A Wish

The NCAA Men’s Basketball Final Four was just in Houston. And by all accounts it was wildly successful. There was a huge music festival and an “experience” for every member of the family. Those things happen around every sporting event.

But I’d like to see something for books around these things. Can you imagine if the NFL hosted the Super Bowl Festival of Books in each host city every year? They’d be promoting the game and literacy. I mean, who wouldn’t want to attend that? The NBA or MLB could host something similar during their respective All-Star breaks.

These events bring thousands of people into one place. I think they could potentially bring books and people together. What do you think?

An Important Question I Need Your Help With

I’m thinking of a complete overhaul of my blog.

Anyone who has read my blog for any period of time knows that I’m pretty strict about sticking to my theme. A couple of times a month I’ll write about something else, but if I were to look back at all my posts I’d bet that well over 90% are writing/publishing/book related. But I think there’s another topic that I’d like writing about just as much or more…sports.

I know you’re probably thinking “typical guy,” but no. I love sports more than I love books. And I can just about guarantee that the one guy you’re thinking about who tends to “know everything” about sports knows a whole lot less than I do. I had to come to realize how much I loved reading when I was younger. I didn’t have to do that with sports. There’s never been any doubt. I’ve only been to two Houston Rockets games (the second one happened yesterday) and I’ve never been to a Texans game, but I’ve probably attended 50 Astros games. And now that both the Astros and Rockets have a TV deal that allows me to watch them, I don’t miss games. It’s easy for someone to say they don’t miss any of their team’s games when it’s football season. But I’m talking about 82 + 162. It’s difficult to describe to you how seriously I take this stuff.

Simply put, I’ve never met someone who keeps up with MLB, NFL, and NBA like I do. I don’t just watch, I’m constantly analyzing. I used to think two of my older brothers knew more than I ever would in a lifetime, but I passed them long ago.

The thought has crossed my mind to just create a separate blog to write about sports, but that’s out of the question. There’s a reason this blog has a nice little readership and attracts new visitors every single day…time. The time I’ve put in to enable its growth. And I’m not going to do that a second time. But I know based on passed posts that y’all aren’t interested in what I have to say about sports. So I’m left with two choices…turn this into a sports blog because I want to, or don’t.

Tell me why or why not. And don’t say “do what you want.”

Amazon’s List of 100 Books Everyone Should Read: #44 Moneyball by Michael Lewis

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Hey look, I’m not waiting months to get my 2015 reading off the ground. I actually started this book last year sometime and I would read and then not and then read. Anyway, I finished it last night and I have some things to say. Remember guys, with the books from the Amazon list I’m just telling you what I think and I’m not going to tell you detail after detail from the books. These aren’t reviews.

This was the fifth book I’ve read from the list since it was released about a year ago. I’m hoping to get a few of these under my belt before this year comes to an end. Now onto the book.

Moneyball

This book follows the 2002 Oakland Athletics of Major League Baseball. Hopefully some of that sentence rings a bell. Michael Lewis followed the team to get a look inside Oakland’s unorthodox manner of building a professional baseball team. Stats like batting average and stolen bases and runs batted in (RBI) were no longer valued as they had been for all of baseball’s long history. Instead Billy Beane and his staff focused more on on-base percentage (OBP) and sabermetrics. In short, sabermetrics are the statistical study of in-game baseball activity.

During the course of the 2002 season the Oakland Athletics set an American League record of 20 consecutive wins while having the second lowest payroll in all of baseball. They were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs.

My Thoughts

Wow. Just wow. I have to admit that I saw the movie adaptation of this book long before ever picking up the book. Chances are that you have too. Brad Pitt. Jonah Hill. Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor Oscar nominations. Yeah. Anyway, so I thought I knew a good bit about the book. Wrong. I knew nothing.

