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The Dumbest Review in the World on The Smartest Book in the World and an Interview with Comedian Greg Proops

The Smartest Book in the World - Simon & Schuster, Inc.
"Baseball, like life, is often times disappointing."

In general, you can go to most towns and get a head nod at that statement. Baseball is 162 games for 20 teams, a half year endurance test for fans who follow their time in hopes of seeing more of the game they've watched just about every day since the weather turned. The weather is turning back, but damnit, give us more because if we can be the one team standing, that would be great. The ones who make it beyond 162 get tormented some more because inevitably, the buildup to that is just disappointment.

Look, San Francisco is probably basking around these days and they've had a few titles here in the past few years, a relatively celebrated past and history of championships and Hall of Fame players and incredible moments in time. But even they can go not too far back and drudge up some disappointment.

We know disappointment in Cleveland. But we aren't really here to look at more Cleveland misery, at least not as much as we usually do. We're here to look at a book. A smart book.

Author of The Smartest Book in the World, comedian Greg Proops, gives us that line about baseball being disappointing and because I can't remember ever hearing it before, I'd say he's qualified enough to write a book that claims to be the smartest book in the entire world. Also, big words are used, even in the subtitle: A Lexicon of Literacy, a Rancorous Reportage, A Concise Curriculum of Cool.

Why is The Smartest Book in the World what it says it is? Because it doesn't pretend to be or make apologies for being just that. It knows that it is the smartest book around and it doesn't apologize for being what it is and it knows that it is right. Proops, a connoisseur in fancy things, history, baseball, and Bombshells, doesn't apologize for enjoying what he believes to be the best things in life to enjoy. He doesn't mix words, there's things in his book that you should know, and you get lots of facts and knowledge, but there's also things you should appreciate and enjoy in life and if you don't, well, that's on you.

I imagine you are coming to this site though because you appreciate one of two things, Cleveland sports and pop culture. Let me give you both in one post, because while this book is not a baseball book, it actually is a baseball book. I mean, it claims to be the smartest book in the world, so naturally it would have to include baseball, because smart people watch baseball. I'm making bold statements, but hey, The Smartest Book in the World is filled with them, so a review on it should at least have a few.

What do you really get when you read Proops foray into writing? Well, if you are at all familiar with The Smartest Man in the World podcasts, Proops brings his witty opinion on what is great to paper. He also tells you some stories and gives you a good history lesson. The beauty of the book is that it tells you what you need to know and in a way that makes it fun. It doesn't tell you why though, because the reason is implied, you need to be smarter and these are all smart things.

The history of baseball sounds boring. Proops makes it sexy. Did they wear sexy red socks under knickers? Sure, that sentence sounds much better than anything I can dribble out. That alone is a reason to get into Proops refined history of a sport I'm presuming you like, because you're reading this.

This is a baseball book. I'm serious. It is as much of a baseball book as The Crazy Horse Electric Game, Moneyball and Omar Vizquel's Autobiography. Yeah, that's an odd trio of baseball titles, but put The Smartest Book in the World up there with all of them. Those books, much like most, are more than about baseball, they are about something else with baseball being a central story line, plot point, or means to an end. Friday Night Lights is as much of a show about the kids playing football than it is about football.

Proops' book isn't a book about baseball, but it very much uses baseball as its guide, in addition to educating us with information and opinion about baseball. Proops, like with other topics, goes over the history of baseball, but as I mentioned earlier, doesn't really give you what you don't need to know. He doesn't make it boring. It's a fun look into the history of the game, that probably leaves out a good amount of detail, but it is damn sure entertaining.

My argument is apparent when Proops gives his "starting nine" or his baseball teams made up of 'insert topic here', such as his All-Time British Monarchy Baseball Team, Bombshells, Doxies, and Dames Baseball Club, and his Roman Emperor Top Nine.

Proops takes careful thought not only who he puts on his teams, but where he puts his players on his teams. Just look at his All-Presidential Baseball team where he puts Bill Clinton at third base because, "Willy Clinton is a great baseball name. He can handle the hot corner. Plus, third is close to the stands, so he can troll for totty."

The next time I invite friends to a game, I'm going to ask them if they want to catch a Tribe game and troll for totty at The Corner Bar.
Idil Sukan

Oh, and don't worry, there's baseball teams of baseball players, multiple ones. His All-Controversial Team is great.

We'll get into more baseball talk here in a second, as Greg took some time to answer a few questions, mostly all about baseball that expands a little further on what he touched up on the book. But let me share some other non-baseball related things about The Smartest Book in the World you may enjoy.

I learned a lot of things about, things, including historical facts I didn't think I knew or now that I don't think I'll ever forget. Like the story of Nero, who I always knew was the Roman emperor who many believed burn down the city of Rome. But Proops tells me that he's more than that, in fact, he was a famous weirdo who killed his mother, two wives, and stepbrother.
"He terrorized the streets of Rome with his boy gang. Nero married two male slaves and was wife to one and husband to the other. He can play the far as well as anyone. If there's a fire, he will blame the Christians."
Did you know Trajan was a kick-ass general and a bisexual stud muffin? Nope, neither did I. But then I read this book.

Proops's chapter on Alexander the Great is especially enlightening as he gives a brief, but what I can only say is an accurate historical recount of the great leader.

I love the exclamation point, I use it a lot. I'm a happy guy a lot and like to emphasize I'm excited about things. I'm guilty of doing it a lot in emails, not so much in posts, unless I'm angry or trying to exclaim disbelief or outrage. But Proops has me rethinking my excessive use of it, because he's talking directly to me when he says that importance is in the context of a sentence, not the emphasis.

