Puck the Media’s Summer Reading: Craig Robinson’s Flip Flop Fly Ball Is Long-Toss For Your Brain

Summer can be dull for a hockey writer, especially a hockey media writer. So, I’ve decided to take on a new project until hockey season returns. Every Monday (or at least most Mondays) will feature “Puck the Media’s Summer Reading/Watching Project.” It will contain various hockey/non-hockey books and DVDs and other goodies for the whole family (or just the nerds). Why should you care? Because the Tuesday after every review, you’ll have a chance to win the product reviewed. So check in with me every Monday and Tuesday.

When you think about it, there aren’t a lot of sports books that make you smarter. I mean, they can be an enjoyable experience that will let you know about a life different from your own, but you’re not going to be thought of as the genius at any dinner party for knowing what’s going on in, say, Phil Esposito’s autobiography, or even Moneyball or The Game, considered some of the genre’s finest titles. Most books are meant to throw actual knowledge into your brain, whereas most sports books will, at best, turn up in the first five questions of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?

Well, I don’t know what it was about Craig Robinson’s excellent new book of infographics and essays on baseball, Flip Flop Fly Ball (based on his equally excellent website) but I feel like it was the rare sports book that accomplishes both. It is a book that can appeal to every level of sports fan, both baseball and non-baseball, and every level of intelligence. No matter who you are, reading this will teach you something you didn’t know beforehand, and a big key to that is the personal work Robinson puts into it.

Robinson could’ve easily taken his wildly popular website’s format of largely stand-alone infographics (with a tiny bit of context thrown in) and made himself an impressive tome, and one that I probably would’ve also given a good review to. His artwork is stunning, his information is mind-expanding, and the sheer coolness of getting something this smart, fun and with this much re-read value (there’s no way you won’t go back and check at least a few pages for Easter eggs) is an achievement in itself.

Where Flip Flop Fly Ball really wins, however, is when Robinson delves into his unique personal adventures with the game of baseball. Born in England, and having discovered the sport in Berlin in his mid-30’s, his tales of road trips throughout the United States as an Englishman learning the most distinctly American of sports proves fascinating, turning all the typical cliches about baseball and America on their sides, then rolling them back over again until they actually return to their initial truism. It is a story that’s never been told from this angle, and it comes from a voice you wouldn’t ever expect.

Overall, Flip Flop Fly Ball is probably the perfect book for rainy day summers with the baseball fans in your lives. Big enough for a group of kids to scour, yelling out how cool various graphics are, but small enough that you can enjoy reading the fantastic, often hilarious essays, it is the sort of book baseball – and sports in general – need at this very moment. I would love to see a hockey-centric version. Buy Flip Flop Fly Ball (or win it in tomorrow’s contest) and get on it, gang.

(Next Week: The 2010-11 Boston Bruins Stanley Cup Championship DVD) 

About Steve Lepore
Contact me at stevemlepore@gmail.com

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