Michael Lewis tells you about the origins of sabermetrics. And how Bill James (a pioneer of sabermetrics) originally wrote for an audience that didn’t exist. No one cared about sabermetrics because they’d never heard of such a thing and figured that baseball people knew what they were doing. It tells the reader a whole lot about how the Oakland Athletics drafted players that were not on other teams’ radars or were heavily undervalued. Lewis puts you in front of these players who sometimes don’t understand why the Oakland Athletics have such interest in them (because no other team does).

But the greatest aspect of this book is how well Billy Beane is described. Billy Beane is the general manager of the A’s and the main subject of the book. See, in the movie we get to see him work his magic during the course of the 2002 season. But in the book we learn so much more. We learn about his playing career. We learn that he was drafted out of high school in the first round and expected to be a Major League outfielder in short time. We learn that he didn’t pan out and ultimately quits baseball to become a scout. The movie is only able to give you snippets of his life prior to his role as the GM.

When the book was originally released in 2003 Billy Beane was the joke of all jokes. Everyone thought he wrote the damn thing to make himself out to be some genius. To make himself out to be smarter than every executive in baseball. But that’s not what I take away from this book. I see a man passionate about his work who refuses to accept mediocrity in its execution and results. And he also didn’t write the book.

All in all, this book far exceeded my expectations. Every baseball fan should read it. I have it ranked as #18 on my list of the best books I’ve ever read. And oh by the way, sabermetrics are used by every baseball team in Major League Baseball today.

The movie is also titled Moneyball.

PS: any newcomers to my blog can check out what I thought of The Fault in Our StarsThe Diary of a Young Girl, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory; also from the Amazon list.

Writer’s Privilege is a Real Thing

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Photo Credit: Writers & Artists

Let’s face it. There are a number of professions that are outrageously difficult to break into. Professional sports. Music. Movies. Publishing. Every one of these professions has their critics, but are any of them on the level of the publishing industry?

Think about the fact that there are more than 300 NCAA Division I basketball programs in the country. Which puts a rough estimate of the number of players at maybe 3600. Guess how many are drafted each year in the NBA draft? 60. And typically the second half of those players drafted will never make an NBA roster. So 30. I’m no good at math, but that means less than 1% of all NCAA Division I basketball players will get a chance to play professionally. Sounds similar to the number of writers who ultimately gain representation through an agent, right? Also, let’s not forget that many foreign born and NCAA Division II and III players are also eligible.

Just one more example. The MLB draft is up to 40 rounds. Let’s say that every team chooses a player in every round, though this doesn’t happen, but let’s just say it does. That puts the number of players drafted at 1200. You’re probably thinking that’s a pretty high number, right? Wrong. MLB organizations have several minor league teams with rosters to fill. All of the 3200 players will at least have the opportunity to sign a professional contract. Guess how many will ultimately play in the MLB? Maybe 100 out of those 1200. A slightly higher percentage than the previous example, but still not high.

Anyway, the point that I’m making is that if you read blogs on WordPress or even op-eds written by authors there is a constant theme…the publishing industry doesn’t give us a chance to succeed. That agents and publishers have gone beyond the point of acting as gatekeepers to keep average or below average writing out of the traditional publishing world.

I mean, I’m sure you’ve read some rather angry rants directed toward the publishing industry in your time on WordPress. I know I have. This also all comes back to writer’s privilege, right? For some unknown reason writers think they’re owed something. A chance. A publishing deal. An agent. Whatever it may be, writers seem to think it should be theirs. Because there are other professions out there that have similar statistics to the publishing industry, but we aren’t constantly bombarded by people claiming that the NBA or Hollywood or the music industry all owe anyone anything.

Sure it sucks that so few authors actually make it, but so what? No one told you to write anything. And don’t give me that whole “I write because I have to” crap. You can also have a 9-5 job because you have to.

Writers, you don’t deserve anything. You need to go out and take it from someone else. So do it and stop complaining.

In my head I’m thinking writer’s privilege, but I’m seeing other people use that to talk about a million other things. Maybe I used the wrong term. Eh.