posted: Nov. 29, 2005  |  Feedback

Just a couple of quick things for today ...

• The final schedule for the second East Coast Book Tour is set, with a 12/11 date in Kenmore Square added. Click here for details.

• The Sons of Sam Horn website is running their third annual fundraiser for the Jimmy Fund. Last year they raised over $50,000, this year they're hoping to double that. If you're interested in donating, click on this link for details. There's also a fundraiser message board thread that lists some of the random prizes they're giving out, including an incredible offer from Red Sox owner John Henry -- whomever makes the highest bid gets to sit in the Red Sox war room on July 31st (the day of the trading deadline). I think it would have been funnier if the person with the highest bid became the new Red Sox GM, if only because Larry Lucchino will be running the team regardless of who gets that job. But whatever.

• Speaking of charity, a few weeks ago, the guys at asked me to participate in their NBA Cares Celebrity Fantasy League, which makes no sense because the other people in the league are actual celebrities. But how could I resist the chance to compete with the likes of Star Jones, Sam Jackson, Bernie Mac, Pamela Anderson and Matthew Modine? Plus, everyone gets ten grand to give to their favorite charity (I picked the Celtics Shamrock Foundation, a really good cause). If you win the whole league, your charity gets 20 grand.

We did the draft on the same night of the Pats-Bills game, with everyone online making picks -- some of the celebs used assistants to pick their teams, but it seemed like Kenny Smith, Diana Taurasi, Michael Rapaport, Modine, Jones and maybe even Bernie Mac really picked their teams. There was a chat room set up in case anything happened, which was high comedy because Modine's computer flaked out on him, so we had to wait for a few minutes while he got back online. So we're just sitting there waiting, and somebody types something like, "Jeez, it's been six minutes," so I quickly typed back, "It's not the six minutes, it's what happens in those six minutes." Nobody got it. Also, Star Jones kept bragging that Magic Johnson helped her with her picks, then took Shaq with the 5th pick. So I started making "See, that's why nobody ever hired Magic as a GM" jokes and I think she was legitimately ticked off -- she fired back with something like "How many rings do you have?" It's not often in life that you get the chance to rile up Star Jones. I hope they televise this thing next year, I want her to take a swing at me.

Anyway, here are the guys I picked who are still on my team (you start ten every week, 2 centers, 4 forwards and 4 guards): Mamba (my 1st round pick), Pierce (2nd round), Gasol, Howard, Cassell, Joe Johnson, Ricky Davis, Maggette, Brad Miller and my man Bobby Simmons ... and I have picked up Mourning, Pryzbilla, David West and Mike James since the season started. Right now I'm 2-2, but it's a weekly league and I've had some bad luck with the schedules and stuff -- for instance, I lost to Taurasi last week because Mamba only played 2 games, as well as because of all the residual karma from all the WNBA jokes I've made over the years. Right now, Bernie Mac is killing everyone at 4-0 -- he had the 10th pick and somehow ended up with Wade AND Duncan. These are the things that happen when you're in a league where Star Jones is getting advice from Magic Johnson. Also on Bernie's team: Odom, Jefferson, Miles, Lewis, Paul, Bosh, K-Mart, Knight, Bogut, Deng, Battier and Grant Hill. Pretty good on paper, but not THAT good. I think I can take him. Stay tuned.

• Finally, this week's book recommendation ...

Remember when I panned John Feinstein's new book about the Baltimore Ravens two weeks ago? After I wrote that review, I was thinking about sports books centered around that "spending a season with..." theme and why some of them work and some of them don't, ultimately deciding to re-read one of my favorites of that genre: "Unfinished Business" by Jack McCallum. You know McCallum from Sports Illustrated, but he spent the 1990-91 season following around the Celtics, which was an interesting team in itself -- Bird, McHale and Parish were still there, Reggie Lewis was just becoming an All-Star caliber 2-guard, and there were young legs like Brian Shaw, Dee Brown, Eddie Pinckney and Kevin Gamble on hand. Nobody remembers this, but before Bird's back went out in December, they were 26-5 and considered the best team in the league (they ended up losing to the Pistons in the semis).

But that's not why I love the book. Instead of recapping games and spending ten pages on mini-autobiographies for each player, McCallum goes in the other direction -- he's only concerned with the dynamic of the team, the histories of the players relating to one another, the ebb and flow of the season, the jokes everyone makes during practice and on the bus rides, the various character roles people fill on a team and so on. Within 200 pages, you feel like you know everyone, and McCallum isn't afraid to go after certain people (like Bird's curiously cold treatment of McHale, or how Johnny Most became such a self-parody in his later years). To this day, it remains the best character study of Bird, and McHale might be the funniest character in any sports book -- not only did I forget how consistently funny he was, it's astounding that he's not making like $10 million a year working for ABC or ESPN right now. He could have been bigger than Barkley.

Here's the difference between McCallum's book and the Feinstein book: it's only 257 pages long (half the size of Feinstein's book), but there isn't a word wasted, and you feel like you were a fly on the wall with that Celtics team for 8-9 months. Isn't that the ultimate goal of one of these books? It's also laugh-out-loud funny at times, and he tackles the basic questions that I'm looking for from these books -- what's so-and-so like, why did this happen, how do these guys get along, who's the funniest guy on the team, and so on. I think it's one of the five best NBA books ever.

(So what are the other four? We'll get to them. I promise.)

Anyway, since it's such a great book, you know what that means: That's right, it's out of print! Check the usual suspects (Amazon, Barnes and Noble, eBay, Abe's Books, your local library) for copies. But if you can find it, and you love the NBA, you won't be disappointed.

Back tomorrow with a new column.

November 2005