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That Time I Sold 200 Books in a Day

"How to Talk to a Yankee Fan"

Selling books is not an easy task, especially when no one knows who you are. People will gab with you, find out all about you, learn what your book is about, and even laugh at the funny parts in your sales pitch. They’ll tell you how great your book sounds even going so far as to say, “I’m gonna buy it!” just before walking away without a book. Uh, it’s right here. . . in this stack of even more copies of the book I’m sitting next to. . . Sir? Sir??

Yes, at various times in my life, I have hawked books. The first was an idea I came up with and co-wrote, a humor book observing the rabid nature of baseball fans called “How to Talk to a Yankee Fan.” It was mainly for fans of the Boston Red Sox, but also worked as a gag gift for Yankees fans with a sense of humor. And so I sat for hours in bookstores, bars, charity events, baseball card shows, even on street corners in Boston’s Kenmore Square. If there was a crowd, I was there trying to eke out a sale or two.

It was encouraging to learn from the Barnes & Noble Community relations manager at the Manchester, New Hampshire store that the turnout for one of my signings was not as sparse as that of another writer. Dan Brown of “The Da Vinci Code” fame only had sold three. . . his first time there. There with my writing partner, Rick, we sold nine books that one evening — six if you exclude the ones our friends bought. (Of course, once Oprah got a hold of Dan’s little book, there was a line around the building. But still! What a chump he must have felt like. . . upon looking back on his meager sales years later aboard his private jet sitting atop stacks of hundred dollar bills.)

So the question looming over things — How to sell more than nine copies, and make more than the standard bookstore profit of seventy-seven cents per book, which I had to split equally with Rick? I saw the spring training baseball crowd of vacationers and snowbirds in Florida as the ideal market for our demographic and I got on the phone with ballparks where the Red Sox would be playing throughout March. Rick scheduled some stand-up comedy shows while I planned book signings at sports bars, Barnes & Nobles, and two days at Edison Field, the spring facility of the Red Sox, during the first week of our tour. (Solid sales there would mean we wouldn’t have to lug over 300 books around with us for the final three weeks of the trip.)

The park was more than agreeable to us coming down and selling books. Doreen, the events manager, signed me up for a game day plus a non-game day where we could remain in the concourse for those guests who came for a tour of the place.

It was all set. . . and then, my grandmother passed away. So I had to postpone the dates and attend her funeral. Flash forward three weeks. The trip had been a great struggle, with lots of mileage put on the car, sluggish book sales, deceitful comedy club owners, and a publisher we could not rely on.

Monday of the last week arrived. This was the off-day aimed at selling to fans on a tour or meandering through the gift shop. Books that could be had at a bookstore for $15 were raised to $20 where we would get a commission of $9 per. (Isn’t that sweet of them?)  Nine books and two hours later, we closed up shop.

So far, the trickle of sales continued. My plan of bringing the book directly to the fans was not looking as wise as I had hoped. It built to a Tuesday morning at Edison Field, where the Red Sox faced the Pittsburgh Pirates and we faced the thought of driving back home with more than unsold 200 books. But on this game day, would be allowed to sell in the concourse of the 8600-seat stadium only until first pitch.

Usher Joe (our liason at the park) told us to get there an hour before the gates opened and he’d take us on a tour of the press box. In the press box, we met Carl, the public address announcer.  Carl was about 5’2″ (both ways) with white hair and a white beard, but when he spoke, you knew exactly what he did for a living.  We gave him a book and he surprised us by saying he’d give us a plug during the game.  (We told him we’d be signing all game, though I knew our marching orders were to close up shop when the first pitch was thrown. Usher Sal, tasked with taking the money for us, would be reassigned to a section in the park at that point).

Two and a half hours later, twenty-eight more books had left our hands.  And that was that, our last scheduled book signing for the trip. (Sigh.)

We got our cash, stored the rest of our books and were allowed to watch the game from SRO (standing room only) seats.  There was only one main aisle stretching from left field to right field with three rows of seats between the aisle and the field and many more in the “upper deck” area.  The park was not big and it was easy to find people.  (I mention that now because it’ll come back in a moment.)

