A moving, funny, inventive parenting memoir, written in a surprising form: an encyclopedia of failure in sports
What can a new father learn about parenthood from reading sports almanacs? For most dads, the answer to this question is: nothing. But to Josh Wilker, whose life and writing have been defined by sports fandom, all of the joy, helplessness, and absurdity of parenthood are present between the lines.
After all, what better way to think about losing control than Eugenio Velez's forty-five consecutive at-bats without a hit? How better to understand ridiculous joy than the NFL career of Walter Achiu, whose nickname was "Sneeze"? In the stories of sports figures large and small, Wilker finds the pathos in success and the humor in losing.
As the terrified father of a one-day-old, Wilker recalls the 1986 World Series, when the moment was too big for the Red Sox. When he finds himself stealing away for an hour of alone time, Wilker thinks of boxer Roberto Duran, so beaten by Sugar Ray Leonard that he finally gave up. And yet, even as the frustrations and anxieties build, Wilker remembers Mets pitcher Anthony Young, who broke the baseball record for most consecutive losses -- and never stopped showing up.
Finding the richness of life in obscure wrestling maneuvers and pop-ups lost in the sun, Benchwarmer is a book of unique humanity and surprising wisdom.
About the Author
Josh Wilker is a contributor to FoxSports.com, Vice Sports, The Classical, Baseball Prospectus, ESPN.com, and more. His previous memoir, Cardboard Gods, was a featured book in the 2010 "Year in Sports Media" issue of Sports Illustrated, a 2010 Casey Award finalist, and a 2011 Booklist best book of the year. He also blogs on his own site, cardboardgods.net.
Josh Wilker wants you to believe he has no realm of expertise at all. As a man, a husband, a breadwinner, a first-time father, a onetime college athlete, he's not only never sure of himself; he's often so unsure that he beats himself up over it, literally. But Wilker once again proves himself the possessor of a particular kind of mastery in his new memoir, Benchwarmer. By fixating on failures both his own, personally and as a parent, and those of his beloved sports heroes he's crafted a game plan that turns out to be unbeatable. If the unexamined life is truly not worth living, Wilker takes its flip side to the extreme. A lifetime of addiction to the minutiae of sports, the box scores, career averages, and endless anecdotal legends, has made him a top-shelf Socratic thinker”Publishers Weekly
"The delights of this fatherhood confessional are various. Perhaps most striking and unusual is Wilker's choice of framing his narrative in the form of an almanac. The almanac becomes a moving metaphor for a universal need to organize the chaotic borders of life experience...This almanac of fatherhood (and other failures) is honest, relatable and humorousan indispensable read for fathers (and sons) whose joy in life comes not from winning the big game but being alive to witness the beauty of its happening."Kirkus Reviews
[Wilker expounds] randomly on his lifelong fandom and new fatherhood amidst a pantheon of athletic failures, goof-ups, goats, mediocrities, and losers. Most fans will find something in that litany to enjoy.”Booklist
Benchwarmer is the funniest, saddest, most touching picture of manhood in the 21st century that I have ever read.”Jonathan Eig, author of Luckiest Man
Saying Josh Wilker writes about sports is like saying Proust wrote about cookies, or Tolstoy about Russia. The courts and ball fields are merely arenas in which he illuminates the entire human experience. Wilker is able to recognize within the ordinarymissed free throws, child rearing, the unheroic challenges of daily life the authentically sublime. Benchwarmeris the best kind of art there is, the kind that makes you delighted to be alive.”Matthew Specktor, author of American Dream Machine
Josh Wilker and I traded baseball cards and played Little League together. Yet each time I read his moving prose, I learn more about life's journeyhis, and that of our generation.” Buster Olney, senior writer, ESPN
Benchwarmer is a book for anyone who's ever loved sports, or had a kid. It's a book about boys and about men, and you will weep.” Rob Neyer, Fox Sports
Sports as an organizing principle for stumbling through life and fatherhoodfunny, enchanting and lyrical. Painfully familiar.”Sports Illustrated
Josh Wilker wants you to believe he has no realm of expertise at all. As a man, a husband, a breadwinner, a first-time father, a onetime college athlete, he's not only never sure of himself; he's often so unsure that he beats himself up over it, literally. But Wilker once again proves himself the possessor of a particular kind of mastery in his new memoir, Benchwarmer. By fixating on failures both his own, personally and as a parent, and those of his beloved sports heroes he's crafted a game plan that turns out to be unbeatable.”The Boston Globe