Book Review: I Don’t Care If We Never Get Back by Ben Blatt and Eric Brewster

National-Lampoons-VacationIf you’ve ever seen Animal House, Van Wilder or any of the Vacation movies (and shame on you if you haven’t) then you’re already familiar with the institution known as Harvard University’s National LampoonLampoon is low-brow humor combined with high-brow education that has been a mainstay in American comedy ever since the first knock-knock joke was told.

Which is why when two Harvard grads, one of whom is a baseball-obsessed, numbers-cruncher and the other who was president of the Harvard Lampoon, combined to write a book about visiting thirty baseball stadiums in thirty days, I figured it was bound to be chockfull of light-hearted, perhaps raunchy yet still thought-provoking comedy about our national pastime.  “There were few other venues to watch clusters of men – all supposedly representing the epitome of masculinity – as they ran around in stretchy pants and knee-high socks.”

The best book about sports (and life) that I’ve read lately was Dylan Dethier’s 18 In America, a captivating coming of age story about a recent high school graduate who set out to play a round of golf in every state in America.  If you haven’t read it yet, you should.  Similarly, in I Don’t Care If We Never Get Back, Ben Blatt and Eric Brewster embark upon their own road trip which involves visiting every Major League Baseball stadium within a month’s time, which as you’ll find out includes a whole lot of hot dogs and not much sleep.  Blatt is the numbers geek and a lifetime baseball fan, Brewster is a lampoonist along for the ride.  Both are humorous and have their own way of telling a story.

I Dont Care If We Never Get BackI’ve struggled through a few books lately that have failed to keep my attention and neglected to give me a reason to keep turning the pages.  If We Ever Get Back is not one of those books.  It’s comical, entertaining, silly, honest and foam-fingered.  It’s about two friends following their dreams and having the balls and gas money to write about it.

On their journey across our nation from ballpark to ballpark, these two young men revisit their childhood while entering manhood.

Their madcap adventures include begging a batboy for a foul ball at Yankee Stadium while wearing Red Sox gear, Ben’s mathletic mancrush on Theo Epstein, getting trapped in the Liberty Bell, the awkward chance to meet THAT Joe Carter, tinkering with Ben’s algorithm after inclement weather alters the trip and having Canada Day simultaneously (and rather ironically) ruin yet save a trip that celebrated America’s pastime.  The book keeps you entertained by their writing style, a first person plural narrative or as the Big Lebowski would say “the royal we, the editorial we”.  (I don’t know.  I slept through English class).  Who’s doing the writing?  Ben?  Eric?  Both?  Whoever combines to tell us this story, they do so well.

As a baseball fan older than the combined age of the two authors, their work is a pleasant reminder that a passion for our national pastime still exists among a generation we once thought lost.  They grew up with baseball in their “hearts and TV sets, on the splotchy grass of our backyards and the pages of [their] morning paper.  Baseball was always theater, an off-Broadway show that ran 162 times a year in nine-act increments.”

They’d be geeks if only they didn’t write so well.  They enlighten us with descriptions of ballparks and places many of us have never been to.

FenwayOf Fenway, they write:  Fenway should have in no way still existed in its current form.  It was historic and charming in the same way a real estate agent knew a cramped studio apartment to be cozy.

Of Cooperstown, they write: Cooperstown was often called the mecca for baseball fans, a destination all diehards needed to visit at least once before dying.  A baseball fan in Heaven who hadn’t been to Cooperstown could not be self-respecting.

Of Marlins Park, they write: It was never a good sign when the stadium is more striking than the team, the brainchild of either a surrealist artist or a 15-year old kid who set out to build an arcade and accidentally constructed a baseball field.

Of the national anthem, they write: The anthem before a sports contest was like grace said before a meal, a “Thank you, America, for giving us the freedom and opportunity to partake in this trivial and comparatively inconsequential game, Amen.”

On scalpers, they write: If peanuts and Cracker Jack were ballpark treasures, then scalpers were ballpark treasures who took your money.  Never there when you needed them and always there when you didn’t want them.  What was undisputed was their status as full-fledged economies, supplying spontaneous demand with prices that fluctuated with live time.

