Apr 03, 12
Read from March 22 to April 03, 2012
Here are the three most boring subjects in popular nonfiction:
1. Anything about running
2. Camping stories
3. Recaps of baseball games
Since Faithful is 75% recaps of baseball games, it's pretty boring.
Actually, let me modify that list. More tiresome than all of those things combined are first-hand accounts of catching balls at batting practice, and since Stewart O'Nan takes up another 5% of the book with paragraphs and paragraphs of those, that only leaves 20% of the book that couldn't be easily replaced by strings of the letter Z.
O'Nan's a good writer and a nice guy, but he paints a pretty unflattering portrait of himself in his sections of this account of the 2004 Red Sox seasons. He's they guy who brings a fishing net to BP to haul in even more balls, makes a point of finding a perfect spot to flip off the Yankees' team bus, and secretly listens to a Sox game though an earbud during his daughter's high school graduation. A June game.
Stephen King's comes off as a more relatable fan in his entries -- devoted and obsessed, sure, but someone you could have a conversation with about baseball without knowing the OBP of any particular player, or maybe even without knowing what "OBP" means, if you're okay with the conversation being short. Let's face it, is there any other writer alive whose work is so readable while making writing seem so easy? His pages are a breeze.
Anyway, the dullness alleviates somewhat in the second half of the season, but then the book seems to short shrift the playoffs and Series, as if the writers had enough of their eight-month diary and wanted to be done with it. I was left longing for some final insight into the season, the team, and the franchise of the type that I didn't want for grapefruit league games but was fed by the early chapters anyway.
Ultimately, it's that double-diary format that drags the book down. While it gives you a great insight into the minds of a couple of Red Sox fanatics watching the Red Sox, Faithful has very little else to say. That's too bad, especially because that insight unintentionally proves that Red Sox fans aren't especially different than fans of any other unsuccessful franchise. The Sox Nation would insist otherwise, but every fan of every team insists their fandom is somehow unique.
King and O'Nan hope and pray and cheer, but just like any other fans, they mostly gripe and fret. So let me take this moment to call them BIG WHINY HIPPO BABIES, because they're gnashing their teeth over a team that lost sight of .500 in April and never looked back. Yeah, yeah, the Sox hadn't won a World Series in the lifetime of either of the authors, and it'd been 18 years since they'd even made it into one. But I'm a Pirates fan (as my fellow Pittsburgher O'Nan once was) and my kind have been waiting 19 years for just a god damn winning season. Yinz beaneaters should try that for a spell.