I haven't watched a TV show to speak of, or a movie in its entirety since. Nothing scripted can come close to the athleticism and strategy of sports in my opinion. To witness, first hand, the physical and mental potential of a human is nothing short of awe inspiring, as much so as any other art form. I'm forever grateful to my buddy John for introducing me to it.

And now that I think of it, he was the one who turned me on to Bill Simmons' column, and subsequently, one of my favorite books ever. Which makes sense, they are kindred spirits, John and Bill. They both know more about sports than anyone I've ever encountered, and both have the admirable ability to share their thoughts about it with such passion that one could spend hours listening to them.

Sadly, the book is almost over, and ever since my girlfriend and I moved in together across town, John and I don't get to watch the game together very often. But I'll never forget those days we spent endlessly engaged in sports. Those moments have a special place in my heart, as does this book.

*I'm borrowing the footnote method from Bill Simmons here, part of what's makes his book so thoroughly entertaining is that there are at least two random, yet riveting footnotes on each page. Anyway, coincidentally, the very first football season I watched from start to finish, 2009, when my hometown team the New Orleans Saints won their very first Super Bowl. The entire city went nuts, people stopped their cars in the middle of the highway to celebrate; my mom got stuck on the other side of the river and couldn't get home. My dad, who watched the game by himself in their quaint French Quarter apartment, said the Quarter sounded like nothing he'd ever heard in his life, "like we had won the war". Unfortunately, I was here in Colorado, comfortably slouched on my boy John's couch. But I'd like to think I played my fair-weathered part in their victory, the one last fan they needed so to speak. By the by, my friends here hated me for this sentiment.

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