This is the first part of a two parter. We'll get to part 2 when we feel like it.
Firsty aka Sean Hogan has an e-book out. You can pick it up here at Smashwords or, for Kindle, at Amazon.
I've discovered in recent weeks that Firsty and I are the 2010 version of the Odd Couple:
Firsty loves American Sports. I only follow worlds sports.
He probably watches at least several games a week. I watch the World Cup every four years, the Tour de france each summer and the Olympics - that's it.
He actually cares how teams do - I could care less and only say otherwise when at a party where I at least pretend to care about a game's outcome.
So in some twisted way maybe I'm the perfect person to read his new e-book and interview him because I'm coming at this from a completely different direction than he is. And if that pisses him off, well, I think he's the kind of guy who likes getting asked contrary questions - we have this squabbling couple act done cold, we've been debating things going back through two seasons of House as well as probably other topics.
One last thought before we get to the first part of this interview which we did by email: Many of his pieces, as we discuss below, start out talking about sports and then go into politics or vice versa. When this happens I get interested when I get to the politics part and lose interest when we get to the sports parts. Others will probably have the opposite reaction and some will appreciate both parts. It's all good and it's definitely entertaining reading. I hope this interview is as enjoyable for others to read as it was to do.
So I read tonight the one entitled "Our Heroes And Those Who Love Them" and noticed you dismissed Peyton Manning, who I could care less about. You went on to say Manning will never win the Super Bowl. So my question: as you go through these pieces, to put them in ebook format do you have times where you go, "Oh, man, i was wrong on that one?"
Manning... makes a habit of trying to fool defenses by going through this overwrought process of calling fake audibles before he snaps the ball. He'll scream and wiggle for ten, fifteen seconds, and then hand the ball off or throw a quick downfield pass, just like every other quarterback does. There are many things that make Manning a great quarterback...
As for Manning it was less than 20 pages later where you wrote about him making it to the Super Bowl, though I have to confess I don't recall if his team won or not and your collection then moved on to talking about other sports that year.
Yeah, and he won that game, too. After suggesting the Colts were finally not going to be the sucker bet in that game, I went on to pick the Bears, who were the sucker bet. Keep in mind—this is coming from a Buffalo fan, so I'm not in the habit of making good decisions about winners and losers.
So I guess my question is - any regrets about what you wrote? Did you tweak or change things as you went to get this published or did you keep it as is?
No regrets. Embarrassments, yes. I'm glad you asked that, though, because it was on my mind the whole time I edited the book. I kept wanting to take out my most ridiculous predictions. But the book is about fanhood, not my abilities as a psychic or gambler. And it doesn't matter what they tell you—any fan who says, at the end, that he knew they were going to blow it again, that he knew they weren't going to win it anyway, is lying. The level of any fan's disappointment corresponds directly to their ability to convince themselves that things were going to go the other way. And I wanted to capture that disappointment, which you can only really do by capturing where it comes from. Loyal fans are wrong almost all the time, unless you're a Yankees fan, which makes being a Yankees fan about as interesting and honorable as rooting for the sun to come up.
Embracing our mistakes is a great way to build character, though, which is what I kept telling myself as I left it all in. I cleaned up some wording, and took out a few things that just didn't work, from a writer/reader standpoint, but I left all my wrong claims in there. I was right on more than one occasion, though. I was write about Greg Oden missing so much NBA time due to injury, and I was right about Barack Obama being just another corporate candidate, among other things.
Also did you publish these pieces somewhere online and, if so, where? are you still publishing sports essays/thoughts somewhere?
These were taken from some of the articles I published in my Newsvine column. 2008 was a disruptive year for me, and I feel that if I'm going to write about sports, especially, I need to be following the stories very closely. Politics is easy—it repeats itself about ten times a day. But sports changes all the time, and it's harder to know what you're talking about. But I love Brett Favre, and he's taking way too much heat for his actions, so it might be time for me to dip my toes back in the game.
New question: What is the unifying theme connecting these essays? At first glance at the title, for example, one would guess they're all about sports but some seem more about politics or world news than sports. So whats the connection?
Also these have stream of conscious or beat poetry style to them - was that intentional? For example, one begins by slamming Frank Duford but before I can figure out what your beef is with him you're on to talking about Condi Rice and the Amish.
Very intentional. Most of these essays were written off the top of my head. You start with one idea, and then see where it goes, and if it goes somewhere interesting, there's no time to stop and retrace your steps, because you're more than likely right on to something else.
But usually when something causes me to start writing, like a single game, or speech, or memory, there's usually something more going on—something that made me take notice of what I was paying attention to, and underneath that feeling—for everyone—is usually a bigger idea. Writing fast and hitting every stop along the way allows me to figure out what that big idea is. By the end, hopefully, there's an idea there. That's the whole joy of the Beat approach, because while it looks like all you're doing at the time is relishing the experience (which you are), at the end, since you captured all of it, you've also captured a story. And it's an organic, exciting piece of work. Hopefully. If not, at least you still have a glorious mistake.
I also like taking stabs at the establishment. It's fun. Good stories need conflict, and that's why so many of those big ideas need a conflict to sort of get them rolling, to figure out the story underneath. But in the end, it's also about comedy, and I believe in the David Letterman approach—nobody is off-limits, not even me.
Next two question: so if I understand correctly from your earlier answers you intentionally go back and forth from talking about sports to talking about politics. Would it be fair to say one reason some (such as yourself) enjoy sports is it provides a chance to focus attention and energy on things less depressing and frustrating than politics?
It's a distraction, but I usually end up becoming just as depressed and frustrated with sports as with politics. But sports makes sense to me, while politics is absurd. It's also nice to follow something whose outcome is both absolutely clear and completely meaningless, and politics, like life, is neither.
I think I have yet to read anything in your book about world sports - soccer or cycling - which are the only sports except swimming I pay attention to. Why the hating - ok, less enthusiasm - on world sports?
No hating. It's just that football and hockey are more immediate for me. If I had gone to as many professional soccer games as Bills and Sabres games, I might write more about those.
In a way, sports is just the context for the ideas I write about. Same as politics, really. The issues of steroid use, commercialism, being a fan, rooting for violence—all of those are relevant to more "international" sports, as well, I think. But my heart gets pumping when I'm in a football stadium or listening to the sound of skates and sticks on the ice, just like it does when they sing the national anthem or "God Bless America" at the games. I live and breathe my favorite teams, and they simply happen to be football, hockey and baseball teams.
This book is American through and through. American sports are related to American politics just like both are related to my own heritage and sense of self. It's about my feelings about being an American, so connecting those ideas has always seemed very natural to me.
More coming in part two