Friday, August 15, 2008


With the prez sweepstakes about to kick fully on, serious promotion for "Savage Mules" begins -- at least, that's how it looks on paper. I was supposed to appear on the Armed Forces Radio Network earlier this week, where my musings would be heard in Afghanistan and Iraq, among other tourist traps. I was genuinely geeked for this gig, delivered a smooth pre-interview with the show's producer, then awaited the call from the studio. Instead, I received an email from said producer who confessed that the host, whom I won't name, felt intimidated by me, canceling at the last minute. Apparently, this has happened before, and I was assured that it was nothing personal. Whatever. It's just a fucking book interview. Dude must be deeply insecure.

Hopefully, the same won't happen next week as I'm scheduled to appear on Salon Radio with Glenn Greenwald. That should be fun, and I fully expect Glenn to make the mule case with prosecutorial zeal. Either that, or perhaps an audio love-in. Or maybe a bit of both. We'll see. Glenn's read my book and has yet to tell me what he thinks, so he's clearly saving that for the interview. In any case, I'm grateful for his invitation. And I look forward to the reaction from Glenn's many commentators. Entertainment for the masses is my motto.

One of my guilty pleasures, pro football, is also about to start, and apparently this year the NFL is looking to crack down on drunk, abusive fans. Good luck with that. Courting alcohol poisoning is a Sunday morning ritual for countless fans, and I don't see how the league can adequately enforce its new rules. USA Today had a reasonable if quaint take on the issue, citing China's polite Olympic crowds as a possible model for American fans. Sure. And maybe stadium vendors can sell bowls of steamed rice instead of hot dogs. That would go over equally as well. Fact is, most of those who get publicly lubricated, from Oakland to Philly to the Meadowlands, would be arrested and probably beaten by Chinese police were they to act in Beijing as they do at home. It's a form of state violence I could get comfortable with.

As a few of you may know, long ago I wrote and published a book about this very subject -- "Tiananmen Tailgater: Clubbed, Maced, and Jailed Before Kick-Off." Wait. I'm sorry. I meant "American Fan: Sports Mania and the Culture That Feeds It." That was a curious book, with an interesting back story and an ignominious end. "Fan" received mostly good reviews, from the Boston Globe, USA Today, and the Sunday New York Times, where Robert Lipsyte, pondering whether or not he should care about corruption in sports, said:

"Ask Dennis Perrin, who is my new role model as a funny, smart and mean-spirited fan. His new book, 'American Fan: Sports Mania and the Culture That Feeds It' (Spike/Avon), is hilariously vicious at the expense of Spike Lee, George Will, sportswriters, Michael Jordan, Nike and Jack Tatum. ('Were Tatum really great he would have crippled some fans as well.') Every fan should read it for moral support."

I even got a nice email from Bob Costas, who also enjoyed "Fan." So given all this, why did the book totally tank?

I touched on this over a year ago at Red State Doofus:

"When 'American Fan' was in the pipeline, waiting to be released, Avon/William Morrow was bought by Rupert Murdoch's HarperCollins. My book would still come out as planned, but my editor soon disappeared in the Murdochian bowels, plugging into the Borg and assuming his anonymous place. We rarely spoke; and after HarperCollins torpedoed 'Fan,' a book they despised, my old editor ceased returning my calls and emails. I haven't heard from him since."

The reason why HarperCollins hated "Fan" was simple: I attacked the corporate sports machine, of which Fox Sports, a mega-profitable Murdoch division, is a major part. The HC lawyers had me remove a few negative comments about Murdoch himself, and tried to tone down as much of the manuscript as they could. They then rushed the book into production, without correcting several of the mistakes and misspellings I'd caught, and after roughly six weeks on the shelves, HC dumped "Fan" altogether, despite the many good reviews the book garnered. They had no interest in making what was, and remains, a timely critique into a reasonable bestseller. There's certainly an audience for such a take, even though I'd now lose some of the jokes and drop many of the drug references. Who knows? Maybe a new version of "American Fan" is in my future.

I recently came across this review of "Fan" by William Berlind in the New York Observer. I'd only read it once, about a year after the book was flushed, and haven't seen it again until last week. It's a mixed assessment, which is fine (I have mixed feelings about "Fan" myself), but I like this part:

"In one early section, Mr. Perrin drifts from a riff on Dennis Rodman's bad behavior to Mormon fans to Phil Jackson to Buddhism to the Champions for Christ to homosexuality -- all this strung together by the loosest of narrative threads."

I think Berlind meant this as a putdown, but it pleases me, for that's exactly what I attempted, and apparently pulled off. The major conceit behind "Fan" was that I would discuss contemporary sports as would a typical sports nut -- jumping from one topic to the next without an apparent segue. It's something I didn't maintain throughout the narrative, one of the problems I would fix with a rewrite.

Berlind didn't get or find funny some of my other material. Eh, that's showbiz. But I wonder why he said "Mr. Mike" was a "largely uncritical work," when there's plenty of criticism in that biography. I think I know the reason. In the book's opening, I admitted that O'Donoghue was "a personal god" to me. Many reviewers latched onto that confession and it colored their overall view of my in-depth study. Rookie error on my part. Undaunted, I dedicated "American Fan" to "God Shammgod: A Personal God." A few radio hosts who interviewed me took this literally, and I didn't correct them. If my book was going down in flames, why not pray to a journeyman hoopster who helped lead the Providence Friars to the NCAA Elite Eight in 1997? Kali, like my editor, wasn't answering my calls.