Rick went off to find a spot along the left field side while I made my way toward right field and stood alone next to two gentlemen — one in a Cubs hat, the other a Brewers hat — and i started to watch. I overheard these guys ask who was pitching so I answered that it was knuckleballer Tim Wakefield.

Three innings later, we’re on our third beers having a great time, we three new best friends, laughing, and watching some pretty good baseball.  I barely even noticed the announcement over the loud speaker for our book which coincidentally came around the time Mike and Bob (my new drinking buddies) asked me what I did for a living.

A few minutes later, Joe comes over with three of my books in his hand.  (He found me simply by walking the aisle until he saw me.) He said, “Three people just came by and bought books, but want you to sign them.”  I said that I’d be down in a few minutes and continued drinking and having fun.  Mike and Bob were now intrigued at this guy who has an usher coming up to him. Then, another announcement over the loud speaker and Mike asks, “Wait, is that you?”

NOW, Rick comes over to me and says, “You gotta get downstairs. there’s a line of people that want books.” He explained that Joe was now taking the money so that would be okay. I had to leave. Mike and Bob playfully ribbed me, “Oh, now that it’s your round to buy drinks, you gotta go,” but they waved me on and said they’d stop by later.

I returned to the concourse to find we’re in code red with all the people around the table with books.  (It’s like the final scene in “Field of Dreams” when all of a sudden, hundreds of cars are driving up the road to Ray’s farm to see the baseball field.  Now we didn’t have hundreds, but…)

With regular announcements over the loud speaker, we sold another 52 that day for a total of 80. Doreen wasn’t happy with the fact we were selling during the game . . . until she saw the final tally. The souvenir stand was happy.  And we were happy.  A good time was had by all.

And that was that. A good haul, but still, there was work to be done. We had a comedy show the next night in Winter Haven and then on Thursday in Alabama before beginning the drive back to the left coast, books in tow. So we enjoyed our dinner with proceeds from books sold and planned to sleep in for it was only a two hour drive to Winter Haven.

HOWEVER, that next morning, Rick was awakened by the club booker in Winter Haven screaming at him for missing the show.  Turns out, the show was the previous night, while we were at dinner.

Going back through the e-mails, I found one several months earlier where my partner had inadvertently shifted the Tuesday and Wednesday shows to Wednesday and Thursday. And from there, it went into our calendars. Ooops. Not only was he no longer welcome in Winter Haven, but that meant the Alabama show was in nine hours. . . and it was an eight hour drive.

Dealt a whole bushel of lemons, I had to get the sugar and a citrus press in order to churn out a ton of lemonade. A Wednesday show meant we could now make it back to the ballpark for the team’s season finale on Thursday. (Given the nearly $900 we brought in for them, they were only all too helpful to set up an encore.)

The only obstacle remained driving to ‘bama, performing in an hour and a half comedy show, then getting right back into my car and driving back in time for the gates to open at 10:30 a.m. With Rick taking the graveyard shift in my car, while I slept, we actually made it.

Arriving back to our friends at the ballpark, we were told there was an article in the paper just above the previous day’s box score advertising our book. PLUS Carl kept pitching it over the loud speaker.  (I think people just wanted to buy it to shut him up, God bless him.) By the seventh inning, we had sold another 125, the last of our supply, basically paying for my trip. (Underestimating sales are better than overestimating them, which, I’ve learned far too many times, happens more often than not.)

Technically, we didn’t sell 200-plus books in a day. It was more like 30 hours. But the moral of the story is that unless your name is Dan Brown, it’s a battle, one where you should take what comes to you and enjoy the experience. Though it is good to know that Dan Brown may have done better than us in Barnes & Noble bookstores, we still outpaced him in ballparks. . . probably.

