Monday, December 04, 2006

Book review - "The Best New York Sports Arguments: The 100 Most Controversial, Debatable Questions for Die-Hard Fans"

Those of you who follow this site regularly are aware that I have never pressured you into reading anything other than my own material. Call it good business. I have food to put on the table, and leading you in the direction of others who have the capability of exposing my own inadequacies doesn’t make much sense now, does it? Well, whatever. I’ve got a book for ‘ya.

This is a New York-centric blog, which is why I’m taking the time to put you on to a New York-centric book. That, and because this book is – in literary jargon - freakin’ awesome. "The Best New York Sports Arguments: The 100 Most Controversial, Debatable Questions for Die-Hard Fans” hits bookshelves today, Dec. 5. My advice? Get it.

The title speaks for itself. Author Peter Handrinos goes in-depth on all things involving New York sports, and leaves no stone unturned. I’ve read “sports argument” books before – most recently Chris “Mad Dog” Russo’s enjoyable “The Greatest Sports Arguments of All Time” – but there are several aspects of Handrinos’ work that set it apart from the rest.

For starters, it’s all about New York, and it’s contemporary in its appeal. Let’s be honest here – guys my age (mid-to-late 20’s) are getting a little bored of reading books about Sandy Koufax, Joe DiMaggio, and Y.A.Tittle. It’s not that we don’t enjoy and appreciate such works, and the historical perspective they provide, it’s just that, well…we weren’t there. We want to know more about our generation. (Ask anybody my age the name of the best baseball book they’re read in the past few years, and 90 percent will tell you Buster Olney’s “The Last Night of the Yankee Dynasty.” Why? Because it was about our team.) And it’s certainly not like Handrinos ignores history. On the contrary, he explores it, asking such questions as, “Were the ’62 Mets the worst team of all time?” (they had nothing on the 1916 A’s, he argues) and “Did Joe Namath deserve to make the Hall of Fame?” (the public embarrassment HOF maybe, but not the Pro Football one, by Handrinos’ account). What sets “New York Sports Arguments” apart is its inclusion of specific, modern, bar room discussions. “Did Brett Favre lay down for Michael Strahan’s sack record?” I think we all remember where we were for that, am I right? (And yes, he did.) Who was more dominant in their prime – Dwight Gooden or Roger Clemens? (The Rocket couldn’t sniff the Doc’s jockstrap in the mid ‘80s.) The book weaves in and out of the timeline of New York sports – from the Brooklyn Dodgers pennant collapse of 1951, to Isiah & friends’ dismantling of the current Knicks.

Handrinos’ subject matter is New York in content, and his writing style is New York in nature. He pulls no punches. There will be no confusion as to where, exactly, the author stands on a particular topic. There are no cop-outs. You’re not going to find an argument that settles on a conclusion of “toss up,” or “both.” And that’s the fun of it – you are not going to agree with everything he says. That’s why they’re called arguments. There are going to be moments throughout the book where you’re thanking the Good Lord that somebody had the cojones to blast the New York Giants for covering up Lawrence Taylor’s drug abuse. Which is funny, because a half an hour ago you wanted to throw the book out the window after he had the audacity to argue that the sport of golf will never make it big in New York (a sentiment I’m sure the legendary gallery at Bethpage Black for the 2002 U.S. Open would also take issue with). At least, those were my experiences. To each his own, I suppose.

Obviously, Handrinos’ arguments are backed up by facts. Fascinating facts. Facts that often defy popular opinion. For example, his most scathing chapter is that in which he – bear with me now – argues that Alex Rodriguez is a better player, leader, and clutch hitter than…Derek Jeter. I know, I know. Blasphemy, right? Well…just read it. The only fault in this particular argument is that it was penned before the 2006 season, when Jeter finished second in the AL MVP voting, and A-Rod became an official NY punch line. Nevertheless, it still holds weight with regards to their overall careers. Believe me – if you’re not 100 percent convinced after reading this chapter, your mind will be sufficiently blown.

And speaking of shocking, remember all of the hoopla surrounding the passing of Giants’ owner Wellington Mara last year? Well, see what Handrinos has to say about the former Giants’ patriarch. I’m telling you – this guy is fearless.

In fact, so many misconceptions involving New York sports are exposed throughout the book, from the perceived dominance of a young Brooklyn-born Mike Tyson, to Keyshawn Johnson’s supposed laughable criticisms of Wayne Chrebet. It’s an intriguing read – Handrinos will have you thinking twice about subjects you have taken for granted as common knowledge throughout your entire existence as a New York sports fan.

The author’s knowledge with regards to his subject matter is paramount, obviously, but what really comes across in the book is the passion with which Handrinos writes. Turn on ESPN at any given point in the day, and you can find guys arguing about sports, mostly for show, mostly for the sake of arguing, often without the necessary facts to back anything up. (Hey, Jay Mariotti thinks Jessica Simpson may cause Tony Romo to lose his focus!…ugh.) “The Best New York Sports Arguments” strikes a chord because Handrinos is so passionately committed to what he is saying. You get the impression that the author would sooner ride the subway naked than back down from his stance on any one of the subjects he introduces. The passion with which Handrinos writes is equaled only by the passion with which we as New York sports fans root, which is why you’ll find it so difficult to put the book down, especially after turning the page to take a peak at the topic of his next dissertation.

I’d be hard-pressed to find a sports fan in this area that wouldn’t benefit from something in this book, because everything is covered. And I mean everything, from the status of hockey as a “major sport,” to the inherent awesomeness of “Mike & the Mad Dog.” It’s an intelligently written, often funny, no holds barred exploration into the unique world of New York sports. You may not agree with everything he says, but Handrinos comes so well prepared that organizing your counterargument will pose the same uphill battle as fixing the Knicks.


Interested? You can buy the book here.


Author Peter Handrinos has a lot of, ummm...facts.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

I don't think I could ever, EVER, see the reasoning behind putting A-Rod on a higher pedestal than Jeter!!...but I will definitely check out what he has to say about it.

Anonymous said...

thanks for the heads up...i would liek to check this out. i'm like george costanza, if a book's not about sports, i can't pay attention.