I expounded a bit in a recent post on why I love football season so much. The energy. Down here in the South, you can cut the anticipation in the air with a knife. The scent of tailgating grill smoke triggers more memories than anything else. Often people ask why watch college when you can watch professional football? As much as I loved watching the Saints win the Super Bowl last year, college football has been a family tradition for as long as any of my relatives - young or old - can recall. Particularly the tensions of our in-state rivalry and the age-old traditions that lead up to Game Day Saturday.
In Alabama, we take our football perhaps a little too seriously. In-state politics usually refers to...well, football. Our second religion, too, is football. I've always cheered on some team or another - the Pop Warner team my little sister cheered for, junior high, college...and, of course, the marching band I was a part of traveled with the high school team when they went to the playoffs. Good times. And, thankfully, I married a man who understands my obsession with football - college and pro - who has come to respect the tradition and history of the game, particularly in the SEC, as much as I have. I'd even go so far as to say football was part of our courtship :)
Football is fundamentally American in every right. It's a part of our culture and perhaps our country's favorite sport. So I'm surprised romance novels featuring athletic football heroes are so hard to come by. We're a people who love our football heroes. Many of our small towns revolve around football. On a spring trip to New Orleans with my mother and sister, I saw that powerful image of Super Bowl MVP Drew Brees holding his son everywhere I turned. Football players compete regularly on one of the highest-rated shows on television, Dancing with the Stars. Names like Tom Brady and Tony Romo are often seem in headliners and gossip columns. I'm curious why men like these aren't sought after by romance readers, the majority of whom probably watch DWTS and eagerly read the latest dish on the most high-profile players and their celebrity squeeze in OK and People.
I've run up a quick list of sports romances or romances with an athletic hero that have sold well recently....
Slow Heat by Jill Shalvis (baseball)
Line of Scrimmage by Marie Force (football)
How to Seduce a Texan by Karen Kelley (football)
Hill Country Hero by Ann DeFee (football)
Hot Stuff by Carly Phillips (football)
My Man Michael by Lori Foster (extreme wrestling)
Game for Anything by Bella Andre (football)
Once a Cowboy by Linda Warren (bull-riding)
Slow Burn by Pamela Britton (Nascar)
Caddygirls by V.K. Sykes (golf)
Jaci Burton's The Perfect Play (pictured above) is a February 2011 release I'm looking forward to. And I should mention that I've written three athletic heroes in the Wayback Ridge Trilogy. The silent cowboy, Judd Black, of Blackest Heart is a champion bull rider. Bluest Heart's Casey Ridge is a calf-roping competitor at the local rodeo and his brother, Keefe, hero of Bet It On My Heart, is a retiring bronc-rider. One of my favorite sports romances, Opposites Attract by Nora Roberts, features a tennis superstar for a hero and a heroine. Another contemporary from her backlist, Rules of the Game, features a jock hero. Roberts even forayed into Nascar romance in The Heart's Victory. Thoroughbred horse racing was the centerfold of her first romance, Irish Thoroughbred, and its sequel.
To further explain Americans' love of sports, here are a few favorite sports movies that feature a strong romantic sub-plot....
The Replacements (football)
Tin Cup (golf)
Jerry Maguire (football)
Days of Thunder (Nascar)
Fever Pitch (baseball)
For Love of the Game (baseball)
Bull Durham (baseball)
8 Seconds (bull-riding)
The Greatest Game Ever Played (golf)
Readers, what are some of your favorites sports reads or films?