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10 Things Deflategate Has Taught Us About Ourselves

10 Things Deflategate Has Taught Us About Ourselves

The appeal hearing is over. You know, the appeal in the Deflategate scandal heard by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, the same guy who doled out the punishment in the first place. That phrase “Deflategate” has been in the public consciousness for 191 days thus laying waste to the claim that we have better things to focus on. Some have said it’s been a waste of time and money, while others have said it’s been a complete waste of time and money; I say it’s provided us with something more valuable than justice — a chance for introspection. Deflategate has afforded us the opportunity to see who we really are, as a society. Here are the ten things Deflategate has taught us about ourselves:

We LOVE a good witch hunt.

Something about New England brings out our persecution instincts. Yes, it’s been 322 years since someone was executed as a witch, but there’s really never a bad time to relive those Halcyon days.

Make no mistake, that’s what this was. This time, our witch was a dimpled Golden boy, one married to Giselle (most likely the result of some manner of sorcery and deception). The Wells Report, the investigative version of the Ford Pinto, has proven to be a clumsy attempt at  indicting Tom Brady. Even with the flawed material therein, the league still had to manipulate the verbiage in their to attempt to BURN THE WITCH!

We come to our conclusions and then fill in the details. 

People who wanted to believe Tom Brady was an evil mastermind found their proof in talking points — “The balls were 2 p.s.i’s under regulation!” “The Patriots chose to fire their employees which is a sign of guilt!” “The balls can’t deflate by themselves in cold weather!” Each of these points fit in with their narratives. . . even as all of those were proven false later. By then, everyone stopped paying attention as they were too busy dancing.

We believe the first thing we hear and then stop listening.

But we already knew this one, right? Headlines are front page material; retractions are on page 78, underneath automotive classifieds in type so small anyone over the age of 40 can’t read them. We’ve got our info, now leave us alone. There are cats to be watched on YouTube.

We don’t give two punts about the integrity of the game.

Most of the most vocal among us have no problem when their players lube themselves up to prevent opponents from getting a good grip. The league has played this card even in light of the fact they didn’t check the balls with any certainty or competence. In fact, they weren’t too concerned about anything illegal until after the fact.

We are hypocrites.

Hall-of-Famer and admitted cheater Jerry Rice says Tom Brady is a bum for cheating. But Rice has self-absolved himself of his cheating because, as he puts it, “everyone was doing it.” In his eyes, Brady is a lone wolf, regardless of the fact other quarterbacks have admitted to manipulating the balls. But then, that’s not important to Rice’s argument.

Whoever screams loudest is the winner.

The NFL leaked false information from the giddy up which allowed them to craft the narrative. And it worked. “Most of the Patriots footballs were at ridiculously low air-pressure levels.” “They were so underinflated, in fact, we’re surprised they weren’t mistaken for cow dung during the game.” “These things were just a heap of pigskin, nothing more”. . . of course, when anyone screamed about how this wasn’t true, no one could hear them over the league’s shrill voice of accusation. The league, for all their missteps and comically inept decisions, could not be wrong because they were loudest.

We love cutting others down to feel better about ourselves.

I’ve never won a Super Bowl because it looks difficult, and I don’t have the physical tools, the drive, the discipline, the intelligence. . . really, I’m barely a man. I’m pathetic. But now that I thinkTom Brady cheated to get his, I feel much better about myself. He’s as pathetic as I am. Suzanne Johnson, the wife of the Jets owner Woody Johnson was said to be dancing around when she heard the Patriots QB was found guilty by the court of kangaroos. I wonder if she stopped dancing when someone reminded her that her husband owned the Jets.

We’re more likely to believe a stranger than someone who knows.

ESPN commentators Damien Woody and Tedy Bruschi were asked whether they believed Tom Brady. Bruschi was a good friend whereas Woody only knew the man professionally from over a decade ago. Only Bruschi believed Brady because he knew the quarterback valued integrity above all else. So of course, we can only glean one thing from this — we must throw out his testimonial because he’s Brady’s friend. Only the man who truly knows nothing about the subject is unbiased enough to tell us whether he’s a liar or not.

We love not having accountability. 

