It was while guarding Stokely Van Camp's pork and beans that James stumbled seriously into putting his thoughts down on paper, in response to having things he absolutely needed to say that he was unable to convey in any other way. "Every form of strength is also a form of weakness," he once wrote. "Pretty girls tend to become insufferable because, being pretty, their faults are too much tolerated. Possessions entrap men, and wealth paralyzes them. I learned to write because I am one of those people who somehow cannot manage the common communications of smiles and gestures, but must use words to get across things that other people would never need to say."
Even more oddly, everything James needed to say was either about baseball, or could be said only in the context of a discussion of baseball. "I'd probably be a writer if there was no such as baseball," he said, "but because there is such a thing as baseball I can't imagine writing about anything else." He was, from time to time, aware of the absurdity of devoting an entire adult life to the search for meaning in box scores. He never seems to have resisted his instinct to do it. "Now, look," he wrote to his readers, once he'd become an established, successful author, "both of my parents died of cancer, and I fully expect that it's going to get me, too, in time. It would be very easy for me to say that cancer research is more important to me than baseball -- but I must admit that I don't do anything which would be consistent with such a belief. I think about cancer research a few times a month; I think about baseball virtually every waking hour of my life."
Tags: Michael Lewis, Bill James, Moneyball, The New Journalism