The following is Bob Costas's foreword for Brett Leveridge's new book, Men My Mother Dated and Other Mostly True Tales, now in stores from Villard Books:


Image--Bob CostasI first met Brett Leveridge at Mickey Mantle's restaurant in New York City. I was seated at a booth in the far corner of the restaurant's main room, and he arrived, pen and pad in hand, ready to take my order.

He had a Oklahoma accent (fitting for someone working at Mantle's); more to the point, he saw to it that my burger came out just the way I ordered it: medium rare, topped with American cheese, pickle and tomato on the side. Not that getting this straight was brain surgery, but I appreciated it nonetheless.

As it happened, Brett would wait on me any number of other times in the ensuing months. I'd stop in to Mantle's for a bite and often as not find myself seated in his section. The routine was always the same: attentive (but not fawning) service, a little sports talk, and a tasty meal -- simple pleasures that I came to take for granted.

A good waiter, one who can be relied upon to get you a burger and a beer with a minimum of fuss, is a craftsman to be cherished. But in a city like New York, it's a rare service worker indeed who doesn't have his or her eye on a larger prize. The cab driver who brings you in from the airport is probably hard at work on his third symphony; the doorman at your hotel likely spends his nights slaving over a script he's certain will one day win an Oscar; and the waiter who serves you that night at your favorite little cafe does so only to pay his bills and bide his time between auditions.

And writers outnumber them all; the city's crawling with playwrights, journalists, novelists, and other assorted scribes. You can't throw a fastball in Manhattan without hitting one. So I wasn't particularly surprised when Brett presented, at the end of a meal, not only my check but a copy of his zine, BRETTnews. Here were twelve photocopied pages filled with essays, tall tales, slightly skewed horoscopes, and quirky advice columns that surely no one would heed. It was clever stuff, and I enjoyed reading it.

But little did I realize that that issue of BRETTnews was a presage to the end of a perfectly satisfying diner-waiter relationship. By 1994, Brett had taken his publication online, and things really started to take off. His column, Men My Mother Dated, was a regular feature in Might magazine; he was profiled in a cover story for Virtual City magazine; he made a pair of appearances on the popular radio program, This American Life, and delivered several humorous commentaries on National Public Radio's All Things Considered.

And it wasn't long before Brett had moved on from Mickey Mantle's and begun working as a freelance writer and as an editor for various online operations. Still, I held out hope that the whole online thing would be just a fad, that the Web might peter out, that perhaps Brett would return to Mickey Mantle's, where I might again enjoy a burger, a beer, and a bit -- but just a bit -- of sports talk under his attentive watch. That's not so much to ask, is it?

Alas, the publication of this book probably signals the final dashing of those modest hopes --- the end of an era. So, go ahead -- enjoy the book you now hold in your hands. Thrill to Brett's mom's romantic adventures. Chuckle at his accounts of life in New York City. Nod in assent as he offers contrarian views on most of the major holidays. While you're at it, why not buy a few copies of this reasonably priced volume for your friends and family? Your mom would probably love a copy, no? Your Aunt Edna, your mailman? They could all use a good laugh, I'm sure. And Brett could certainly use the sales, right? By all means! Let's put Mr. Too-Good-to-Serve-a-Burger on the damned best seller lists!

And as you page through this book, don't give a thought to my pain and disappointment. After all, I'll no doubt be seated again, one day soon, in that booth in the far corner of the main room at Mantle's. But it won't be the same, because Brett won't be serving me. And you, in a small but undeniable way, will be to blame.

I hope you can live with that.

--Bob Costas, March 2000