Hey team, tonight is the most important night in the NBA. One of the most heated rivalries in basketball takes center stage. Yes tonight at 6:30, yours truly will be part of an 18-point underdog at St. Francis College (Go Terriers!) in downtown Brooklyn for the NBA. Not the National Basketball Association, but the National Book Award. Yea man, it's The Other NBA game for the National Book Foundation's BookUp Program, which distributes funds to underserved youth. Come to it and bet against the spread. Drink free beer from Brooklyn Brewery and wine from Archer Roose and eat the free Shake Shack foodstuff. Even if you can't go, you should donate to the cause. You can also watch me play atrocious basketball and pick apart my game (hint: Greivis Vasquez).
We here at the P&T bomb shelter thought this would be a great time to open up our first ever Posting and Toasting Book Club. We won't read together because it's too complicated. Besides, most of you maniacs can only read comments. What we can do is club one another over the head with our favorite books and best suggestions. Without further ado, take it away fellas...
I'm going to cheat a bit -- my book is about sports, but not basketball. The last sports book I read was "Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson" by Geoffrey C. Ward. I've been fascinated by Jack Johnson ever since I first heard that a black man won the heavyweight championship in 1908, which seemed impossible to me. As kids we learn all about the trials faced by Jackie Robinson, and Jack Johnson came along four decades earlier. It was a testament to the Wild West world of prizefighting -- Johnson stalked heavyweight champ Tommy Burns around the world for two years, publicly calling him out. There wasn't any sense of sportsmanship involved -- Burns was simply greedy enough to betray the racist principles of the day when an Australian promoter gave him a $30,000 purse. Johnson kept the title for seven years, culminating in his defeat of former champion Jim Jeffries in 1910. At least 20 black people died as a result of riots and lynching following Johnson's win. Eventually he was chased out of the country on trumped-up charges. It's a fine book about a life and time that almost defies imagination.
I'm always terrible at telling people what to like. I think it's because I can't imagine anyone would ever want to hear my opinion. So while it's hard to disregard (see what I did?) Rockin' Steady or One Magic Season and a Basketball Life, I gotta completely switch gears and go Gun, with Occasional Music. Generally I'm a big Jonathan Lethem fan. Maybe it's because he has such a perfect first name. Maybe it's because I like pulpy sci-fi detective stories. I didn't know this to be true until I read that book, and I haven't known it to be true since, but the point remains. If you ever felt like your dog was smarter than your co-worker or that babies are master manipulators I can't recommend this book enough.
Labyrinths, a collection of short stories by Jorge Luis Borges, is not only my favorite book ever, it's also the Knicks-iest thing I've ever read. Borges was a fantasist of the highest order, so spiritually duh! he's a Knick fan. Look at some of his stories: there's "Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius," about a fake world whose creators distort truth or straight-up make shit up, only this fake world eventually overtakes reality, i.e. the Knicks during the Isiah years; "The Lottery in Babylon," the tale of a world shaped by an engineered lottery, i.e. the Knicks and the Patrick Ewing lottery conspiracy; "The Secret Miracle," where time freezes as a man faces a firing squad, the same feeling Knick fans experienced as Allan Houston's shot in Game 5 of the 1999 Miami series bounced up and around before mercifully dropping; "Three Versions of Judas," clearly a prophecy of Pat Riley in New York; "The Sect of the Phoenix," clearly a prophecy of Jeff Hornacek in New York; and "The Circular Ruins," clearly a prophecy of MSG under James Dolan. Plus, Borges was Argentinian, so reading him offers the added perk of getting some supplemental Pablo Prigioni into your diet. Pablo be sneaking. Borges be seeking.
So those are our stories and we're sticking to them. Go support disadvantaged young people! Whether you can make it to the game or not, every bit you can do to help is truly important and will enhance lives in our communities! And if you want to bet against the spread tonight, I'll be your bookie.