Is Joe Posnanski the Best Sportswriter in America? Almost certainly. The Best Writer in America? My gut says he’s in the running. Which probably means, Joe tells me, that I’m way off base.
Two examples of why I love Joe: On Saying What You Think Is Right Without Evidence (real title: ‘The Toughest Three Outs’).
Maybe the throw-away line that “the last three outs in baseball are the hardest” doesn’t make you flinch. Joe explains not only why this talking head cliche is nonsensical, he leaves a reader wondering how often s/he says things that just ‘sound right’ but have no substance or link to the way things really are. Posnanski seems to be writing about baseball; he’s really jump starting a discussion of epistemology and psychology that is visceral and important.
I write about Joe here today only because of something he wrote recently on the Death of Donna Summers (‘Last Dance’) that, again, is less about the late great (?) pop star than the inside bigger than the outside. He drops a Harry Potter reference in one of his opening paragraphs:
I did not like Donna Summer’s music. And I loved it. This is one of the contradictions of my childhood. There were many.
I did not like Cleveland Municipal Stadium. Like it? How could anyone like it? The wind whipped in off the lake and made summer evenings in July feel like that fruits and vegetables room at Costco, and winter afternoons in December feel like Stalingrad. The view from every seat, every single seat, was blocked by a metal beam — it was an architectural marvel in that way, the ballpark equivalent of that pool table where no matter where you aim the cue ball it ends up in the same place. The floor was covered in some kind of remarkable and ambiguous tacky substance that I’m entirely sure was later patented and used for the Sticky Buddy. Asbestos seemed to be leaking out of the walls, there were exposed wires everywhere, the place smelled of the kind of gasoline beer that could get you drunk if you were within a 500-foot radius. My father, of course, would buy the cheapest tickets available, which meant that even though there were countless empty seats in front of us in that cavernous place, we would sit far back, because to move up would be cheating*, so it would feel like we were a half mile away from the game. The place was so big and, except on the Fourth of July, so empty and so filled with ghosts that to go in there was like walking into an instant sadness machine; it felt like the place was crawling with dementors from Harry Potter.
*A habit I never lost; I sit in assigned seats no matter how many empty seats happen to be available down low.
If you want to read about why Joe knows about the dementors, read this piece about his relationship with his daughter. I’m thinking of making ‘Joe Blog’ my internet home page. My gut says I should. Let me know what you think.