W.W. Norton (2005), $12.95
Coach is Michael Lewis' ode to his high school baseball coach, Billy Fitzgerald, a martinet of the old school who taught his players "how to cope with the two great enemies of a well-lived life, fear and failure" but who's now besieged by the kind of parents who think their kid should be playing shortstop. The book's 93 pages (adapted from a magazine article) are entirely predictable. There are life lessons, fondly recalled crucibles, salty bits of locker room wisdom, and all too many photos (some by Lewis' wife, former MTV personality Tabitha Soren) of generalized adolescent frolic. The pictures signal that we are now in Hallmark country: Coach isn't so much a short book as it is a long Father's Day card.
"Coach Fitz" would harangue his players, once spiking a second-place trophy off the gym floor. But he'd also appeal to them with Aesop and Mark Twain, his lessons centering on What It Means to Be a Man. Lewis writes: "What it meant to be a man was that you struggled against your natural instinct to run away from adversity. You battled." This is nothing new, of course. What's odd is that the author of Moneyball, a great work of clearheaded myth-busting, is turning to such well-trod ground; odder still that he's indulging in the sort of wistfulness and nostalgia he once so ably eviscerated. But Lewis is a talented storyteller -- trite as it is, the book is never a bore. And if the publication of such a trifle means Lewis now has the clout to explore his every whim, we're better off for it.