And on parks in general, “No two fields were ever the same.  You could go to 30 parks and see 30 different fields.  It gave the sport a local flavor, a sense of tradition that outweighed the monotonous burden of regulation.  In a sport grounded in the art of repetition, it was the anomalies you remembered.”

In the end, the book becomes less about baseball and more about the experience, the exploration and the friendship.  Never Get Back is told from a fan’s perspective, not from that of an insider and it is right on time for baseball season.  I’d be lying if reading it didn’t get me a little more pumped for the boys of summer, something Major League Baseball has so far failed to do.

If you’ve ever thought about packing up the car and doing this yourself, pick up the book instead.  It’ll save you the hassle, the frustration, the speeding tickets and a whole lot of money spent on hot dogs and brew.  And you might get just as many chuckles.

4 thoughts on “Book Review: I Don’t Care If We Never Get Back by Ben Blatt and Eric Brewster

  1. Chris

    I’m sorry but what is meant to be the appeal of watching baseball at either Minute Maid Park(Houston) or Citi-Field in Flushing , given the recent propensity for the ongoing mediocrity of the Astros and Mets ? Look, if it’s a choice between watching either the Houston Astros or the New York Mets ____ and watching paint dry while a flock of pigeons fly overhead , looking to take a crap on the fence . Then I’d rather watch the paint dry and then the pigeons have at it ! It’s likely to be far more entertaining than watching the Mets or Astros.

    A Rod at first base for the Yankees ? How about A-Rod simply taking a walk or better yet , leaping off the top of the Waldorf Astoria in Manhattan ? He’d be creating far more ” bang for the buck” with that impact than the $25 million plus, he’s going to be paid by the Yankees in putting up mediocre numbers this season.

    Golden State Warriors notched up sixty wins at a fantastic rate this season . The Knicks by comparison showed what they could do with a mediocre playing staff , coaching staff and incompetent front office, by simply turning up and giving a lack of effort. Somehow, the Phil Jackson supporters don’t really believe, he is to be blamed in any way. I believe it was Jackson who went about hiring a coaching staff, where the coaching experience was about credible as plagiarist, Jason Blair’s resume’ .

  2. Al…

    Losing teams should price their beers and brauts accordingly.

    So, for example, if the Mets suck, which they do, they should have discount beer night so that fans can tolerate how bad their team actually is.

    It doesn’t surprise me that the Yanks are playing A-Rod at first. Isn’t that where all aging fielders go to die?

    And Golden State is gonna be a tough out this post-season, Al, especially considering they’re going to have home court advantage throughout.

  3. Chris

    I know you’re involved in the beverage and hospitality business . So I would venture you could provide the advice needed for the Mets , Astros and Phillies on ways to price their concessions accordingly ? This exhibition season the Phillies look like a team that will struggle as much in the regular season as they during Spring Training .

    With regard to A-Rod , the Yankees have only themselves to blame at this juncture because they could have bought out his contract or cut him on the ground he broke several agreements based on clauses set in the origins of that contract. If he fails to have a batting average above .280 , hitting a minimum of thirty home-runs with , at 120 RBI’s , then season has to be considered a failure . All this while making an outlay in excess of $24 million . I wonder if there’s any common sense to be found with Hal, Hank Steinbrenner , GM Brian Cashman and Lonn Trost (SVP & Chief Legal Counsel) for the franchise .

    Golden State have been hard to beat at home and equally on the road . This team has depth , and one hell of a coaching staff under the leadership of Steve Kerr. Makes me wonder why Phil Jackson didn’t try to offer Kerr the job when he had the chance to, rather than hiring the inexperienced Derek Fisher and them assembling a coaching staff for the Knicks, that couldn’t find their way out of a darkened room were they being aided by the latest technology from NASA .

  4. I’m not going to say that I’m surprised at the job that Kerr has done, Al, but it wasn’t all that long ago that the team was bereaving the firing of Mark Jackson.

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