A Book, the Highlights of Which Were …

Sometimes reading is a pleasure. Sometime it is more an investment.

At the moment, I’m fairly racing through Frank Deford’s Over Time: My Life as a Sportswriter. He’s been my favorite writer of sports since I read his first novel, Cut ‘n’ Run, when I was about 15. I’ve been using a highlighter, as if I were still some college sophomore cramming for a Survey of American Literature exam.

Until recently, I may have been the only South Carolinian who did not believe the Greenvillian, Shoeless Joe Jackson, should be in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Deford’s book changed that with one quotation, attributed to my father’s greatest hero, Ted Williams, who, according to Deford, said in support of Jackson, “Only fucking baseball could give someone a lifetime ban and then keep it going after his fucking lifetime was over.”

Then there’s the line of Richie Ashburn, referring to Pete Rose: “If Pete (who doesn’t drink) had a drink at lunch, he’d be an alcoholic by the time he went to bed.”

Deford himself writes that “the very best way for any child to grow up was to be the poorest kid in the country club,” which led me (never a member of such a club) to set aside the book to consider it a moment.

It didn’t take me as long to digest Jimmy Cannon’s observation: “A sportswriter is entombed in a prolonged boyhood.” I was a sportswriter for a while. That’s obvious, though oft “entombed” in denial.

Then there’s the investment. I sometimes read books not with enthusiasm but for need. I try, from time to time, to read the great works that somehow slipped through the cracks of my education. Last year I read Les Miserables, which led to two conclusions: (1.) Misery? You think you got misery? You don’t know misery, and, (2.) Whose idea was it to turn this into a musical?

When I read Don Quixote, I concluded that humor has made no significant improvement in 400 years.

Henny Youngman, notwithstanding. He asked, “What’s the use of happiness? It can’t buy you money.”

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