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>Why is there air?

>And why does everyone think we all understand football? Last week I finally saw The Blind Side, whose climax involves a football game and a kid learning how to change from being a crap football player to a great footballer player. I couldn’t tell the difference between what he was doing wrong and what he was doing right, despite the p r o l o n g e d football footage.

Now I’m reading Louis Sachar’s new book The Cardturner, which revolves perhaps obsessively around the game of bridge. But what does Sachar, via his narrator Alton, evoke to explain it? Yup:

“I realize that reading about a bridge game isn’t exactly thrilling. No one’s going to make a movie out of it. Bridge is like chess. A great chess player moves his pawn up one square, and for the .0001 percent of the population who understand what just happened, it was the football equivalent of intercepting a pass and running it back for a touchdown.”

Now I’m two times deeper in the dark.

Roger Sutton About Roger Sutton

Roger Sutton has been the editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc, since 1996. He was previously editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books and a children's and young adult librarian. He received his M.A. in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a B.A. from Pitzer College in 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @RogerReads.



  1. Peni R. Griffin says:

    >People who understand football think you're exagerrating, but you're not. I regarded football as something boring my Dad watched that prevented interesting shows from starting on time. In junior high, the first time we were supposed to play football in P.E., I was given the ball and told I'd be a good quarterback because I was smart. I asked what a quarterback did. No one then, or at any time, answered me. I still don't know. I was supposed to know without instruction. We played football every fall and I never learned a single rule.

  2. Schmoil says:

    >The QB throws the ball to the players on his/her team (NOT the players on the other team… that is the "interception" Sachar is talking about), and is the leader for the offense. Think of it this way… if the kids in Frindle (first book that came into my head) were a football team, Nick would be the quarterback.

  3. Roger Sutton says:

    >Peni, you're absolutely right–in high school gym I was always told to "block" but who? How? Why? From what?

    And Schmoil. you're not helping. Sachar doesn't mention a quarterback–is that who would intercept the pass? And you say he or she would throw the ball to other players, but Sachar says "runs it back for a touchdown." So is the QB running or throwing? Who makes the touchdown?

  4. Flecanc says:

    >I once heard a Human Resources trainer conduct a mandatory hour-long session on diversity, sensitivity to differences, and women in the work place — entirely in football metaphors. It was like a Saturday Night Live sketch starring Chris Farley, and keeping a straight face through the whole thing was one of the biggest career challenges I've had to date.

  5. Cindy Dobrez says:

    >Love the Bill Cosby reference. I checked out Why Is There Air every other trip to the Edwardsburg (Mich) Public library in elementary school. On alternate weeks it was Wonderfulness (Go, Chicken Heart, scare me to death.) Or Lady and the Tramp. Good times.

  6. Cindy Dobrez says:

    >These were LPs. "Long-Playing records" for those of you too young to remember them…or Chicken Heart.

  7. Anonymous says:

    >I'm not confused! I play chess and bridge! So, now I know that intercepting a pass and running it back for a touchdown must be a pretty good thing.

    Don't you love learning backwards from books? It reminds me of all those didactic little picturebooks on manners and fairness that teach little kids how to spit, pick their noses and hate girls. Because if a book says not to do it, it must be exactly what all your friends think you *should* be doing.

  8. >Roger,
    No offense, but if you go to a movie about the development of a football player, you can't be offended because the director doesn't explain football. I'm also guessing you're not exactly the target audience for Sachar's book. If you've identified a lacuna in your education, rather than taking offense at others who know more, wouldn't a more productive response be to educate yourself in that area? There are plenty of books that explain football.

  9. Roger Sutton says:

    >I'm not offended, David, just interested in the idea that football can be considered a go-to metaphor so widely understood that it can be ground zero for a comparison. But if you think The Blind Side is a movie about a football player, you missed the scene where Sandra Bullock's character says, no, it's all about her. 😉

  10. Bacalai says:

    >Roger, I feel the same way about poker. I've never played it, don't understand the rules and don't particularly care to. But I'm fine with not understanding the meaning of life, according to Kenny Rogers.

  11. Lisa Yee says:

    >Roger, the important thing to know about watching football is that you should wake up in time for the halftime show. And even then, you should have a book ready to read.

  12. says:

    >Hmmm–as a Person who went to a high school with a football team (and who dated a member of the team–don't ask), I managed to learn early and often about the sport. Ditto basketball. As a mother who had two boys on basketball and soccer teams, I learned that, too. And a daughter who was a gymnast and cheerleader. Yes and yes. As the wife to a man who skied and golfed. Yup. Also I was captain of the girl's basketball team and a fencer in college. My grandchildren swim, do martial arts, dance ballet, fence. More learning.

    Do I LOOK like a jock? No. Can I read like one? Yes.

    Be ready for that grandchild of yours to want to talk to you about sports, Roger. Learn a metaphor or two.


  13. Alex Flinn says:

    >The quarterback wouldn't intercept the ball. The offense of one team is on the field with the defense of the other team. Therefore, the QB (an offensive player — the guys who are trying to score) throws the ball to the intended receiver, and a defensive player from the OTHER TEAM intercepts it.

    But I know what you mean. A few years ago, I was asked to write a short story about poker, for Pete Hautman's anthology, Full House. Since I don't play poker, I learned it first, then explained the rules in my story. I was told that I had done an excellent job of explaining the game, for readers who didn't know it. I'm going to guess all the other authors in the anthology actually did understand poker and thus, did not feel the need to explain.

    That said, I agree with David that people who know absolutely nothing about a particular sport/game are probably not the target audience for a movie about it. To have a long explanation of football would be akin to what happens when authors try to recap the plot of the previous 6 books in the series, in the 7th installment. It's redundant and boring to those (the majority) who already knew that stuff and, therefore, must be kept to a bare minimum.

  14. says:

    >Data point: my son Adam had a story in the poker anthology and he TEACHES poker. So I get you, Alex!


  15. Alex Flinn says:

    >Jane, I was a last minute fill-in for that poker anthology (I have actually been in 4 different anthologies, because one of the originally-requested authors flaked or wrote an unacceptable story — I must have a rep for being able to write a decent story in a few days), so probably Pete's first choices were people who knew the difference between Omaha and Everest.

  16. says:

    >And now we have TOTALLY confused poor Roger! He will have to give up metaphor and retire to a priory which is a place where only books written prior to the invention of football and baseball can be found in the library.


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