We’re only wrong if we admit to being wrong which we’d be foolish to do, even if evidence destroys our case. So you’ll never get an apology from us. And we’ll continue to spout our opinions as if we’re right. It’s your fault for listening to us in the first place.

We are crazy people.

Most of the commentators were not playing with fully inflated footballs either. Troy Aikman said Deflategate was worse than Bountygate, an almost equally-fabricated scandal, where players were paid bonuses to inflict pain on opposing players. With all due respect, Aikman was hit in the head a lot.

ESPN’s Steven A. Smith has no such excuse. He compared Tom Brady to Aaron Hernandez, a convicted murderer, which on the surface makes him look like a loon, but as you look deeper you’ll find that he is really a loon. For more of his lunacy, check out ESPN on a daily basis because, you know what?. . . NO ACCOUNTABILITY.  And we love that!

So I say thank you Roger Goodell and Tom Brady and all the buffoons involved for forcing us to focus on the real depth of our character instead of just silly inflation numbers of footballs. What we do with this knowledge is up to us. I suggest we continue doing the same things. Hey, it’s worked for us for our 400 years, why change now?

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Red Sox/Yankees: A Flickering Rivalry

Varitek/A-Rod fight

Exactly ten seasons have passed since the Red Sox were defending champs for the first time since the Woodrow Wilson administration. (Nine if you completely disavow the Bobby Valentine fiasco.)

It was an entirely different environment for baseball fandom back then. Fans born today have no idea of the suffrage endured, the “better luck next year” anguish, the torment at the hands of Yankees fans. Oh, how times have changed. The greatest rivalry in American professional sports has gone stale (save for a fight between a drunk fan or two, but that’s all in a day’s game).

Sure, there have been long periods of calm before, interspersed by periods of violent conflagrations — Billy Martin and Jimmy Piersall fighting each other in the tunnel underneath the stands in the 50s; Fisk and Munson rolling around on the ground in the 70s; 2004, when Jason Varitek taught A-Rod about the health benefits of leather taken orally. I mean, this is a rivalry that once reached DEFCON 1, when Pedro was hitting Yankee batsmen as if he was playing “Duck Hunt” on his Nintendo Entertainment System. But this feels different.

For that was when we were frustrated and our buttons could be pushed. Now, we’re riding in duck boats on Easy (Boylston) Street. We’ve all seen that kid with the sign that reads “6 years old and 40 parades” or something like that. He will never know true hardship, that borne of shattered dreams and broken bat flare singles; the anger that comes from leaving a pitcher in the game too long like a turkey on Thanksgiving, or diminutive shortstops hitting one just over the monster. We were a nervous, sad sack of tears and regret back then, but it bred many of our best qualities — bravery, resilience, optimism, probably a little foolishness, but most of all, loyalty.

There are few remnants of those traits in the newest generation of Red Sox fans. It comes too easily for them whereas for us, the only ticker tape we ever saw came when a Telex factory dumped their refuse out the window. (This new generation doesn’t even have to deal with telex machines!) But regardless of the disappointment, I kept watching my team!

At one time, Boston executives couldn’t even get onto the same hotel floor as a Cuban import and now all flights to Boston seem to include a layover in Havana.

Gone are the days when the Red Sox would claim ex-Yankees off the scrap heap — Elston Howard, Rick Cerone, Ramiro Mendoza — and now we’re happily allowing them to overpay for our players — Stephen Drew, Jacoby Ellsbury. Heck, we’ll even cover the Amtrak fare down I-95.

I miss those days. I feel like I had an edge then. I was close to the borderline, baby! Don’t push me with your “19-18!” chants and your brags of 20-some-odd championships (most of which occurred before you were born).

Every hero needs a villain. Who do we root against now? A-Rod? Ha! Expecting anything from him is like expecting a glorious spring lawn once the snow melts and then remembering all the dog poop that’s still there.

Do the fans still bother us? (Well, yes, of course they do, they’re Yankees fans and verbal abuse is in their cholesterol-clogged arteries. Disregard the question.) I just don’t feel the same animosity for them that I once did. Their taunts don’t have the same bite anymore since the Red Sox have tripled the Yankees output of championships during this century. Those numbers they used to spew are now insignificant to an entire generation of fans.

