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May 2017
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captainsblog [userpic]
Turn the Page

Of all the measures of an author in both writing and publishing, there's none that's less meaningful, and at the same time more important, than the basic unit of measurement known as the page. It doesn't conform to any standard of words, sentences or grafs, as any or all of those gleefully spill over from one to the next without any input from author or editor. Among some publishers' styles, a chapter ending on an  odd-numbered page still produces a page full of nothingness before the next chapter begins on its own tablet of oddity. It is as vestigal to our publishing history as the appendix (the human one, not the one at the back of the book) is to our medical evolution. Think of the page as a 21st century reminder of the continuing relevance of Gutenberg (the movable type one, not the dumb Police Academy movie one). For no good reason whatsoever, it remains my measure of a man, or in this case woman, who commits her thoughts and beliefs and ultimately words onto a bunch of processed tree pulp.

Today, I raise my glass, and my compliments, to one Emma Span of Brooklyn, New York. Her debut book checks in at a modest 166 pages of writing, but from the first page to the last, she maintains one of the most impressive ratios of per-page reactions that I've come across in a very long time.

You can ask my wife, who was usually in the room when I was reading, to confirm these approximate tallies. Rarely did a page get turned without a smile or a chuckle. Most produced an out-loud laugh or uh-huh, interspersed by the occasional blurts of even bigger reactions of Teh Funny or Teh Profound. Emma doesn't just turn a phrase; she turns them into memorable, into unique, and, often, into your own experiences as a fan, an observer and a writer and you talk back to your book and say, Yeahhhhhh!, even if your amazingly tolerant spouse isn't in the room at the time.


I knew of Emma before she knew of me; and vice versa. Huhdat?!? Years before either she or I turned to the Internet to verbalize our loves of town-crossed-hated New York baseball teams, my wife introduced me to a work by her father, titled A Dog Year. It sits two feet away from my right elbow as I type these words. Although she did not have a major role in that story (enough, though, for the unfortunately spiked-by-HBO film version of the book to cast Lauren Ambrose, still my single current actress-crush, in a role named for her), when I discovered Eephus Pitch and who its author was, I needed no recommendation or prodding. She was Good People out the gate. It was even cooler when I discovered that she had already sidebarred my own little oddity of a Metrospective on her then-home at Blogspot, before I'd even read my first of her postings on it. (It just moved. Update your linkslists. No, Livejournal isn't importing new syndicated feeds at the moment. Damn Russians.)

From the outset, I knew she was of the Yankee persuasion,  but never in that overbearing or worshipful way that is so distasteful to those of us in the cheap seats of the metropolitan sports hierarchy. Her book makes that clear; she displays her loyalties, but also their limits, as she dishes more than her share of the dirt on her team's history (including its reprobate original owners), its overentitled fanbase, and the ways her views of Her Heroes changed both during and after her brief time covering them professionally for the Voice.

Yet the book is not a constant chronicle of Her Her Her, although without her stories (many involving cars not her own, which are hilarious), it would not have been nearly as fun. Nor is it in any sense a chronological report of the three seasons that ::koff:: span most of its pages; since those three years were 2006 through 2008, on behalf of a nation of broken-hearted Mets fans, I thank her for that. (I'll even forgive her the continued affection she has for T!m Who Must Not Be Named, which for many on our side of the RFK Bridge is a more grievous sin than being a Yankee fan.) Rather, it combines her observations, upbringing, occasional fears and analysis of many of the same things she, and often we, think and blog about. The way teams treat their fans. The differences in cities who host these 162-ish annual contests to determine who is going to get beaten and outspent by a certain Bronx-based limited partnership. (Yes, every one of us does hate them with a passion, as you quite correctly note.)  The strange ways that teams and media treat the distaff, but increasingly growing, side of their fanbase. Rules of the clubhouse, both the players' one and the sportswriters' one.

Then there's the title- 90 Percent of the Game is Half Mental- which, we THINK, is something Yogi Berra said that he actually did say. More important than that, his presence in the title (and in a few stories of Emma meeting him early in the book) ties in with another dear-to-my-heart discussion she gets into, of the roles of gender and emotion in sport. Or, Is There Crying In Baseball?

For me, nobody proves that better than Number 8 on both of your programs. I am not an unfeeling, or particularly macho, individual, but the innate ability to cry got beaten out of me (possibly in a literal sense) in my teens or even earlier. It takes something truly traumatic, or incredibly touching, to crank up the waterworks. The last two times it happened, Lawrence Peter Berra was on the other end of the eyes. Seeing him, such a Yankee among all Mets, touching home at the Shea Goodbye ceremony at the end of the 2008 season, was one time that did it. As did none other until, and none since, I saw him, and only him, among the 1969 Mets stars introduced and then photographed from Citifield centerfield, match-mooching distance from my outfield seat last August. It must be the mixing of his current looks with the not-that-much-younger memories I have of him from the first run of Met success. Whatever does it, I thank the author for bringing it- and him- back to me.

That, and all the rest, is a lot to cram into 166 pages, but Emma does it with plenty of one-off stories and punch lines to spare. Going by standard Internet spoiler rules, I am not yet going to quote any of them, but I think I can say, without fear of either contradiction or spoilage, that the one sentence in the book ending in the word "shovel" is the funniest thing I have read in this entire year.

Go find it yourself. Laugh with us. Learn with us. And threaten to run her over with a bus if she doesn't start working on the next one, like, yesterday.