Monday, April 23, 2012

Untimely Reviews: "Jonesy"

Several months ago, I mentioned to the wife that I wanted a copy of John Buccigross’ book Jonesy. She’s a frequent Amazon orderer, and when she completed her next purchase, she got me one. And I was thrilled. If you don’t know who Keith Jones is, you’re probably not a hockey fan; he spent roughly a decade scoring goals for the Washington Capitals, Colorado Avalanche, and Philadelphia Flyers. Over the years, I’ve acquired a few hockey books, but seldom do they interest me as the topics usually pre-date my fandom. Jonesy, however, was a different story. Even better was the fact that it was penned by Buccigross, who’s always been my favorite ESPN personality, mostly because he used to host NHL 2Night with Barry Melrose.

I don’t remember Jones as a Capital, and only knew he was a member of the Avalanche when I saw Kris Oyler’s mouse pad in the basement office of Steamworks Brewing Company over a decade ago. The pad was a team photo of the Avalanche, and one day I saw it and said out loud, “Keith Jones was an Av’?”

I remember him as a Flyer though, because from 1996-2000 I lived with Steve Rathje, lifetime Flyers fan, and in that five-year period, we logged hundreds of hours playing NHL fill-in-the-blank on PlayStation. Occasionally we’d mix it up, but most of the time, it was a never-ending series between his team –- Philadelphia –- and mine, the St. Louis Blues. In fact, if we were both home, the only time we weren’t playing video-game hockey, we were watching hockey on television. Seeing as how we lived in southwest Colorado, not many Blues or Flyers games were televised, but lucky for us, our clubs were both perennial playoff contenders in those days, so there was plenty of post-season action for us to catch on ESPN and ESPN2.

Since Philly’s in the eastern conference, it was easy for me to become a fan of the Flyers, and I continue to root for them each year they’re in contention, especially since the Blues, until this year, have been pretty miserable for a while.

Those late ‘90s Flyers squads were pretty entertaining, and Jones, for some time was on a line with John LeClair and Eric Lindros. In his book, Jones lets readers know that he doesn’t think Lindros ever willfully did anything negative toward the Philadelphia Flyers, and I accept that as (mostly) accurate and truthful, but at the time, I thought he was a freaking ninny. On Steve’s end, he was a pretty big LeClair guy, so I somewhat quietly developed a short-lived affinity for Jones. He seemed like the perfect everyman for whom to root.

After I left Durango, I only followed the Flyers from a distance, and to be honest, I kind of forgot all about Jonesy. Then the lockout happened, and ESPN opted to not renew their television contract with the NHL, and so, for a minute, games were on the Outdoor Life Network. After one season, the network was revamped and became known as Versus. Somewhere in that fold, Jonesy reappeared as a desk guy, and all told, he was pretty darn good at what he did.

Versus grew, and after last season, became part of the NBC Sports Network and Jones’ role has expanded. Or at least it appears to have; he’s at the studio desk almost every night.

So I was pretty excited to read this book about a guy I used to root for then forgot about, written by one of my favorite television-hockey personalities.

Unlike my other installments of Untimely Reviews, though, I don’t have a lot to say about this book. As a hockey fan, I found it a great read. As a guy who roots for the everyman, I found it a great story about someone that appears to be a pretty great human being. I identified with the early mention of the loss of his brother, who was killed, at a young age, in a train accident.

As someone who has occasionally been lazy in life, I chuckled at Jones’ bold admittance of having a non-existent workout regimen for most of his entire hockey career. In sum, he preferred chicken wings and beer to being in the gym, and frankly, who wouldn’t?

I found it some mix of shocking and not surprising that he blew every dollar of his first contract in next to no time, the bulk of which went toward a fancy sports car. And I found it phenomenal how crisply he remembered his stats at nearly every junction of his career. It could be that that’s just how Buccigross presents it, but sheesh. Great memory.

There are some other cool aspects to the book, like Jones’ concussion. Obviously, it’s not cool that he got one, but it was fascinating to learn about how it affected him, especially now that head injuries are such a major, major topic in sports, particularly in hockey, particularly right now in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and particularly with Jones having to report on the hits, fights, and suspensions associated with them.

There was one other human aspect to the book, and that’s the story told in the final chapter. I won’t hash out the specifics of it here because it’s better read directly than regurgitated second-hand.

Now, it’s true that I read this book as a hockey fan and a Jones fan, as well as a regular-guy fan. Above all, though, I read books as a writer and an editor. Of course, I’ve not published anything and the only things I’ve edited (recently, anyway) have been my own work. My brain is trained to read that way, though, and so it’s unfortunate that (perhaps) my biggest take away from the book was a negative: It’s not edited.

I did about six minutes of research on the book, so I obviously don’t know a thing about the process or the budget. I do know that Jones’ proceeds go to a charity, and that I doubt Buccigross was able or willing to fund any of the book’s expenses himself. I do know that it was published in 2007, though, and that the Internet was alive and working well. Social media was not quite the giant that it is now, but having said that I have to believe that it wouldn’t have taken much more than a small grassroots effort to find someone willing to edit the thing for free.

I know I would’ve done it.

The problems, as I see them, are three-fold:

1) Typos. As far as I’m concerned, one is too many, and I lost count of them.
2) Redundancy. Let the reader fill in the blanks. You can’t say the same thing over and over again, especially within the same paragraph or on the same page.
3) Exclamation points. Huge no-no. The only instance in which they might’ve been appropriate would be direct quotes from Jonesy yelling at someone whom he pestered on the ice, and even then it’d be a stretch.

I’m not the only one that found the lack of editing to be an unfortunate, unnecessary distraction. You can find plenty of complaints here.

I won’t belabor this point any further. It’s been made, and I still enjoyed reading the book, but if there was any desire to capture members of a non-hockey audience, I have to imagine the effort was unsuccessful.

For all you hockey people: Don’t let that distract you; you’ll probably still enjoy it. And for Buccigross himself, tweet a brother up for your next project. My offer stands.
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