The Madness of March


I’m a basketball fan, pure and simple, so I love this time of year. I love college basketball and filling out brackets to see which teams will advance from the field of 65 to 32, into the Sweet Sixteen, then to the Elite Eight, and ultimately into the Final Four.

Wow, the basketball pundits sure tapped into alliteration as a device to promote the NCAA tournament, didn’t they?

Every year there seems to be a sleeper team, a Cinderella that advances farther than anyone expected them to. I remember Gonzaga was that team not long ago. In our area, UC Irvine hoped to play that role a couple of years ago, and before them, CSUN (Cal State University Northridge) pNone to my knowledge has made it all the way to the big dance, but that doesn’t stop the players and coaches from those smaller programs.

They think and dream and work to make it happen. And one of those low picks, a 15th seed or a 12 seed, will probably creep into the limelight again this year. They’ll have the world rooting for them and the newspapers covering their shoot-a-rounds. They’ll squeak out a victory over a team from a power conference, one that was favored, one stocked with all Americans at every position.

How is this possible?

It’s not so different from The Voice or other talent competitions or from the publishing business. In basketball a team with ability gets to the biggest college basketball tournament, and they actually have a chance to prove that they can play with the big-name schools.

Of course, few of those Cinderella teams are unbeaten. So what about Podunk U that beat Cinderella by fifteen points during the regular season, but didn’t win their conference and therefore weren’t invited to The Tournament? Is PU therefore a stinker? 😀

OK, I’m having some fun here, but the point is, there are small schools that make a big splash, but not all capable of making a big splash get the chance to do so. So with books.

There are some surprises—books that make it big and no one really knows why. And others that ought to do well because they had the full weight of their publisher’s marketing department, and, well, the results were less than stellar. Maybe they didn’t employ enough alliteration. 😉

The behind-the-scenes truth is, God is God and will do what He wills.

Which means, I may be left cheering for a team with a devout Christian as the coach and a group of guys who pray together before a game, but who get blown out by Powerhouse Team from Conference Powerhouse, led by an in-your-face player shouting into a microphone, Winning is the ONLY thing that matters.

Do I understand such things? No. I would like to see “Fair and Just” on the basketball court. I would like to see nice guys finishing first.

Sometimes they do. And then it’s a party!

But most of the time, the guy who grabs a bit of jersey and holds, doesn’t get called for a foul. The guy hooking the defensive player on his drive to the basket, gets the score and also goes to the free throw line. Sports aren’t so fair.

But that’s not a reflection on God because the game ain’t over! 😉

This article is a revised edition of one that appeared here in March 2009.

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Finishing Strong


US_men's_soccer_team_trains_in_NJ_2010-05-20When I coached, especially basketball, I often talked to my team about finishing. It’s great to jump out to a big league, but if you let down, if you start to go easy, your lead can evaporate and you end up in a close contest which you can easily lose. I’ve had teams lose by any manner of lucky shots, such as the three-pointer which ricocheted off the backboard and into the net.

Even more certain that lucky shots can win games is a sport like soccer or hockey. Ask the Anaheim Ducks who lost to the eventual Stanley Cup winners, the LA Kings. They gave up a goal in the closing seconds of regulation and eventually lost in overtime.

Or ask the US World Cup soccer team who just yesterday gave up a goal in the closing seconds of extra time—time added on because of delays during regulation. After 94 minutes and 30 seconds, playing in the heat and humidity of the Amazon jungle, the US led 2-1. After 95 minutes, they were tied.

Some players, to be sure, were playing to finish, but others appeared to be going through the motions. The ESPN radio announcers accused Portugal of going through the motions. In fact, he said they already had their bags packed. Yikes, I thought. I didn’t see it that way. They were still playing hard, still challenging for the ball in midfield, and winning it far too often. All the US had to do was possess the ball for one minute. All they had to do was play keep-away. All they had to do was finish.

How like life games are. I’ve thought of that many, many times, even calling sports a microcosm in which much of the human experience is played out: success and failure, team work, integrity, discipline, attitudes toward authority, toward an opponent, jealousy, contentment, hard work, trust, obedience, humility. And finishing.

I hadn’t thought about finishing until yesterday’s tie. But how interesting to realize that sports teams don’t reach the end of a game and retire the way chess players do. A team losing badly still needs to play. A team winning big still needs to play. Those ahead in the score can’t assume they know what the final score will be simply because they’re up big at half time.

