After his interview with Matt, Lupica -- who is also a sports columnist for the New York Daily News -- chatted with me on subjects ranging from his writing influences to baseball to the 2008 presidential race. Here are some of the highlights:
Q: Who were some of your writing influences when you were a kid reading young adult sports books?
Mike Lupica: The books that most profoundly planted this idea in me to write when I was a kid were the Chip Hilton series by Clair Bee, the noted basketball coach. I loved reading the stories of Chip and his buddies in high school and later in college, and I read them again to my sons when they were little.
There was also a writer named John Blaine who wrote the Rick Brant Science-Adventure Series. He wrote in the early 1950s, and I was thinking about those books recently. So I went to amazon.com and bought Smugglers' Reef, which was one of my favorites... The binding had the old Rick Brant logo, which was a lightning bolt. And seeing that again, it was as if my adult life had disappeared, and I was brought back to what it was like to have the experience of reading those books as a kid.
Q: What do you tell kids who are interesting in writing themselves?
ML: Go home and write a story. When I talk to school groups, I tell them, "Every one of you has a story worth telling. There's a story in every one of you, so go home and write it. And when you do it, then you're a writer." I tell them that you learn to write by writing and by reading good writing.
Q: Speaking of good writing, who are you reading right now?
ML: Well, Elmore Leonard is my hero and a dear friend of mine. He's 81, and he's still going strong. He just came out with a new book, and he's 60 pages into the next one.
I was at dinner the other night, and I was sitting with William Goldman... So I wasn't even the best writer at the table! I just think The Princess Bride is the gold standard.
I just finished reading Up in Honey's Room, Elmore Leonard's new one. Now I've got What's So Funny by Donald Westlake, and I just got the galleys for Pete Hamill's upcoming book, North River.
Q: Let's turn to sports for a minute here. Did the Yankees buy a pennant by signing Roger Clemens?
ML: No, but they bought themselves a better chance than they would have had without him. The Yankees have fallen into a pattern where they spend a lot of money on aging pitching. And they've ended up getting blown away by big, young arms late in September and October. They haven't developed any young arms of their own except for [Chien-Ming] Wang. But this [Phil] Hughes kid might end up being more important than anyone thought.
Q: The French Open is coming up. Is this the time for Roger Federer to finally win at Roland Garros and vanquish his nemesis, two-time defending champion Rafael Nadal?
ML: I'm a big Sampras guy, but I think Federer is as good anyone I've ever seen. Still, I get the feeling that someone will have to beat Nadal along the way for Federer to win the French. I don't think he can beat Nadal on clay. There was probably a time when he could have gotten Nadal, but that time may have come and gone.
Q: You recently wrote a column focusing on New York's last two mayors and the 2008 presidential race. First, let's talk about the current mayor, Michael Bloomberg. He says he's not running but there's a lot of speculation that he'll join the race. Do you think he will?
ML: Well, I don't know what his game plan is. I've been asking a lot of smart people these questions: What's his end game? Is he trying to raise his profile for 2012? Is he just tweaking Giuliani? I don't know the answers to those questions. But as I've written, what I really think about Bloomberg is that if you're going to be the mayor of New York City, you have to have more of a position on the war in Iraq than to say that things are bad there.
Q: What about Bloomberg's predecessor as mayor, Rudy Giuliani -- he's considered the frontrunner right now in the race for the Republican nomination. Does he have a shot?
ML: I think the more people get to know him, the less they'll like him. He's running on the idea that he'll keep us safe, but he didn't keep us safe in New York before September 11. He did well in the clean-up, but he didn't keep us safe. I think he's one of the most wildly overrated political figures in America.