Could it be that we’re the villains now? Nah. I know many teams don’t like us, but that never bothered us before. Did it? To be honest, I don’t even know who I am anymore. I enjoy the winning, that’s true, but it was more the thrill of the victory, which allowed the thrill of rubbing it in the faces of Yankees fans.

This week, we start a new season where the Yankees lineup is peppered with players either on the downward slopes of their careers or pulled from the FBI’s Witness Relocation Program softball team. There are no future Hall of Famers left, no MVPs, no Red Sox killers. They’re not going to put up much of a fight.

The nineteen games where the two squads will square off this year will not lead to seven more in the postseason. They’ll lack the drama, they’ll lack the sense of relief and joy after a victory, the kind we used to have. How do we stoke the fire and make the rivalry fun again?

Maybe Wade Miley starts head hunting since he doesn’t have to bat anymore. Perhaps Pedroia slides in spikes up to his old double play-mate Drew. We’ll be happy to take our cue from any of the guys on the field.

There’s a new league commissioner and maybe that signals a brand new day in this rivalry. But until then, we only have YouTube videos and Ben Affleck-narrated documentaries to teach our children what it means to be decent and hard-cheering fans, and to rekindle old feelings of a rivalry gone bland.

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March Madness Parody Video

With March Madness starting in full force this week, office workplaces will be focused on one thing — their NCAA Tournament brackets. Written by and starring Andy Wasif, here’s a retrospective of one such office from last year.

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My Application to Be an NFL Coach

Dear Coachless Football Teams,

I understand your frustration in hiring a new coach to run your on-field product.  The top college coaches aren’t interested and you have trepidation about some of those who have done it before, the Ken Whisenhunts, and the Lovie Smiths, and the Lovey Howells of the world.  Hence, I’d like to take this opportunity to throw my hat into the ring.

Hey, Norv Turner remained the head coach of the San Diego Chargers for six years!  You really have nothing to lose in calling me in.  Tell you what, I’ll even pay for the lunch we have together.  You like Thai food?

I know what you’re thinking:  I don’t have any experience.   True, but what I lack in experience, I make up for with snappy answers at my press conferences.

As for qualifications, where do I begin?  I am a former Monday morning quarterback, with over 30 years of experience chastising coaches for moves that, with the benefit of hindsight, seem incredibly stupid.  I have a very good record of pointing out what should have been done after the fact.

I am a badass, but a player’s coach.  To wit, I run my practices like a drill sergeant, but allow my players who display exceptional effort on the practice field to earn coupons for “one free back rub and tub soak.”

Each day, I am the first one to arrive and the last one to leave the facility.  (Though I do require an eight-hour lunch/siesta in the middle of the day.  Genius needs its rest.)

And I demand that my players will have the best endurance in the league.  I’m like Michael Douglas in ”Miracle.”  (Or was it Kurt Russell?  Y’know, I shouldn’t get them confused, but I do.)  I don’t run two-a-days, I run three-a-days.  And every practice is in pads.  In fact, I require my players to wear pads 24-7, even on off days.  They can only take them off when they shower.

From a strategy point-of-view, I can tell you that a prevent defense doesn’t prevent anything.  So I won’t use it.  A prevent offense, however, I use almost exclusively when in the red zone.  It helps to reduce turnovers close to the goal line which always sap a team of much needed momentum.

In this formation, when the ball is snapped and the offensive line drives the defense into the end zone, the quarterback hands the ball off to the running back who then scampers all the way down to the other end of the field wasting valuable time the defense would otherwise have to get the ball back and tie the game after we punched it into the end zone.  I got the idea from a recent rousing game of ”keep away.”

Defensively, I am just as adept at confusing the opposing team.  Cover-2?  Yeah, too weak.  I use the cover-11 and drop everyone into coverage.

