Sunday, December 11, 2011

Book tour highlights; Why I’m not appearing on Tony Kornheiser’s show to discuss the book

People have asked me often if I enjoy book tours. The answer is yes—and no.

I’d be a liar if I said I don’t enjoy getting the chance to talk about a book. Since the book usually comes out about six months after I finish writing it, a good interview tends to bring back a lot of memories about the process that produced the book. And, it is always gratifying when a host has taken the time to read the book. It makes for much better television or radio than when someone opens the interview by saying, “So, tell me what you’re book is about.”

What makes book tours difficult—besides the travel, which is never easy whether you fly or, like me, drive—is that you have one agenda and many of the people interviewing you have a completely different agenda.

There’s also the issue of the pressure you feel because you want people to buy the book and to like the book. The former is important professionally; the latter personally although my brother once played in a pro-am in Indianapolis year ago with a guy who said to him: “I bought your brother’s book (Season on the Brink) I used it for firewood.”

My brother shrugged and said, “As long as you bought it we don’t really care what you did with it. Buy a hundred and start a bonfire.”

In truth, in the 25 years since the publication of ‘Season on the Brink,’ people in Indiana have been almost universally kind to me. That’s one reason why I wanted to start the tour for ‘One-on-One,’ which is keyed to the 25th anniversary of that book, in Indianapolis. It didn’t work out exactly that way because I did spend a day in New York doing Mike Francesa’s show on WFAN and taping a ‘Fresh Air,’ segment, but it was close.

I did a book-signing at an independent book store called, “Big Hat Books,” which couldn’t have been more enjoyable. I’m a big fan of independents because they are so hard to find these days and because I’ve always found that the people who work there really CARE about books and writing and reading. That’s not to say the chains don’t have people like that, there are just fewer of them.

“Big Hat,” is run by Liz Houghton and a group of people who clearly care a lot about what they’re doing. Even on a miserable rainy night that reminded me of a lot of my nights in all those years ago in Indiana, there were more than 100 people crowded into the store and Liz told me her only problem was that she had run out of books—she’d ordered 250—and was having to take orders while she tried to get more from Little-Brown. (The really good news is that they’ve had to go back for two more printings in just one week).

Every person who asked me to sign a book or books was enthusiastic and had something nice to say—with one exception. “I agreed with Knight about the profanity,” one man said. “I thought there was too much of it.”

I told him I appreciated what he was saying but wondered if he knew that I left about 90 to 95 percent of Knight’s profanity out of the book.

“Really?” he said.

“If I’d written it all I’d still be writing,” I said.

“Oh my,” he said, clearly confused.

The next morning I appeared on ‘Bob and Tom,’—which was, as always, great. Twenty-eight books, twenty-eight appearances on that show. Maybe I should have dedicated a book to those guys.

From Indy I went to Chicago where, in spite of a cab driver who had never heard of WGN, I made it to my early-morning TV appearance there. Before I left town I taped an interview—which will air this week—for ‘Chicago Tonight,’ on WTTW, the local PBS station. Phil Ponce is the host, someone I’ve known since his days in Washington working as a reporter for the ‘Newshour.’ Not only is he a good guy and a good interviewer, he did read the entire book. His being prepared made my job easy.

Along the way, there were the usual frustrations: Reports of not enough books in Indiana (good news and bad news); a similar problem at Amazon, which at one point was saying it didn’t have enough books to guarantee delivery before Christmas (since corrected); an old friend on a Baltimore radio station trying to turn the interview into a Q+A about my column two weeks ago on Randy Edsall (there’s always one of those along the way); a couple of satellite issues causing cancellations during Friday’s TV satellite tour.

All in all though, the first week went about as well as could be hoped. After my TV satellite on Friday, I went to the DC convention center where the sponsor of the Army-Navy game, USAA, had set up a mini-‘radio row.’ My first instinct when I was asked to take part was to not do it—I’ve steered clear of all things Army-Navy all fall since my decision not to do Navy on radio—but the simple fact is it was a good opportunity to let more people know about ‘One-on-One,’ especially since large chunks of it, including the epilogue are about the kids (now young men) I wrote about in “A Civil War.”

