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NPR's Bill Littlefield Gets Poetic About Sports In New Book

"Only a Game" host Bill Littlefield
"Only a Game" host Bill Littlefield
NPR's Bill Littlefield Gets Poetic About Sports In New Book
NPR's Bill Littlefield Gets Poetic About Sports In New Book GUEST:Bill Littlefield, host, "Only A Game"

This is KPBS Midday Edition I am Tom Fudge. Listeners to NPR is only a game know that it's a sports show what a difference and that difference is host to Littlefield. He doesn't just talk about the standings in the stats in public radio fashion he also looks deeper at the issues that define sports and what sometimes harder glorious contest. Now Mr. Littlefield host with a difference has written a sports book with a difference if the book of pictures and writing poetry that is meant to appeal to kids and adults. Bill Littlefield was only a game is author of the new book which is called, take me out and he joins us from studios in Massachusetts. Bill, thank you very much Taking for inviting me You have your book by your side we might want to hear a couple of poems I hope so. Anyway bill, where did the title of your book come from? You want to take it out to the ballgame Sure. It did come from take me out to the ballgame one of the poems in the book is a kind of take off the idea take me out to the ballgame I don't care fire get back and it occurred to me it would be so good never to get back. It the kind of cold and lonely in the stadium after the game was over My publisher Jim Cates said let's call it take me out and I said, okay, fine sounds good to me that's what we did And this is your first shot of poetry? It's far from that I've been writing doggerel for a long time really back as far as my college yearbook so, no, it's not my first shot but it's the first time I've ever kind of try to put something together with lots of elements that would hang together as a book You know, I was struck by the style of poetry its rhyming poetry, makes me think about Dr. Seuss I hope so. That's great. She'll Silverstein and Dr. Seuss are heroes as far as I'm concerned and most fun I've had with this book as far as sales is concerned is that at one point my older daughter called me up and she said, quick, go to your right between Shell Silverstein Dr. Seuss Review It did not last for long be up there with the giants of the trade but, for a moment it was there While you, what you to read two or three of the poems while we have you on the air now this first: is I do not love the football game maybe you could refer your book and find out one Yes. There is a poem called I do not love the Doctor Phil and those your written by a medical student a great long time ago or by Shell Silverstein I'm not sure which but this is takes off not. I do not love the football game your players look away quite lame in every season it's the same, I do not love the football game. I do not love the referee called you have to is but cannot see, at least that's how it seems to me, I do not love the referee. I do not love the was the crowd, your face is red, or is loud, of someone else's deeds your proud I do not love the noisy crowd. I do not love the ticket price I meaning only beans and rice because you are so high that such a nice I do not love the ticket price I did all of the football game, for that I can't say who's to blame, but every season it's the same, I do not love the football game. Well, if you just tuned into midday edition and you're wondering what is going on -- [ Laughter ] That was bill Littlefield host of the NPR show, only a game which is on KPBS his author of the new book, mostly a poetry called take me out. That Paul was not very nice to football is that how you feel about the game? Yes I've kind of fallen away from football. Over the years just because the damage is so extraordinary. I just hate to see it I hate to see stories of the Tony Dorsett just recently saying, particular struggle and his health is deteriorating practically receptively they by day's memory is back on his moods terrible mood swings and all the rest, and 4000 ex-players so the late kind you have to kind of wondered You're talking of course about the concussion crisis that we seem you think that's changing the game for good I don't know what's going to happen to be changed Football is still so popular By far the Super Bowl this year was the largest role in terms of television programs ever. So there's no question about that. But, there is apparently a perceptible and measurable drop off in youth football watch appearance are saying, it beats not setting a great idea that my letter 12-year-old goes out there and beat his head against the meals and ultimately, I would imagine that we had a consequence as far as the game itself When did you fall in love with sports? Well, when I grew up in New Jersey, many years ago, that was what boys did. We played sports. We played baseball in the spring and summer and basketball in the winter and hockey in the winter and soccer in the fall and that was how we filled our days. So, it seemed the most natural thing in the world and I was lucky, was never mistaken for a prospect but I was good enough to get picked and I played all the sports there were. And ultimately, I came to see sports and athletes as a terrific subject for writing You know kind work in public broadcasting as to why, or listeners are little different from most sports fans I think that's fair to say. This public radio sports programming differ bill Littlefield host with a difference I think it differs in the sense that people are interested in stories about other people because people happen to be athletes, pro athletes, college athletes, kids playing a sport, that's fine. As long as the stories are compelling, people are interested. I think they are less interested in the X's and O's approach to sports which that's fine because there are plenty of that elsewhere on the radio dial Right. I'm assuming this is kind of what you try to bring to your show Absolutely were looking for stories that will be people stories that happened to be set in sports and then we count on our freelancers and our own staff here in Boston to tell them as well as they can be told Let's get back to your book. I look bill Littlefield take me out, you have a poem about the dreams of the student athlete and it's called, mom, I'm going to be a star. Do you want to read that? Sure. Mom, I'm going to be a star. I love you child for what you are but I will make $1 million generating hoots and hollers all the fans will shot my name, baby child and all the same, I will love you all the days if you do or don't win praise mom, I'll build a house for you and it will have an ocean view, that my child