Let's get this out of the way...it's one of those bad memoirs. It's not exploratory or particularly groundbreaking. Nothing (as of yet) is learned and discovery isn't occurring. This is closer to the "I have opinions, too, but expressed in a pithy modern vernacular with swears & pop culture." Mary Karr this is not. But I could care less because I'm enjoying the hell out of this book even though I'm not learning one damn thing. It's candy. Sweet, sweet candy.
Here's the lowdown on why it's so damn sweet. It's about baseball, the loving of baseball, the bonds baseball creates betweens friends, fathers & sons, fans & teams & players and everything else. And it features the Cardinals & the Cubs from a decidedly anti-Cub point of view. Hooray for that.
Let's focus on that last part a bit because you don't realize how awesome that is that this book exists. Honestly, if there was to be a book from a fan's perspective about the Cardinals & Cubs, you'd expect it to be a Cubs fan. I'm not entirely sure why I feel that way. Maybe it's from watching Ken Burns's baseball and I assume that all the smart sounding people are Cubs fans (I'm looking at you George Will...and pay close attention to those italics, pal) and the Cardinals have no backers willing to put pen to paper and profess their love for the team. But this Will Leitch guy did so and did so well, capturing the rivalry & the fanaticism (for the Cardinals point of view) quite well.
The rivalry between the Cards & Cubs is different than any others because it's not chummy or civil or anything like that. It's serious, but not Sox-Yanks violent. There's very little gouging of eyes during Cards-Cubs games. If we consider baseball rivalries as a family, the Cards would be your uncle that has his shit together, decent job, stable family, and you know, serious about what he does. There's joy in the job well done. Then there's that other uncle, Uncle Pabst, the Cubs, the uncle who someone is enjoyable in spite of himself through sheer charisma, but kind of a buffoon, eating crumbs of food he finds in his jeans pockets, but somehow isn't a total wreck. And that's why the Cards & Cubs don't get along, the Cards are there, going on about their serious business goddamnit, and the Cubs, they are stumbling into picnic table, eating the decorative icing edges off the cake before it's ready to serve, but gets away with it because, shit, it's just Uncle Cub, come on, get him a beer. They just don't understand each others ways and it angers them because they both sort of wish they could maybe be a little like the other, but neither is willing to give up what they enjoy so much (Cards would be the winning, the Cubs would be the Pabst times) in order to achieve them. It's kind of a jealousy, I suppose.
Leitch seems to understand that. In fact, Leitch settles into many areas of agreement with me in terms of a sense of disappointment with Ken Burns's Baseball documentary (I love it, but it could have been better with a little less Red Sox/Yankees...yes they are the premier franchises and I understand that, but the love of baseball is more than east coast championships), the exact correct evaluation of the entire Bartman incident. He's also a bit of a stathead, which I appreciate. I haven't really gone full over to the dark side of sabremetrics because I don't know where to start my education on that subject, but I do like this obsessive search for better statistics. And he even thinks Yadi Molina is a giggler, which I agree he is 100%.
It doesn't really get much deeper than that for me with this book. There's nothing beautifully written, though I believe the emotional bonds he explains between sports and fans is well rendered, though not artistically shown. But who cares? I'm enjoying reading and agreeing with this guy on everything...plus he's from downstate Illinois (sort of, Mattoon...well, not really actually, but at least not Chicagoland). So, really, is that such a bad thing? Actually, I know it's a bad thing to completely inculcate yourself with agreeing thoughts without challenging your opinions somewhat, but right now, I'm like a Sarah Palin fan...tell me how we agree so I can like you more and feel validated for my feelings.
Anyway, I'm enjoying this like candy, but it won't make me fat like candy. That's awesome.