Monday, February 6, 2012

Authoring the Superbowl ...

Watching a Superbowl is like reading a book.

Like most fans of fantasy novels, I love a slam-bam opening scene with something shocking transpiring. In my novel, The Emperor’s Mistress, it’s a brutal battle where an emperor is struck down and his magical sword captured by the enemy. It’s the same with the Superbowl. I want the first quarter to explode with action – or at least have something happen to draw me into the game.

In Sunday’s game, the Giants’ punter backed the Patriots deep into their own territory after Eli Manning could do nothing on New York’s opening possession. On the Patriots’ first play of the game, Tom Brady dropped back into his own end zone and had to throw the ball away to evade a tackle. Out came a ref’s flag. Brady had been penalized for intentional grounding when he threw the ball deep down the middle. He’d tried to avoid a safety. Guess what? The Patriots were slapped with a safety and trailed the Giants 2-0 with the game barely begun.

The safety proved controversial for some sports pundits. They thought the ref had been unfair in throwing the flag. After all, a speedy Patriot receiver might have been able to sprint under the ball.

Add in a bit of controversy in a novel’s opening scene and the stage is set for followup chapters that build suspense and tension, laying the ground work for a climatic final action scene. In The Emperor’s Mistress, it’s our heroes fighting a swarm of horse-size dragons. In the Superbowl, it’s Brady and rest of the Patriots clinging to a 17-15 lead, setting up what would prove to be a hum-dinger of an ending.

With time down to about 3:50 left in the game, Manning completed a deep, sideline pass to Mario Manningham. Somehow, the Giants receiver kept both feet inbounds. Remember that safety? Without it, the Giants would have been trailing 17-13 on their final drive, not 17-15 as the scoreboard showed. When the Giants drove to inside the Patriots’ five-yard line with about a minute left, the patriots’ defense would not have let running back Ahmad Bradshaw score his clumsy touchdown. Perhaps the Patriots could have mounted a goal-line stand and won the game.

But that’s not how it ended. The Patriots got the ball back with 57 seconds left and New England fans hoping for a “Brady” miracle. It almost happened. On the last play of the game, a desperate heave by Brady into the end zone was almost caught by tight end Rob Gronkowski, but the ball fell harmlessly to the turf. The Giants and their fans went crazy; Brady looked emotionally drained.

For a novel, a humdinger of an ending leaves the reader eager to read book 2 if it’s a trilogy. If it’s the Superbowl, the happy Giants fan buys a round for his buddies and then everybody watches the post-game show on  sports bar’s wide-screen TV.