Painfully I recall my Denver Broncos being up big against the Indianapolis Colts at half time, then losing that game.

Those losing can’t assume they have no chance.

Just this hockey season, the Kings were down 0 games to 3 in a best-of-seven series. The San Jose Sharks couldn’t finish. The Kings took the next four games and advanced to the second round. In their game seven against Chicago, they fell behind by two goals, but they didn’t stop playing. They finished. And their efforts put them into the Stanley Cup finals.

So why does our society say people reaching sixty-five should pack it in and go on an extended vacation? Why should people who have gained wisdom and understanding and knowledge and experience not be expected to finish and to finish well?

To those who have been given much, much will be required—except apparently not of older folk. But why not?

Oh, sure, the hockey player will one day need to step aside from the game he loves and has excelled in. And so shall all retired folk. The day will come, apart from the return of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we will all step aside from this life. But up until that moment, ought we not to be giving life our all?

“Our all” might be little more than serving as a prayer warrior for others on the front line of our faith, but that’s a significant role and ought not be disparaged. I would love to see every retired person more involved in prayer than in daytime TV.

We can finish and we can finish well. And the difference between going all out and easing up as the seconds tick toward the final whistle just might be significant.

Published in: on June 23, 2014 at 4:00 pm  Comments Off on Finishing Strong  
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Basketball And Publishing Fiction


Before I get started, I want to remind you I have two polls I’d love to have you take part in. The first is for the CSFF Top Tour Blogger Award (you’ll find links to the articles in the post), and the second is the What Do You Read poll. With this latter, I’d really appreciate it if you shared the link on Facebook, Twitter, or email. The larger the sampling, the more credible the results, so I want as many people beyond A Christian Worldview Of Fiction’s regular visitors as possible to be a part.

Basketball and fiction?

I’m a huge sports fan, but most of my teams haven’t done all that well recently. Except the Lakers who pretty much have owned the century up to this point. 😉

But in the current playoffs they’re having trouble with the number seven seed New Orleans Hornets, a team they swept during the regular season. Many people are stunned that a team which lost its leading scorer weeks before the play-offs, a team with the youngest coach in the league, a team that is clearly undersized could stay close to the two-time defending champs. It’s David and Goliath all over again.

But why should we be surprised? The Hornets are talented, prepared, disciplined, determined, and relaxed. Nobody expects them to do well, so they have no fear of letting anyone down. Consequently, every positive thing they accomplish — winning game one on the Lakers’ home court, tying the series at two apiece — is met with praise and wild excitement whereas every downturn is met with nonchalance.

And this relates to fiction, how?

Publishing is in a turmoil. In some respects you can divide publishing endeavors into the Lakers (traditional publishing) and the Hornets (independent ebook publishing). Oh, there are others in the game — the San Antonia Spurs, Memphis Grizzles, Dallas Mavericks and the like — but in this particular contest, we’re looking at two players.

Traditional publishing has history on their side. And size. And money. Ebooks are the young upstarts with no expectations. Along comes a phenomenal success like Amanda Hocking, and people begin to believe.

The champs can be dethroned. A new player is about to take over. Which means size and experience doesn’t matter.

Oh really?

In the article I linked to above, Amanda herself makes a sports analogy. She says that to claim traditional publishing is dead is like saying in the sixth inning of a baseball game in which you’re behind 8-2, that you’re the winner. Actually, no, the “winner” has yet to be determined, and just because you scored most recently is no reason to assume the outcome is a foregone conclusion.

In all of this publishing chaos, there’s really only one thing the writer can do — write well.

I’m a firm believer that God will take care of bringing audience and story together. Yes, the writer has responsibilities in the promotion of his work, but the best promotion can’t overcome so-so stories.

I might convince my ten best friends to buy my book, and they will because they care about me. But when each of them tells their ten best friends, will they buy my book?

That second level in the network isn’t going to spend money for my sake. They will do it, though, if they’re convinced by their friends that they’ll get a good product.

And when that second group tell their ten best friends, all they’re talking about is whether or not the book is good. The author, unless he’s an established writer with a recognizable name, will no longer have any sway over whether or not the third tier of friends buys the book. Purchases will be decided on the merits of the story.