The only problem with doing this was that as I talked about why Army-Navy is so special to me and the relationships I’ve had with the players I started getting very emotional about it all. As it turned out I was fine watching the game on television and I didn’t miss dealing with the extra security that comes when The President and Vice President are at the game. As I said I was fine—until they played the alma maters. Then, as always, I lost it. Some things never change.

This week I’ll be in North Carolina for a couple of days including a trip to Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh on Wednesday night. (7:30). That’s another very cool independent book store where I’ve been in the past. My hope is that Little-Brown will have to go back for another printing by the end of this week.


One other note: Those of you who were expecting to hear me Tuesday on Tony Kornheiser’s show, you won’t. You WILL hear Tony talking about the book and why I’m not there. The simple answer is Chuck Sapienza, the station’s program director. No doubt you’ve heard Tony talk about how much he loves him in the past.

When I left the station last summer to go to WJFK in large part because Sapienza had cut the money I was being paid to appear from a small amount to almost nothing and WJFK offered a good deal more than that, Sapienza and I talked after he’d taken a weird cheap shot at me claiming he was glad to have Darren Rovell (who I like) on the station instead of me because Rovell is younger.

At the end of the conversation Sapienza said this: “Just so you know, I understand Tony will want you to come on when you have a book out and you can always do that and come on the station to talk about any new book you have.”

I thanked Sapienza for that and even made sure Chris Kinard at WJFK knew about it so there wouldn’t be any confusion when ‘One-on-One,’ came out. Kinard was absolutely fine with it.

Thursday, Tony called and said that after he had promoted my appearance, Sapienza had told him I couldn’t appear. When Tony reminded him about what he had said in the summer, Sapienza said, “I know. I changed my mind.”

He’s entitled to do that. What he isn’t entitled to do is to walk up to me Friday at the Army-Navy radio row and say, “I just want you to know it’s nothing personal.”
Of course it’s personal. He never thought I’d leave which is why he kept cutting the money back—almost daring me to do something about it. When I did, he took a cheap shot at me publicly; gave his word on something and then, ‘changed his mind,’ because he knew the station would back him. I’ve been told by several people at the station that his word has all the value of confederate money.

It’s fine. I doubt it will affect book sales very much if at all. I’d actually rather have Tony talk about the book than me. He’ll be funnier. But don’t tell me it isn’t personal.

My newest book is now available at your local bookstore, or you can order on-line here: One on One-- Behind the Scenes with the Greats in the Game 


Pat Simpson said...

Chuckie is "The Danny's" lieutenant. If he hasn't been given marching orders I'm sure he ingratiates himself to Danny with his actions. here's hoping Tony eventually sees the light and moves his program to another station. But that probably can't happen until the current contract expires.

Anonymous said...

what is a chuck sapienza? must be a term for a person of no merit and no consequence.

Chris Hersl said...

You came across as an absolute jerk, who's time was more important then the host or audience's on your Baltimore experience. I'll admit to not knowing how a book tour works, but as a fan of your previous work and radio show appearances it sounded really bad.

Anonymous said...

That's sad. I was really looking forward to your appearance on Tony's show. But it is the danny's (left in small letters on purpose) radio station so not completely a stunner.

Momus said...

Keep up the streak...another 28 in a row on Bob and Tom and you'll tie DiMaggio.

Mike Murphy, Navy '83 said...

I read your blog months ago regarding your disappointment not doing an Army-Navy special. I get it, I wouldn't be happy either given your contributions and unique knowledge of the rivalry (including your book) and Navy football game day commentary. Regardless, I was still really looking forward to hearing more about this past 27-21 Navy win... it was a tremendous game that did not disappoint. I was hoping for more than a short paragraph. I don't know if you've set a self-imposed moratorium on Navy commentary or the Army-Navy game in general but hope it ends soon so I see more in the future. I love your insight into these unique institutions and have always enjoyed your game day commentary when not attending the games. I hope your love for USNA, USMA and the rivalry will eventually bring you back into the fold.

Gunnar said...

Great to hear you on the Gasman show from radio row on Friday evening.

Anonymous said...

Dude..your petty and hold grudges. It's amazing the small battles you continue to wage over the smallest stuff.

I enjoy your books, but I'd skipped any offering to meet you or have a book signed in person.

Anonymous said...

And by "smallest stuff," of course, you mean "stuff that happened to other people."

If it happened to you, it wouldn't be "smallest stuff."