I don’t carry a punter.  The game has four downs and I like to use them all.  Punters just take up a roster spot.  So I usually carry a fourth quarterback.  Tim Tebow will not be one of those four quarterbacks.  I see him more as a down lineman type in my scheme.

”Game management” is my middle name.  When the ball is in our quarterback’s hands with a minute thirty or less, that’s when we’re at our best.  We play the entire game as if that were the case.  The hurry up offense has never been as fast.  The second the center gets to the ball, he’s told to snap it backwards, whether the quarterback is ready or not.

Sometimes I put all four quarterbacks on the field at the same time and get the defense to try to guess who’s going to get the snap.

I’m versed in the pistol, shotgun, run-and-shoot, hit-and-run, pick-and-roll, the wildcat.  I also have perfected formations known as the musket, laser, Shangri la, and the Mississippi midnight mosey.  (The last one is a dance step, but I have a feeling I could integrate it into the offense seamlessly.)

I’m known for the sheer volume of times I employ the on-sides kickoff.  It softens the receiving team up until they don’t expect a long kickoff.

The types of players I am most fond of are tall and lanky wide receivers, that run a 9.0 80-yard dash or faster.  (I don’t believe that a 40-yard dash can adequately gauge a person’s speed and I believe that running them 100 yards is useless as there’s no purpose for that type of distance in American football.)  Someone like former NBA star, at a height of 7’6” Shawn Bradley would be ideal for my pass plays.

My cornerbacks need to have loose hips and tight necks.  So they can only stare at what’s directly in front of them but can constantly change that point of view.

Did I mention I am a tireless workaholic?  I watch film constantly.  For instance, I just finished “Argo.”  It was breathtaking.  I’m considering running a few plays like that.

I even write my own cheers for the cheerleaders.  ”One-two-three-four, we’re not gonna pass no more.” It’s actually my way to call the play to our quarterback.  (The one flaw is that if the other team realizes it’s not a real cheer, we’re in trouble.)

I grow my mustache like Andy Reid, spit when I talk like Bill Cowher, wear a fedora like Tom Landry, a sweater like Mike Ditka, and a hoodie like Bill Belichick, all at the same time.  My nickname is, in fact, ”Bum.”  According to ancestry.com, I am 1/128th Harbaugh.

On a side note, I am an amateur horticulturalist.  What do I grow?  I grow Bill Parcells Coaching Trees in my greenhouse.

”Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing,” was Coach Vince Lombardi, the man for whom football’s ultimate trophy is named.  ”Winning is something that isn’t nothing” is mine.  I live it, I breathe it, I want it etched on my tombstone.

In case you haven’t noticed, I’m good with soundbytes too.  ”If we score more points than the other team, we will win the game.”  ”I can’t have a bunch of guys peeing themselves in the middle of a playoff game.”  ”Exhibitions are for museums!”  Those were all gems I’ve uttered at one time or another.

I mentioned the press conferences earlier.  They’ll become must-see television.  Great fodder for the media and we all know the fans love an engaging coach as much as they love a winning team.  Look at Jacksonville, there can’t be any other reason to continue watching them.

And not to step on the toes of the marketing department, but I have just four words to throw out to you — ”Fans Suit Up Day.”

So, in conclusion, when you’re trying to decide on a has-been using techniques that retired when Slingin’ Sammy Baugh did, consider that the game is changing.  It’s about staying one step ahead of the curve.  Getting the other head coach to lose focus for just one second as he drops his clipboard in stunned disbelief to say, ”What the –?!” as my offensive line goes into a choreographed riverdance as a new twist on the fumblerooski.

My hire will generate interest, much more than any one of a slew of standard-issue coordinators-cum-head coaches, and that’s what you need.  We may even win a game or two.  Well, as long as Cleveland is on the schedule.

If this opportunity should not pan out, I would also consider a job in concessions where I have several years of experience.  The hot dogs have to be kept at a minimum of 125 degrees, otherwise, they <i>will</i> turn green.  That doesn’t make them taste bad, per se, just different.

 

Featured Image by: digitalart