It Rankles Roy Blount Jr. that, at least on some subjects, he knows less now than he did in ninth grade. "When I was 14, I was up on all the baseball statistics," says Blount, the Southern humorist and former third baseman. "Of course, back then, you only had to know how to do long division to figure them out."
Blount takes note of baseball's trend toward abstruse statistics, its profusion of Adjusted Range Factors and Victory-Important RBIs, in an essay beginning on page 133. With characteristic misdirection, he scolds baseball's "rigger filberts" for not going far enough to demystify the game. Blount helpfully offers his own formulas for quantifying such previously unquantifiable matters as CGA (clubhouse goodness average), GP (greatness of play) and others. But don't look for these stats in next year's Bill James Baseball Abstract.
With this article, Blount—who was an SI staffer from 1968 to '75—returns to our pages for the first time since '87. when his story Attacking the Amazon appealed here. During Blount's sojourn in the Amazon Basin, a small piranha gnawed briefly on his right thigh, an indignity that cost Blount only several droplets of blood but resulted in this arresting lead: "Wild fish ripped my flesh."
Attacking the Amazon and many other examples of Blount's never-bloodless prose are all part of Camels Are Easy, Comedy Is Hard, his 11th book, to be published by Villard Books in September. Blount has gone camel packing in North Africa and raccoon hunting in the Southwest in recent years, but he has not been in a baseball locker room, he says, "since the top salary was about $250,000."
That doesn't bother him. "I like hearing the life stories of people who have never been asked about their life stories before," says Blount, 49. "A 24-year-old making three million dollars—that is his life's story."
Not that Blount would have minded making a fortune playing sports. "Until I was 14," he says, "I fully expected to be a three-sport immortal." He attributes his failure to out-Bo Bo to one important shortcoming: "I was, and am, very, very slow."
With pride and a trace of envy, Blount reports that his son, John, a 6'4½" junior at North Carolina, can dunk. "He is the first Blount to be able to do so," says his 6'½" dad. "On my best days I could maybe touch the middle of the net."
Blount has long been conscious of his lack of speed and leaping ability. Early in his sportswriting career he tended to dwell on "how different" he felt from professional athletes. But that feeling gradually dissipated, says Blount, as he learned not to interview athletes so much as to "hang out with them, with an car cocked."
This has been the book on Blount for the longest time now: suspect wheels but a world-class ear.
Blount donned his thinking cap in order to ponder stats.