Wednesday, June 2, 2010

90% Of The Game Is Half Mental

[What follows is a review of Emma Span's book, 90% Of The Game Is Half Mental written by a good friend who wishes to be referred to simply as "Jack". In addition to being a stalwart Mets fan and supporter of the Rays, he makes an annual pilgrimage to Spring Training in Florida and is an aficionado of minor league ball, particularly here in the northeast.

Emma, who occasionally writes for Bronx Banter and her own site when she has time, sent me a review copy of the book. I'm going to read the book and do a review at some point, but when Jack heard about Emma's work, he asked if he could get the first crack at it.]

I recently finished reading Emma Span's 90% Of The Game Is Half Mental and the short of is that it's a very good read. While you can't go wrong with a Yogiism for the title, I think the sub-title, "And Other Tales from the Edge of Baseball Fandom" more accuately portrays her baseball experiences, from her New Jersey childhood to working odd summer jobs while attending Yale, to her brief gig as the Village Voice baseball writer and beyond. Baseball, especially New York baseball, isn't something you would expect to be a consuming interest of a funny, sarcastic, literate, New York-centric, admittedly neurotic, female insomniac, but Emma clearly loves the game.

Chapters related to the job with the Voice and the trip to Taiwan (not Japan?) are often hilarious in their observations. Locker room scene descriptions and commentary on the New York press corps highlight her awkwardness, but despite being a bit of a nerd, she seems to be pretty self-confident.

Emma obviously knows her inside baseball. Her blog was once called Eephus Pitch and the book discusses the arguments of stathead sabermetrics vs. old school scouting. She gets into some detailed modern history of Yankees' and Mets' postseason appearances and touches upon male/female baseball perspectives, Yankees/Mets fandom, New York/non-New York fandom, and baseball movies (she hates "The Natural", I love it).

I was surprised that she never mentions any great baseball books or their writers (i.e. Halberstam, Kahn), but I was glad to read that she shares my criticism of some elements of The Great American Pastime. For instance:
  • Loud amplified needless cheering nonsense at games (between innings, between batters, sometimes between pitches) when normal converstion becomes impossible
  • The distraction caused by the gigantic TV screen in the new Yankee Stadium
  • Joe Morgan's television commentary
With 160 pages, an easy and conversational tone, an occasional F-bomb for emphasis, and some really laugh-out-loud passages, it's a quick, entertaining, and confessional autobiography that will especially appeal to New York baseball fans.

I strongly encourage you and your readers to give it a rip.

1 comment:

  1. Of course, if one roots for the Mets, then 90 percent of the game is 95 percent mental. It certainly isn't fundamental. Or fun.