Interestingly, that process is the same whether a writer publishes with a traditional press or whether he chooses the self-publishing ebook route. It all starts with story. And we writers would do well to put our primary emphasis there (she said to herself. 😉 )

Wait ’till June


I’m going off topic (not fiction, not Christian worldview) today. As some of you know, the NCAA basketball tournament started this week. Normally I have quite a problem because I want to watch games, but I’m also working, and most often, as I am this year, preparing for the Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference.

But here’s the thing. This year, no conflict. My team of choice to cheer for is UCLA, but alas, they didn’t even finish at .500, let alone garner enough respect to be invited to March Madness. Second choice would be USC, but they didn’t even make the PAC-10 Tournament because of recruiting violations.

How about Long Beach State or Cal State Fullerton. A few years ago, CSUN (Cal State Northridge) was the local Cinderella story. Nope, none of those teams made it either.

One sort of bright spot is UC Santa Barbara. I grew up in Santa Barbara, but the Gauchos were the rivals of tiny-Christian-college Westmont where my dad taught. So UCSB isn’t really a favorite. But even though it’s a hundred miles north of LA, it’s about as good as SoCal has. Unfortunately they had a low seed and probably already lost their first round game.

So what does that leave a die-hard basketball fan like myself? JUNE and the NBA finals with the reigning league champion Los Angeles Lakers looking to repeat.

Ah, June will be good. Until then I’m (mostly) sitting out March Madness. (I think Washington is playing right now—they’re PAC-10, so I might just take a peek at that game. 😉 )

Published in: on March 18, 2010 at 4:28 pm  Comments (3)  
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March Madness


I’m a basketball fan, pure and simple, so I love this time of year. I love college basketball and filling out brackets to see which teams will advance from the field of 65 to 32, into the Sweet Sixteen, then to the Elite Eight, and ultimately into the Final Four.

Wow, the basketball pundits sure tapped into alliteration as a device to promote the NCAA tournament, didn’t they?

Which makes me think about words and the way they sound together and the power of their music to make the meaning memorable. (OK, that phrase came out without me trying to use alliteration, I promise! 😉 )

Not that I think every character needs to have alliteration in his name. Uh, that might be a little hokey. But I’m wondering about the marketing end of books. Is there some way of incorporating poetic devices such as alliteration that can work subconsciously to help a reader remember and/or associate a book in a favorable way?

I don’t have anything particular in mind. Just thinking out loud.

But back to basketball. Every year there seems to be a sleeper team, a Cinderella that advances farther than anyone expected them to. None to my knowledge has made it all the way to the big dance, but that doesn’t stop the players and coaches from those smaller programs.

They think and dream and work to make it happen. And one of those low picks, a 15th seed or a 12 seed, will probably creep into the limelight again this year. They’ll have the world rooting for them and the newspapers covering their shoot arounds. They’ll squeak out a victory over a team from a power conference, one that was favored, one stocked with all Americans at every position.

How is this possible?

It’s not so different from American Idol or the publishing business. A team with ability gets to the biggest college basketball tournament, and they actually have a chance to prove that they can play.

Of course, few of those Cinderella teams are unbeaten. So what about Podunk U that beat Cinderella by fifteen points, but didn’t win their conference and therefore weren’t invited to The Tournament? Is PU therefore a stinker? 😀

OK, I’m having some fun here, but the point is, there are small schools that make a big splash, but not all capable of making a big splash get the chance to do so. So with books.

There are some surprises—books that make it big and no one really knows why. And others that ought to do well because they had the full weight of their publishers marketing department, and well, the results were less than stellar. Maybe they didn’t employ enough alliteration. 😉

The behind the scenes truth is, God is God and will do what He wills.

Which means, I may be left rooting for a team with a devote Christian as the coach and a group of guys who pray together before a game, but who get blown out by Powerhouse Team from Conference Powerhouse, led by an in-your-face player shouting into a microphone, Winning is the ONLY thing that matters.

Do I understand such things? No. I would like to see “Fair and Just” on the basketball court. I would like to see nice guys finishing first. Sometimes they do. And then it’s a party!

But most of the time, the guy who grabs a bit of jersey and holds, gets away with it. The guy hooking the defensive player on his drive to the basket also goes to the free throw line. Sports aren’t so fair.

But that’s not a reflection on God because the game ain’t over! 😉

Published in: on March 13, 2009 at 12:34 pm  Comments (1)  
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