Also, food for thought. WWW has more syllables than what it stands for. Didn't ever put that together. Again, smarter than me.

And because he is smarter than me, Proops perhaps can enlighten me, and you, a little more with some extended thoughts on some baseball opinion. Greg was kind enough to answer a few extended questions, touching up on how he consumes the game, what he likes about it, and why Barry Bonds is the best baseball player he's ever seen.

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NC: This is more of a statement that I'd like your thoughts on rather than a question. But this feels as much of a baseball book as some "baseball" books that I've read. There's a lot of history, of course, but you have a lot of lists that you've compiled that have no relation to baseball, organized in a way that a baseball fan would understand it, and you draw a lot of analogies to those people to that of a baseball player. Was that intended?

GP: Yes, with me everything is analogous to baseball, failure, triumph eating hot dogs, drinking. Everyone can be put in a position on a baseball team.

Associated Press
NC: Anyone who reads the book will come away with a great take on Barry Bonds and the era of performance enhancing drugs. It has definitely reformed my thinking and opinion on the matter. I think it is safe to assume you feel he should be in the Hall of Fame? Should we throw out the "asterisks" and embrace that era for what it was and honor the players who put up numbers worthy of the honor?

GP: Barry Bonds was the best player I have ever seen. Full stop. Including Mays, Aaron, Bench and whomever. Everybody juiced, it was legal, the owners looked the other way and took the money. The players did what was required. Enough false moralizing.

NC: You have one at-bat to win it all. Perhaps a Casey at the Bat situation, two on, two out, down two, opposing team has to pitch to the hitter. Do you take The Babe, Aaron, or Bonds?

GP: Barry with two strikes.

NC: They can't walk him, he'd clobber it. I love the line, "Baseball, like life, is often times disappointing" and it couldn't be more true. Obviously you have the Cubs and their long-tormented history, but Cleveland is next in line in terms of their disappointment, dating all the way back to 1948. Can a team or a sport survive in a city where disappointment has been the end result for that long?

GP: I waited from age 8 to age 50 for my team to win one so yes. It builds charter, the last thing you want to be is a Yankee fan. Besides, you will always have Albert Belle.

NC: No one likes a Yankees fan, and Belle could be our Bonds. You said the game is getting better and that it is still a fun game no mater what. I'm curious as to what you meant by that? How do you consume baseball presently and what aspect of the game do you enjoy the most?

GP: The players are better conditioned and carouse less. The young players like Trout and Posey are fabulous. I watch live and on TV and follow on my phone. It is the owners I hate. If they want to improve the game lower the ticket prices.

NC: You touched up on the fact that perhaps baseball isn't as likable or interesting as other sports. So how does one make baseball more likable and interesting? Would that compromise what you like about it?

GP: No clocks on the field. Yuck. Make it fun for other people besides middle aged white guys. Stop playing loud music every second. We are supposed to talk through the whole game.

NC: Do you have any thoughts on the pace of play rules they are toying with in the minor leagues? Is attempting to "speed up the game" going to make it more likable or appealing to fans? Is that really holding people back from watching the sport?

GP: What is holding people back is the prices. The owners are billionaires. They should give away more stuff. Frankly all the teams should be like the Green Bay Packers, owned by the people.

NC: I can only imagine the Indians owned by the people. And I don't like to imagine that.

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Proops's last line about franchises being owned by the city is something he mentions in the book. It is a fascinating idea and we see that it works in a city like Green Bay. It works in football, probably because it can. I'd love to see how that would not only play out in baseball, but I think I'd pass on seeing that in a city like Cleveland, where every fan is always right.

Either way. Proops's view on the game is one to appreciate. He enjoys what I think a lot of us smart fans enjoy about it. He enjoys the purity of the game and I can say that I probably consume a baseball game much in the same way when I'm present there. I like to go with others and talk, because I can and still pay attention to the game and watch it and enjoy it.

Proops would very much like to go back in time in how the atmosphere of a game is.
"It was loud, violent, drinky, played in the daylight, and brief; most games were under two hours."
In other words, Mark Buerhle starting a game against the Cubs, who have acquired Bryce Harper who blows kisses to the opposing closer, who is John Rocker.

Greg alluded to it in the interview, but in the book he also has a great take on how old white men have continuously tried to ruin baseball throughout time. His appreciation for the Negro Leagues is astounding and he is clearly well-read in the history of it. His brief recap of it has made me want to take in some history of the sport that I haven't really ever taken the time to learn much about. More of his refined history of the sport of baseball eventually goes deeper and touches up on how the game has evolved, and even sort of devolved, and it only contributes to the point that this is a baseball book.

It isn't a book about baseball, but it is a baseball book. I feel there's a difference and I feel that is why most of you may enjoy it. I did. There's parts that you may not be in-tune to, like there were parts for me. We can't all be as smart as Proops and enjoy some of his movies, but we can appreciate his appreciation for them, and appreciation for things that deserve respect.

The great thing is he doesn't apologize for it. He doesn't bat an eye, he's the smartest guy in the room and he's written the smartest book in the world. He should know because he created the smartest podcast in the world too.

So pick up the book and enjoy. You may learn something new, and even if you don't, you'll come away with an appreciation for making baseball teams out of everything, Satchel Paige (his favorite), and have a new outlook on punk music.

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More on The Smartest Book in the World
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