“To win the game is great, to play the game is greater, but to love the game is the greatest of all.” Last week, when I hit this quote in the middle of The Prodigy: A Novel by award-winning sportswriter John Feinstein, I thought, Yes! You could say the same about writing! And I went looking for the source.
Thanks to Feinstein, I found it right away at the Palestra, the University of Pennsylvania’s fabulous basketball stadium. This is a photo of the plaque that greets visitors just past the ticket booth.
Every month I search for blog topics related to writing, and this month—March—how serendipitous that I happened to be reading a sportswriter’s novel! Basketball lovers everywhere are celebrating March Madness.
And the Palestra? Tug on my heartstrings. I grew up outside Phillie and my brother was a starter on our high school team (back then, the Spectrum was the arena where high school basketball championships were played). But I’m getting off track…
Feinstein’s novel is about a teen golfer, not a b-ball player.
And I don’t play golf.
But here’s the thing: Feinstein has crafted a sympathetic protagonist, a difficult dad, and a compelling plot. And I’m hooked. I’m turning pages because I care about the kid. Along the way, I’m learning a lot about golf and sports in general. And about the Palestra and the awesome plaque hanging there. Thank you, Mr. Feinstein!
Sure, I want “to win the game”—i.e. publish another book. That would be great. But meanwhile, however long it takes, I’m going to keep playing because I love writing—the first-drafting, the revising, the killing of darlings, the figuring out of characters’ desires and conflicts, the realignment of scenes to increase the dramatic tension—the works.
And why did I happen to pick up Feinstein’s book? I just finished writing a novel with a teen prodigy as the protagonist and Dad as an antagonist, and I wanted to make sure my book was completely different from a novel that’s already on the market. Whew! It is. No problem there. My book’s prodigy is a violinist, not a golfer, and his struggle to negotiate life with his father isn’t anything like the struggle Feinstein’s protagonist faces. But having to stand up to a father and make your own way in the world? That’s the stuff of kid lit. Writing for teen readers is pure joy.
Now excuse me while I check the March Madness brackets… My local team, VCU, is in the playoffs, but if they win their first game on March 22, they’ll probably have to face Duke on March 24. Tough games ahead.
To love the game—whatever your game—that’s the greatest of all…