Hardball is like a big bag of popcorn for fans of American political theater. Originally written in 1988, the book has been ‘revised and updated’ (dates unspecific) to now loosely cover the Kennedy era through Bill Clinton’s second term, offering funny, stunning, smart, and cruel political anecdotes from both the Legislative and Executive branches. Rather than come at you chronologically, Hardball is organized under chapter headings that, while maybe novel in ‘88, seem like second nature now, perhaps in part to the book itself: “Spin,” “Positioning,” “Always Concede on Principle,” etc.Combined with his own experiences of running a failed House bid, and working as aide to Jimmy Carter and Tip O’Neill, among others, this book obviously led to Chris Matthews as host of his own Hardball program - which was news to someone who was a fan of Hardball-as-TV before they knew of Hardball as a post-Reagan philosophy. Hardball the book, like the television program, is entertaining stuff. Perhaps even useful as a field guild of sorts for this season’s herd of political animals. Because when you fly this far above the field - when you can see only the game and not the people whose lives are betting on it - it makes sense that politics is sport, is luxury, is something to be played. The other view, and probably the obverse, is too depressing to contemplate.