would be quite grand, they'll sit with me and hold my hand and no in case you don't succeed, it's time for you to learn to read. I have a couple of kids and neither of them have the least interest in sports and part of me thinks that's okay even though when I was a kid I guess I was like you I played sports and enjoyed sports and still do. Anyway, in that poem, mom I'm going to be a star, I guess the message is pretty clear -- Well, I think the message of love. And the message is reality that the mother is saying, this would be terrific who wouldn't want to have us by the ocean provided by my star pro athlete son and on the other hand committee it's a good idea to have a plan date and Plan B might the education Take me out is the new book by Bill Littlefield, it's a book of art and poetry written by the man himself and Bill Littlefield is the host of only a game which is an NPR show that airs on KPBS. You know, Bill, in San Diego, there is a debate underway about building a new Chargers football stadium and you're not kind the owners want to stadiums in your book take me out I would say Will I think there have been so many instances of owners crying poor and threatening to move the team if they don't get everything they want, on the public dollar, and they get a little tiresome and then also, the promises that somehow each new stadium is going to result in the revitalization of an entire area and will change the personality of the city utterly, and help everybody and provide zillions of jobs, somehow it never turns out that way. Or very rarely turns out that way. And yet, mayors continue to listen in the populace continues to listen, and the owners continue to get a great deal of what they want in the wild, their investment gets more and more viable and they sell it for many times what they pay for I guess that was worth prosaic answer to my question -- lets you a poetic one you have one which is called, owners own Owners own an owner owns he my own stones that glitter shine and clean the me an something else instead perhaps a baseball team. An owner makes a few mistakes his team slips from its group don't be surprised should he decide his teams would like to move. The other turns his pockets out there and they he complains, he speaks to you as if he sure you don't have any brains he tells you his expenses quite enormous always mount and he assumes that no one in the audience can count. I need a stadium that he says that anyone loveseats were wealthy friends of mine can sit and join wealthy treats I also need more parking and a new road over there for people in a brand-new seats so they won't have to care if traffic hold the peasants up as blaring horns are beeping, the wealthy on the private road must get home quick for sleeping. And they are nice like a dummy set upon the owners need, and talked of what a blessing those new seats and roads will be. The city will be saved he says the owner should be praised, the people stand and wonder if these cook at home or date. The owners own, taxpayers grown, and schools and roads lose out, it will be always thus until the people raise a shout and tell the moaning owner, A, you want to go, get out. And that is bill Littlefield author of take me out you know, you get a little political there You think? I think so. The me I guess, tried to make the other side of the argument is a community like San Diego or any other community decides that there are willing to pay millions maybe hundreds of millions of dollars to keep making their it's that important to them I guess that's their decision right? Absolutely my only concern is that so often, the information upon which they are supposed to make that decision is misleading. There told it will cost X million dollars in end up costing five times X million dollars in the public is paying for it not for three years or five years but for 15 years. And this is been the pattern so often that it may be very skeptical whenever an owner says, I cannot possibly compete unless you give me this that the other thing. Was a challenging writing these short poems or did they just come to you like manna from heaven? I wish they all had come manna from heaven. Some of them were challenging and some of them were easy and some of them were very short and came quite easily. The fun thing about this book for me was that so often writing is such a solitary activity and with these, I capacity across the kitchen table to my wife and say, check this out what you think about this management say, that's a good one should hold onto that one Do you have a favorite sports game or a favorite moment in all the time you spent watching sports? I have many but, watching FC Barcelona late soccer and home in Barcelona would certainly exceptional experience watching my younger daughter play on the freshman team at Needham high school is great fun. Watching the women's soccer team throughout the year of 1989 when people suddenly caught on to the fact that women sports with something very much worth paying attention to, and that soccer was something that was of course content people in this country already are playing in great numbers, but that was also worth a attention to. Those are all big moments for me Okay. Well Bill Littlefield is the host of only a game which airs here on KPBS Saturday morning you have to get up early is that 6 AM but you can do that or listen to it on the Internet he is the author of a new book of poetry which is called, take me out. And we have a link to bill Littlefield's new book take me out on our website bill, thanks for joining us Thank you I appreciate the opportunity have a good day

"What Racers Do" By Bill Littlefield

Racers race. That's what they do,

And they are fast, and noisy, too.

(Of quiet they are quite bereft,

Driving fast and turning left.)

Through headphones, as they speed along,

They hear instructions like a song

Screeching in the treble clef:

"Keep driving fast and turning left!"

Precisely where it had begun,

The race will end. It will be won,

For someone opposite of last

Kept turning left and driving fast.

Listeners familiar with NPR's "Only a Game" know that it's a sports show with a difference.

The difference is its even-handed approach to all kinds of sports, its delight in shaking up sports pretentions and, of course, its host Bill Littlefield.


Littlefield has written a new sports book also with a difference. It's titled "Take Me Out" and is a collection of deceptively simple rhymes and pictures.

They bring us back to a childlike love of the game without forgetting the complications of the modern sports world.

Littlefield is also the author of the book, "Only a Game."

His radio program with the same title recently celebrated its 20th anniversary.