WSJ Sportswriter Hits a Home Run with Funny, Poignant Essays


In this era of oversharing on social media, we can be guaranteed at least one friend (it could even be you) who shares motivational memes over-frequently. Do you get to the point where you roll your eyes, sigh and block that person’s feed? You don’t want to offend your friend, but quite honestly, one more trite trope will have you running to www.despair.com.

So why do we need another “rule book?”

Perhaps we don’t, but trust me, you’ll enjoy this one. First of all, it’s not written by a new-age guru who swears by the power of crystals. It’s from sports columnist Jason Gay at the Wall Street Journal. He hasn’t always been there: previously he worked for Rolling Stone, from which he was unceremoniously fired in 2008 during the recession. One of the chapters, “Office Heavens, Office Hells,, deals with how he handles (or doesn’t) this sudden rejection.

This book is all about perspective. It starts off humorously – think Dave Barry – as the author insists this is not another book about how to achieve nirvana by eating kale. He touches on how to be cool (you can’t be if you’re trying to be), friendship, what to serve at a dinner party (never soup) and advises the reader to take approximately 2% of the book seriously. It is often laugh-out-loud funny.

And then it gets serious.

Gay survives testicular cancer and its debilitating treatments. He and his wife struggle with infertility. His beloved father is diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. This is where perspective and the small victories of the title come into play. How do you deal with stresses such as these? If the small, perceived stress-inducers such as heavy traffic, public speaking and slow-buffering Netflix bother you, then you are lucky. Cancer treatment is all-consuming, so paradoxically, he’s thrilled when the little things annoy him again.

We have all heard “don’t sweat the small stuff.” Gay does a good job expounding on this with humor and pathos. It’s the small moments, he reminds us, which make our memories, and they should be treasured. Family traditions, good or bad, keep us grounded. He is particularly outspoken about the pressure on young people to excel in sports, and as a sports columnist he has seen it all. In the chapter “Only a game (but not really)” he dreams about coaching a Little League team called the Zen Cubs.

There are also some truly helpful tips for everyday etiquette, including a comprehensive manners guide from no-nonsense Aunt Genie.

This book should be required reading for those in their twenties. With age comes experience, but experience is often shaped by poor decisions. It would be tremendously helpful to have his advice sooner. Yes, life will bring challenges, but you are not alone in them.With perspective you can achieve your own small victories with dignity and humor.

Photo credit - Mackenzie Stroh for the Wall Street Journal

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19 Feb 2017


By Amanda Graves