For the most part I don’t enjoy talk radio. Actually, what I don’t like are call in shows on talk radio. Intelligent discussion I like. Loudmouthed opinion and hyperbole I can do with out. For this reason it has only been in the last year or so that I have begun to listen to sports radio more. I am out of touch when it comes to music and can never seem to find a station I like, and I can only take so much NPR, so I started listening to the local sports radio station when I am in the car. One show that I enjoy is Mike and Mike in the Morning. They seem level headed, knowledgeable, and humorous without being over the top. If I am in the car in the morning I generally have them on.
So when I found out that one of the Mike’s from the show, Mike Greenberg or Greeny, had a book (Why My Wife Thinks I’m an Idiot : The Life and Times of a Sportscaster Dad) coming out I thought it might be worth checking out. After all, I am a big sports fan and have recently become a father. I figured it might be interesting to see what Mr. Greenberg has to say about balancing sports and fatherhood.
When Greenberg made a stop in Columbus on his book tour it presented the perfect opportunity to get the book and to meet the author. So I swung by the Barnes and Noble at the appointed time. What I found out was that a lot of people had the same idea. There was a large line that was getting larger by the minute. Faced with a decision, I bought the book and jumped in line.
The line moved rather quickly once he got there and began signing books. And the Barnes and Noble folks were very nice. They even gave out sample iced coffee drinks. While waiting in line they wanted you to decide how you wanted your book signed and to write it down on a post-it note. This would facilitate a smooth and quick moving signing session. The down side, however, was that the time to speak to Greenberg was minimal.
I had to figure out how I wanted my book signed. After much thought, I decided to have him sign it:
You are NOT an idiot.
You see, the crucial word in the books title is “thinks.” My wife THINKS I am an idiot. Different perspectives and ways of thinking lead to this misconception. Greeny isn’t an idiot and neither am I. Our wives sometimes think we are, however, because of the way they evaluate such things.
I tried to make this little observation/joke to Mr. Greenberg but I am not sure he really got it. So I thanked him and rejoined my wife, daughter, and friends who all thought I was a little weird for waiting in line in the first place.
All of the above is a long-winded introduction to the book review that follows.
The best way to describe this book is to talk about what it is not. It is not really a book about sports. Fans of Mike and Mike in the Morning who are looking for more sports talk or analysis will be disappointed. Greenberg sprinkles in monologues from his radio show and there is a sports component to many of his anecdotes, but it is really more about fatherhood and marriage than it is about sports.
Those looking for a straightforward memoir or tightly written story will be also disappointed. The book is really more of a collection of essay and anecdotes. Greenberg has a tendency to be uptight and to worry about everything. His therapist told him to start using a journal to try and capture and make sense of his feelings. The book is made up of selections from his diary over the period from June 1999 to May 2005. During that period his wife became pregnant and they had their first child. So the diary entries cover the changing nature of his relationship with his wife and his experience on becoming a father.
With all of that said, I found it to be a quick and entertaining read. Greenberg notes in the prologue that he has been a “metrosexual” since before the term was coined. Greeny also likes to claim the mantle of the everyman; that he is just like his listeners. This might be true in some sense – he goes to work, deals with family life, etc. – but he really doesn’t live a normal life. As a semi-famous sportscaster and wealthy New Yorker I have to think that his life is a lot different that most of the people who listen to his show.
If he wasn’t such a nice guy he might come off as spoiled or pompous. But Greenberg knows he is lucky to be able to lead the life he does and it comes off in his writing. He doesn’t strike me as arrogant or snotty, but some might be turned off by the discussion of high priced men’s fashion and his jet setting life.
One way that Greenberg does come off as the everyman is in his dealings with his wife. It may be a cliche but is is nevertheless true that men and women have very different ways of communicating, thinking, etc. Greeny relates some hilarious stories of his attempts to avoid the argument traps that marriage inevitably sets. There is a particularly funny one dealing with what happens when a long time friend calls to tell him that his wife has left him. Greeny can’t think of anything helpful to say and so asks him if they are still planning on going to the Jets game on Sunday. As you might expect, Greenberg’s wife sees this as a less that appropriate response.
Greeny also captures the big difference between men and women in the section that gives the book its title. Greeny comes to the realization that “We are all married to women who think we are idiots.” He figures out why that is so:
[T]he simple reality is that men and women are operating on different wavelengths and that disconnect makes it inevitable that a women will someday look upon her husband and think: I just have no idea what goes on in your head.
Now, the questions: Why doesn’t that disconnect work both ways? Why don’t men become frustrated when their wives don’t it?
The answer: Because men don’t care.
Mostly, we just want to be left alone. And a women’s need to discuss our problems only interferes with our need to pretend they do not exist. This is the central difference between a husband and a wife.
Greenberg goes on to explain that men take people at face value while women see men for what they could be or should be. This leads to all kinds of miscommunication and confusion. I think this is accurate and valuable. I remember early in relationship with my wife that she was always looking for deeper more complex reasons for my actions and attitudes. She always seemed to think there was something more there than my obvious answers. The sooner she could see that I wasn’t all that complex – that I didn’t have a bunch of secret reasons for doing what I did – things went a lot smoother.
All in all, I found Why My Wife Thinks I am an Idiot to be a lighthearted look at marriage and fatherhood. Mike Greenberg might not be the everyman he claims to be, but he is funny and engaging enough to be interesting to a wide group of guys. This book didn’t change my life or anything, but it did make me chuckle and understand Greeny a little better.