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Old News: Bill James on Sounds of Young America

Posted By Carson Cistulli On November 24, 2010 @ 1:09 am In Old News | 3 Comments

Dear Bespectacled Readership,

Your host, Carson Cistulli (i.e. me), has just — literally, within the last half-hour — completed the drive from Madison, Wisconsin, to an undisclosed location in Michigan.

Though I’m not at liberty to discuss the exact reasons for my visit to America’s second-most peninsula-y state, I can assure you that all but one or two of them (i.e. the reasons) are legal.

In any case, I have two announcements for you, the first of which will make you L — if not OL, then at least STY* — and the second of which will make your quality of life better.

*That’s “silently to yourself.”

The first is this: “… and, boy, are my arms tired!”

Ba-da-bing, amirite?

The second is this: thirty or so minutes of the trip were rendered entirely bearable by listening to an April 2008 interview with Bill James on PRI’s The Sounds of Young America (TSOYA).

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, Judd Apatow, and George Saunders, among others). Thorn’s at his best — and is at his best often enough for me to keep listening — when his interviews resemble impromptu conversations between friends, and not hard-boiled Q&As.

The James interview is actually probably among the top three of the 15 or so TSOYA episodes to which I’ve listened. Thorn asks questions one might expect (“When did you start following baseball seriously?” “What was it that compelled you to ask the questions you’ve asked?”) while steering clear of anything facile or sentimental. James, for his part, conducts himself almost exactly like I’d demand he would: never prepared to suffer foolishness, but sympathetic to Thorn’s need to appeal to a general audience.

A memorable exchange comes early-ish in the interview. Thorn asks if James, as a young man, had any other nerdy interests besides baseball — adding that he didn’t mean nerdy in the pejorative sense of the word. “So far as I know,” James replies, “nerd is never not used in pejorative sense.”

Also to his credit, Thorn actually appears to know quite a bit about baseball and seems to’ve expressly sought out James for that reason.


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