Nerds on Sports on Books: Hate Mail from Cheerleaders

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Hate Mail from Cheerleaders Cover

So earlier this year Amazon sends me my usual morning email containing a Kindle Daily Deal (for those of you without kindles, it’s a random book on sale for $1 or $2). On the day in question, here is what I was told:

Today only, Rick Reilly’s entertaining and wide-ranging collection of sports essays–with an introduction by Lance Armstrong–is just $0.99 (90% off yesterday’s price).

That tiny tidbit and small image of the cover was all I had to go on, but I was rich in post-Christmas Amazon money to the tune of almost $25. So that $0.99 was easy to forget and I clicked the “Amazon, please take more of my money” button that I click far too often as it is.

Now, I’ve never been a Sports Illustrated subscriber — the swimsuit edition and football flip phone could not woo me. So I was pretty much in the dark when it came to Rick Reilly. I was pleasantly surprised by what I found. I learned that Reilly has been writing this short back page column weekly since 1998. If I were a SI subscriber, I’d probably be one of the many readers who start reading their magazine from the back.

The book is a collection of 100 of Reilly’s favorite columns, along with an Introduction by Lance Armstrong. They pretty much alternated between heartwarming stories and sarcastic commentaries and amusing tales of the good and bad people in sports. The comedic stories were just OK for the most part with some gems like poking fun at Canada or Seattle:

Postscript: Seattle was really torqued off about this one. Of course, getting hate mail from Seattle is like having your refrigerator raided by Kate Moss. One guy e-mailed me and ended it with, “And I want you to know, I purposely wrote this in a difficult-to-read font!” Oooh, six-point calligraphy. Scary.

But the best stories were the tear-jerking tales of adversity and love:

     WHY DO THEY COME? WHY do they hang around to watch the slowest high school cross-country runner in America? Why do they want to see a kid finish the 3.1 miles in 51 minutes when the winner did it in 16? Why do they cry? Why do they nearly break their wrists applauding a junior who falls flat on his face almost every race? Why do they hug a teenager who could be beaten by any other kid running backward?

Why do they do it? Why do all of his teammates go back out on the course and run the last 10 minutes of every race with him? Why do other teams do it too? And the girls’ teams? Why run all the way back out there to pace a kid running like a tortoise with bunions?


Because Ben Comen never quits.

I find the best way to read this is more in the style of how it was first published: in little bits and pieces. The best place for Hate Mail from Cheerleaders and Other Adventures from the Life of Reilly would probably be in the bathroom — everyone needs a little cry-poop now and then, right?