Book Review – Now I Can Die In Peace

Yet another Red Sox book about the team winning the World Series?

Released a full year after the team won it all?

Those are the two most commonly heard questions when the subject of Bill Simmons’ upcoming book, “Now I Can Die In Peace” is brought up. The market has been saturated with books on the topic, and there will still likely be a few more before all is said and done. This book however, is a little different from the others that have been put out there that only dealt with the 2004 season and what it meant to them to finally win it all.

What Simmons does is trace the roots of the 2004 Red Sox, by bringing back columns dating back to 1998 and tracking the genesis and evolution of the team until it arrived at the version that ended the 86 year World Series drought for Boston.

Some of these columns have not been seen since Bill closed the doors of his old Digital City site, and moved onto Page2 of ESPN.com.

So it’s just a book of rehashed columns then, huh?

Not quite. Simmons has selected columns from 1998 – 2005 (He includes the column from the ring ceremony in April, which in part explains the later release date) which reflect the state of the team and the mindset of the fans. He introduces each one with some background information, and has tweaked a few of them here and there, but never damages the integrity of the original writing, or engages in any revisionist history. His wrong predictions are all right there with the correct ones. The columns and book are divided into four time periods “Rejuvenation” (1998-99) “The Abyss” (2000 – 2003) “Hope is a good thing” (2004) and “The Great Escape” (The final seven games of the playoffs).

Here’s a sample of some of the columns that you find the book, with their original publishing date:

Why No-Mah is a Keep-Ah – October 5, 1998

Pedro Saves the Day – October 12, 1999

Escape from New York – October 13, 1999 (Great Yankees jokes)

The Buzz – April 18, 2000 (Carl Everett’s first few weeks with the Red Sox)

Pedro and the Pantheon – May 16, 2000

Here Comes Manny – December 12, 2000

The Other Side of Nomar – March 1, 2001

Is Roger the Anti-Christ? – May 29, 2001

Silence of the Rams – February 4, 2002

“They don’t have it this year” – September 24, 2002

Paradise Lost, Again – October 17, 2003

The Electric Fence – February 17, 2004

The Great Divorce – August 1, 2004

Game by Game columns for the 2004 playoffs.

Zihuatanejo – April 12, 2005

“Silence of the Rams” is the column written after the Patriots won their first Super Bowl. It is included in the book, because as he mentions later the Patriots victory in many ways “set up” Boston fans for the later success of the Red Sox finally breaking through. It took a little pressure off in some ways.

The real star of the book however, beyond the columns, is the margin notes. Over 500 of them, some quite lengthy. These are a running stream of consciousness as we go through the columns, re-living what was going on at that time, explaining some obscure references, background material, history and who is who. If you never read the old Sports Guy site, and wonder just who J-Bug, Gus and Stoner are, you find out. And by the way, Bill has never drank an Appletini in his life. Just so you know. I also enjoyed the shots at Joe Buck and Tim McCarver.

The prologue to the book runs about 15 pages and tells us a lot about Bill’s background, childhood and philosophy on sports. He outlines six rules of rooting for sports teams, tells us that he’s been reading the Globe sports section as long as he’s been able to read, which was the age of TWO. He outlines his history with the Red Sox, and his career path. He thus sets up how much the World Series victory meant to him, and by extension, all Red Sox fans. I enjoyed re-living all these moments from the past six years very much, and especially the day-to-day columns from the playoffs last fall. So yeah, I liked the book. Very much.

When the Yankees come to town to close out the 2005 regular season Simmons will have a couple of book signings in the city. On Friday September 30th, he’ll be at the BU Bookstore, and on Saturday Oct 1st, he’ll be at the Barnes&Noble in Kenmore Square two hours before the game.