The fine people at Bascom Hill Publishing Group sent me a copy of Tim Forbes’ new book, It’s Game Time Somewhere, to read and review. The book’s cover informed me that this was “how one year, 100 events, and 50 different sports changed my (Tim’s) life“, so I was immediately interested, knowing full well the power of sports. I also love a good Bill Bryson walkabout travel book, so I hoped this would measure up in that sense as well, but for athletics.
In many regards, the book didn’t exactly meet my expectations, but it was entertaining for the most part, and at times, it was also quite thought provoking. I read it cover to cover in about 3 hours, and the 290 pages of relatively large print definitely flies by and is easy to digest. It’s written in a conversational tone, and not in an academic sense in any way. Anyone can read it, and get it.
If you are looking for a book to get you through a five hour flight or long car trip, then this could be your book. If you’re looking for something that will last you a week or more, help with a research paper, or if you want something a little more challenging, it probably isn’t.
The book opens with the author, Tim Forbes, being miserable in his own life, even though he had everything he thought he wanted: money, car, house, etc. To remedy this, Forbes and his wife make some changes in their lives, and begin to follow their dreams with more fortitude. Forbes chooses a career in sports, his wife goes back to school and changes careers as well, and The Deal is struck.
Eventually, he finds his way into the PGA Tour machine, and works there for a decade, enjoying himself early on, but slowly becoming confused and disillusioned within the big time professional sport, especially after the economy crashed and he had moved into a more business related role.
A friend then asks Forbes if he loves sports still, and he can’t really answer the question, so he leaves his job and goes “walkabout”, traversing the US, and checking out 100 Events in 50 different sports, over the course of a year.
Except he doesn’t really go walkabout (it’s mostly flying and driving), and he spends a lot of time talking about three or four big time sports, instead of the 50 he experienced, but that’s where his heart is, so it makes some sense. If I wrote a book, it would undoubtedly focus on lacrosse more than other sports, because that is what I know.
After you get through a couple chapters of story set up, Forbes goes into some of things that were turning him off to big time pro sports, which is interesting, but not new. The whining and entitled behavior of tennis stars, the slow, coached pace of young professional golfers, the public drunkeness at football games, the scripted nature of pro games and time outs… Forbes hits it all, and leaves no major sport untouched.
He also goes after ESPN, aka “the Mothership”, and blames them for ruining Rugby events, bowling matches, and the Little League World Series with their ceaseless aim of making money through advertising. It’s an interesting take on the costs and benefits of TV exposure, especially for smaller sports, and how some of them are more than happy to let their games be compromised, just for the TV exposure.
Then, after big time sports have been judged and pretty much lambasted, and ESPN has been run through a light ringer, we start to get into the experiences that Forbes actually enjoyed. More often than not, there is still a problem with something, but the smaller sports do seem to be better, at least in Forbes’ mind, than their big time counterparts. The sport that got off with the best experience was probably single-A baseball, and Forbes went there by mistake, which might be his only true walkabout experience over the entire year, as the vast majority of others were planned out in advance.
When it comes to lacrosse, Forbes hangs it out there a couple of times. He says he can’t wait to start talking about smaller sports, and even throws lacrosse out there twice by name in the book to tantalize us. Unfortunately, when we get to Forbes actually talking about lacrosse it’s not in a very detailed way, although he does go on to say that lacrosse (at least in his experience) is quite adept at creating a sport “happening” by bringing a small community together in a real way via partnerships and centralized event planning.
It’s an interesting point, but before he goes into much more detail, he heads back to Rugby 7s and how they are doing it wrong. And that’s it for lacrosse. Two quick mentions, one example of bad traffic, a “happening” creation at the women’s Final Four, and then it’s on to the next thing. Obviously I think lacrosse has a lot to offer in this conversation, so I was more than just a little disappointed in that.
And really, that was my biggest issue with the whole book. There was so much to glean from each sport Forbes experienced, and instead of picking out the best portions of each, it would have been great to get a chapter on each sport. (You can find that stuff on his website. Here is the portion on lacrosse.) What you get in the book is a LOT of talk about baseball, tennis, and football, and a TON of talk about Golf, which seemed to be completely antithetical to the original premise of the journey, and book.
Don’t get me wrong, It’s Game Time Somewhere is definitely a fun read. It’s interesting to hear Forbes’ story of frustration, and how he tried to change his life for the better. But this is far from a book about 100 events, 50 sports, and a year of travel… it’s really a book about Tim Forbes, his relationship with sports, and life in America through the celebration of games, especially football, baseball, and golf. There is no real walkabout, no event by event breakdown (there is one on his website), and very little “roughing it”.
That being said, Forbes does arrive at some interesting conclusions, and the end of the book definitely shows us just how far the author has come, not only in his knowledge of the world of sport, but also in how, and why, he appreciates it. While you don’t get the 50 sports experiences you might be craving, you do hear an honest voice within sports culture, and when you put the book down, you can’t help but look at your own life within sports a little more deeply.
When it comes down to it, if you’ve ever wondered, “do I still love sports?”, then this is a book worth reading.