Book on Patrick reads well -- especially the pictures

The Kickoff

April 19, 2006|By PETER SCHMUCK

DANICA — If you're like me and you've spent the past couple of years wondering what Indy Racing League sensation Danica Patrick is really like, you're about to find out.

Danica -- Crossing the Line (Fireside, $23.95) will appear in bookstores next week, but I got my grubby little hands on an advance copy, and they don't call these things autobiographies for nothing.

OK, I only read the pictures, but it looks like an entertaining book ... and the type is pretty big, so it won't intimidate the motor- sports crowd. Patrick and as-told-to author Laura Morton take you from a childhood spent racing go-carts through her climb to become one of the most popular drivers on the IndyCar circuit and - oh yeah - an FHM cover girl.

I've always been a little leery of quickie biographies, especially when the subject still has several decades left of living to do, but the book is quick and slick, sort of like the first woman to finish in the top four of the Indianapolis 500.

Patrick appears on the cover in a black evening dress, carrying her racing helmet, which is pretty much every real man's ultimate fantasy. I know this because I tried to get my wife to wear a firesuit on our honeymoon, but she isn't that open-minded.

The book has two photo sections, but features only one shot from Patrick's semi-racy FHM pictorials. The rest are pretty standard kid pictures and various racing scenes. Interspersed throughout her life story are philosophical quotations from various current and historic figures, which might seem pretentious if the philosophers didn't range from Martin Luther King Jr. and Gandhi to David Letterman and Mike Ditka.

Clearly, this is one well-rounded young lady, and that's not just some sexist play on words. There's even a quote from the Bhagavad Gita ("Inner peace is beyond victory or defeat"), the ancient Indian Sanskrit text that - if memory serves - predicted the development of the four-barrel carburetor.

I'm sure the book will be a big success, but it probably wouldn't hurt sales if she won at Indy this year.

When most sports fans think about the Army-Navy rivalry, they think about the legendary annual football classic that Navy has won the past four years, but the athletic enmity between the two oldest service academies goes much deeper than that.

Every athlete at each academy is conditioned to consider the other the most important opponent of every season, adding an extra emotional dimension to every Army-Navy event. Sunday, the Naval Academy and the Orioles will attempt to raise the level of interest in the rivalry between the two baseball programs when Camden Yards plays host to an Army-Navy baseball doubleheader. The first game is at noon, and tickets are $7 for adults and $3 for children.

Can't help but feel terrible for David Newhan, who battled back from a tough 2005 season to win a place in the Orioles' regular lineup only to be sidelined for six to eight weeks because of a freak injury. More proof that life just isn't fair.

Newhan's early-season performance clearly had a catalytic effect on the team. He started several important rallies with big hits or big hustle, contributions that won't be easy for manager Sam Perlozzo to replace. The Orioles have to hope that struggling Corey Patterson will view it as a personal challenge to provide the same kind of spark in Newhan's place.

Sometimes, self-centeredness can be almost endearing, like when somebody asked Kobe Bryant who would get his ballot for the NBA Most Valuable Player Award.

"I'd vote for myself," Bryant said.

Kind of reminds me of former Orioles manager Davey Johnson, who had a favorite expression when anyone asked him to predict the outcome of a series his team was playing in: "I always bet on me."

I'll tell you one thing. Despite my Los Angeles roots and Bryant's scoring average, I certainly wouldn't bet on him and his unselfish supporting cast if the Lakers draw a first-round series against the Phoenix Suns, no matter what the score was in Sunday's Steve Nash-less showdown.

"The Peter Schmuck Show" airs on WBAL (1090 AM) at noon on Saturdays.

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