In a time long since passed, it was the rallying cry for the tortured New York sports fan: Wait till next year. But it’s also the title of one of the best sports books in recent memory.
Written by screenwriter William Goldman and sportswriter Mike Lupica, Wait Till Next Year is a look at the teams of New York – the Giants, the Jets, the Yankees, the Mets, the Knicks, the Nets – in 1987.
It was a year full of promise, but one where nothing much happened. Teams faltered, underperformed and fell apart down the stretch. Dwight Gooden went into rehab, the NFL went on strike and the Nets won 19 games.
But that’s not the point of this book.
Broken into four parts, one for each sport, and then further divided between Lupica’s behind closed doors columns and Goldman’s essays on being a fan, Wait Till Next Year is a great look at sports as a whole.
Lupica’s tight, controlled prose takes you behind the doors of the clubhouse and dressing rooms, to where Kieth Hernandez smokes a butt while trying to keep the clubhouse in check, to the picket lines around Giants Stadium and to the office of Lou Piniella, where he tries to keep his team afloat amid George Steinbrenner's constant micromanaging.
His pieces, which work on their own, are counterbalanced by Goldman’s “A fan’s notes”. In these, Goldman writes about avoiding a game, as to not disturb its outcome, about taping a Knicks/Celtics game and the sloppiness of scab football. Unlike Lupica, his pieces are often lighthearted, tinged with humour and hyperbole.
Together, by swapping essays, the book never goes too far to one side. Even while dealing with serious topics, it never stays too serious for too long; conversely, it never stays too loose, either.
It’s not without it’s faults, though. Lupica’s a baseball man through and through, and goes light on the football and basketball chapters. And neither of them care much for hockey, as the Rangers and Islanders don’t make an appearance in the book. And the book did come out nearly 20 years ago – more then a few scenes show their age.
But those are pretty minor gripes. Wait Till Next Year is an enjoyable look at sports in general, not just those in New York, but from a vantage point, as well as one of the best sports books in the past 25 years.