I've seen quite a few news items -- AP and others -- about The Many Lives of Alex Rodriguez by Selena Roberts becoming a book-business case of "three strikes, you're out." In spite of a nationwide retail slump in bookstores, Harper Collins was evidently hoping to pull off the old magic trick that has worked for publishers for so many years: making a killing with a tabloid blockbuster. They rolled 150,000 copies of Roberts' book off the presses.
But a funny thing has happened: so far, the book has reportedly sold only 16,000 copies. Even New Yorkers were not rushing to read about A-Rod's woes.
Sure, there were bad reviews -- that too much of the story was shopworn from the news, that the author didn't dig deep enough on her research, etc. etc. And it isn't the first time in recent history that a much-touted title by or about a celebrity has laid an egg in the bookstores.
But is it possible -- just possible -- that Americans' seemingly endless appetite for tabloid tales is finally waning? Especially in sports? That they're finally tired of hearing about steroids and other abuses that make sports into a joke? That the deepening recession -- growing hordes of people out of money, out of a job, out of their homes -- has made it hard for them to swallow yet another negative story about a highly-paid sports star who took the millions and ran?
So what happens to a book that dies on first base? The stores mark it down to $2 and put it on the yard-sale table. Unshipped copies in the warehouse get shuffled to some used-book jobber.
Meanwhile, in sports, the real markdown may be happening on the human plane. More and more fans are staying away from sports venues because they can't afford the seat...and also possibly because they are heartbroken and weary of watching their favorite athletes crash and burn.