Apr
29

Heller’s book offers ‘Confessions’ of any fan

By

confessions-of-a-she-fan-213x300 Nearly two years ago, Jane Heller penned a column in The Times expressing her utter frustration with the New York Yankees. Her favorite team since she was a teenager, the Yanks had frustrated her with their mediocre play, and finding little joy in the corporate and middling Bombers, she threatened to divorce the team.

That column set off a firestorm of sorts. Yankee fans — and baseball fans — from around the country attacked Heller’s fandom. How could someone proclaiming to be a fan, to love a team ’til death do us part, divorce them for bad play? That’s the very definition of a fair-weather fan.

In response to the column, Heller did what any rational fan would do — she wrote a book about her love of the Yankees. That book, published this spring and entitled Confessions of a She-Fan, isn’t your typical baseball memoir. While it talks about the origins of Heller’s love of the team, it’s more about the process of an outsider writing a book about the team she loves while facing a lot of pushback. It’s also about a female writing from a distinctly female perspective and hoping to connect on a level that might not exist.

The main gist of Heller’s book focuses around her efforts in 2007 to follow the team. She gets a book deal to write about the Yankees and then spends the summer trying to get access. She follows the team around the country for the better part of four months, missing only a handful of games. Along the way, she rides the ups and downs of the season while trying to get inside the clubhouse to interview the players.

Needless to say, she doesn’t quite succeed until the end when she runs into one Yankee — I won’t say who — in a restaurant. That Yankee, a short-lived member of the Bronx Bombers, gives her a ring after the season to talk about playing on the Yankees. It’s a great coda to a tale of frustration.

That frustration stems from a Yankee organization intent on limiting access. She tries to go through Jason Zillo, the Yanks’ media gatekeeper, but Zillo, who fields more than his fair share of calls like Heller’s, wants credentialed writers only around the Yanks. She tries every which way to make an end-run around Zillo. She tries to go after Jean Afterman and Suzyn Waldman, connecting to them on that female level. Waldman is responsive; Afterman is not. She befriends John Sterling and runs through her Rolodex searching for ways in to no success. It is, then, no surprise that the Yanks didn’t want Heller’s publishers to advertise her book in the Yankee Magazine this year.

The tale of access though is nearly beside the point, and the focus on Heller’s gender nearly detracts from the fan experience. Throughout the book, Heller relates her emotional ride as the Yanks stumble out of the block, recover over the summer, make the playoffs and then lose when a bunch of bugs attack Joba Chamberlain on a hot October day in Cleveland. She talks as though a She-Fan is a distinct species of fan, but it’s not. In the end, Heller is just like the rest of us who live and die with the Yankees.

The culture of exclusivity around the Yankees made me chuckle as I paged through Heller’s story. The beatwriters are more or less obliging after initial skepticism; the Front Office is less than forthcoming; and Sterling and Waldman, the voices of the team, come across as the most obliging. Heller weaves a fun tale of fandom, and it makes for some baseball reading to which the most dedicated and obsessed can easily relate.

Jane Heller’s Confessions of a She-Fan is available here at Amazon. That link contains the RAB affiliate code. So if you’re thinking of buying the book, that link will toss us a few pennies. Jane continues to write about the Yankees on a daily basis at her blog of the same name.

Categories : Reviews

34 Comments»

  1. I got sent a copy back in February; it was really fun to read. I think I finished it in a night, which is not in my world a bad thing.

    Actually in my world it’s a very, very good thing.

  2. Bo says:

    I cannot read sports books by female authors. Always universally shitty. Now cue the PC crowd.

  3. daneptizl says:

    Aftermath is an album. Yankee assistant GM is Afterman.

  4. Acquiescent Axl says:

    I must read this book. This is EXACTLY how I feel. While I would and could never “divorce the team”…I do feel the anger she had towards such lackluster play by a bunch of superstars being paid multi-millions. While I’ve never been one to fall for the “money breeds talent” outlook most Yankee haters use as their basis in an argument…these guys should still be able to get farther than the first round in the playoffs at least once out of 3 times in a row.

    But that’s how the ball bounces. Money doesn’t breed success…it just seemingly helps you get there a little easier. Although, if we take recent history…it’s becoming less and less true. Because maybe all the stress that comes with the big money…and the expectations…is exactly what’s keeping these players from doing what they were doing before…which was the whole reason we wanted them in the first place.

    In conclusion, I’m not one who believes in “chemistry” but I do believe in stress. And I believe if the team was a little looser with at least a little less pressure put on them year after year…perhaps then we’d see some amazing things again. Because it most certainly isn’t the talent…or something as irrational as “luck” or a “curse”.

    • whozat says:

      Sure, I believe that stress and pressure plays a role in success.

      I think ownership has plenty to do with that, and the media. But, I also think that a guy like Jeter is just as much a part of that problem. He’s always repeating the no-world-series-victory == failed season line, and one wonders how much that influences the clubhouse.

      If this is a big problem, and I don’t know that it is, I think that you can’t ignore how the guys that are actually in the clubhouse every day might help or hinder.

  5. Andy In Sunny Daytona says:

    I miss her commenting on here, she always had great observations.
    Ben, get her back, Mike and Joe always say that you’re the charming one.

  6. dexcente says:

    A book about trying to write a book sounds like something that would only interest people who want to write books about writing books.

  7. Lanny says:

    I got better ways to kill time than read a book about a chick who can’t stand being a fan. Boo hooo. It’s hard being a fan. Suck it up

  8. Kristin says:

    I’m all for the female fan experience not being all that different from the male one. But, unfortunately, it is.

    I don’t know if I could get across why it is in a book. Maybe because there are undertones that you don’t really care about the sport or that you don’t know as much as the guys. It seems to be different because guys lay claim to real fandom while implying that women are only there to ogle the men. And drunk, jersey-chasing gold diggers at games don’t help much.

    I think Jane is probably much more eloquent than me, and I like that she wrote a book about her experience because, in general, men begin with the assumption that women aren’t “true fans.” And the really dumb ones cling to that assumption, even after they’ve met and talked to women who know their stuff.

  9. [...] * Review: Confessions of a She-Fan 1 05 2009 RiverAveBlues.com, the official Yankees blog of the YES Network, recently ran this review of Jane Heller’s book. [...]

  10. [...] So we’re going to give out a free copy of Jane Heller’s Confessions of a She-Fan, which Ben reviewed here, to number 600. In other words, the seventh person to follow us starting…now. Posted on [...]

  11. [...] this year, I reviewed Jane Heller’s Confessions of a She-Fan and found it an enjoyable and humorous read. Jane e-mailed me over the weekend with word of a book signing. She’ll be at Stan’s Bar [...]

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