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A Novel Concept

Over at Burnt Orange Nation, Peter is looking for ways to get through the offseason and one of his ideas was a book club, which has generated a positive response.  

Since the subject of literature has been raised in the college football blogosphere, this is an opportune moment at which to mention a fact that has puzzled and frustrated me for some time now:  

To the best of my knowledge, there is no published novel in which Georgia football plays an integral role.  

If you were to write a novel in which Herschel Walker was the hero, I would buy and read that novel.

It isn't as though other Southern schools---even rivals of ours---aren't represented in this department.  

For instance, Georgia Tech football figures prominently in Tom Wolfe's A Man in Full.  The novel's protagonist, Charlie Croker, played football for the Yellow Jackets in the late 1950s, and the plot follows the racial tensions that arise in the City Too Busy to Hate when Ramblin' Wreck running back Fareek "The Cannon" Fanon is accused of date rape.  

In one passage, Wolfe writes:  

Georgia Tech was treating Coach Buck McNutter like a king.  The Stingers Club, the new group of alumni football boosters, had raised enough money to top off the university's regular football coach's pay enough, and guarantee the great McNutter $875,000 a year, thereby wooing him away from the University of Alabama.  As a bonus on a bonus, they guaranteed him a house in Buckhead, gratis. . . .  

The doorbell was answered by Coach Buck McNutter himself.  Oh, there was no mistake about that.  Roger Too White had never met the man before, but he knew that face.  He had seen it God knew how many times on television and in the pages of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.  It was the real loose-sausage-eating, brown-liquor-drinking Southern face of a white athlete turned forty and covered with a smooth well-fed layer of flesh.

Elsewhere in the novel, Wolfe describes Croker's gridiron exploits years before:  
The Sixty-Minute Man became a local legend his senior year in the closing seconds of the big game with Tech's arch rival, the University of Georgia.  With forty-five seconds left on the clock, Tech was losing, 20-7, when Croker ran forty-two yards for a touchdown.  The score was now 20-14.  Following the kickoff, with twenty-one seconds remaining, Georgia was trying to eat up the clock with routine running plays when the Georgia quarterback attempted yet another handoff to his fullback---and Croker blitzed through the line from his linebacker position and took the ball out of the quarterback's hand before his own fullback could reach it, knocked the fullback to the ground like a bowling pin, and ran forty yards for another touchdown, and Tech won, 21-20.

The Bulldogs similarly play a secondary role in a work of fiction in which another Southern school, a thinly-veiled simulacrum of L.S.U., figures prominently:  Robert Penn Warren's All the King's Men.  

This classic work of American literature was based on Huey Long, not on the group that recorded "Louie, Louie."

There, the future poet laureate of the United States set the stage for Tom Stark's crippling injury with a prelude that went like this:  

[T]he breach of rules was dumped rather dramatically into the lap of Coach Billie Martin.  It got into one of the papers.  He suspended Tom Stark and Thad Mellon.  That definitely changed the betting odds for the Georgia game for the following Saturday, for Georgia was good that year, and Tom Stark was the local edge.  

The Boss took it like a man.  No kicking and screaming even when Georgia wound up the half with the score seven to nothing. . . .  The band would be parading around with the sunshine (for this was the first of the afternoon games, now that the season was cooling off) glittering on the brass and on the whirling gold baton of the leader.  Then the band, way off there, began to tell Dear Old State how we loved her, how we'd fight, fight, fight for her, how we'd die for her, how she was the mother of heroes. . . .  

When the second half opened up, the boys came out for blood.  They made a touchdown early in the third quarter, and kicked the point.  The Boss felt pretty good, in a grim way, about that.  In the fourth quarter Georgia drove down to the danger zone, was held, then kicked a field goal.  That was the way it ended, ten to seven.  

But we still had a shot at the Conference.  If we took everything else in the season.  The next Saturday Tom Stark was back out.  He was out because the Boss had put the heat on Billie Martin.  That was why, all right, for the Boss told me so himself. . . .  

"It's not Tom, it's the championship, by God," he said.

Daniel Wallace's Big Fish similarly depicts a Southeastern Conference squad taking on a league rival in an important game.  Writes Wallace in the book upon which Tim Burton's best movie was based:  
The day I was born, Edward Bloom was listening to a football game on a transistor radio he had tucked into his shirt pocket.  He was also mowing the lawn and smoking a cigarette.  It had been a wet summer and the grass was high, but today the sun beat down on my father and my father's yard with an intensity recalling an earlier time when the sun was hotter, the way everything in the world used to be hotter or bigger or better or simpler than things were right about now.  The tops of his shoulders were as red as an apple, but he didn't notice because he was listening to the biggest football game of the year, the one that pitted his school team, Auburn, against their nemesis, Alabama, a game that Alabama invariably won. . . .  

She heard my father in the backyard, mowing.  Her eyes widened:  I was coming.  Now.  I was coming now.  

Auburn was making a comeback.  

Time passed.  She calmly gathered her hospital things.  Auburn had the ball with but a few seconds remaining.  Time for a field goal.  

On the day I was born, my father stopped mowing the lawn and listened to the announcer's voice on the radio.  He stood like a statue in his backyard, half of which had been mown, half to go.  He knew they were going to lose.  

On the day I was born, the world became a small and joyous place.  

My mother screamed, my father screamed.  

On the day I was born, they won.

On the other side of the Iron Bowl divide, Winston Groom wrote Forrest Gump, which was the basis for the movie in which Tom Hanks's title character (among other things) played football for Bear Bryant at Alabama.  

While we're on the subject of the Alabama-Auburn game, this seems like an opportune moment at which to include a gratuitous photograph of Birmingham native Courteney Cox.

Finally, in William Faulkner's The Hamlet, the schoolteacher Labove came to Yoknapatawpha County by way of the Ole Miss football team:  

"What?" Varner said.  "Football shoes?"  

"It's a game," Labove said.  "They play it at the University."  He explained. . . .  He told them about the game.  He had been playing it all that fall.  They let him stay at the University for the entire fall term for playing it.  The shoes were provided them free of charge to play it in. . . .  

"That game," he said.  "Do you like to play it?"  

"No," Labove said.  

"I hear it ain't much different from actual fighting."  

"Yes," Labove said. . . .  "I knew what the shoes cost.  I tried to get the coach to say what a pair was worth.  To the University.  What a touchdown was worth.  Winning was worth."  

"I see.  You never taken a pair except when you beat.  And you sent five pairs home.  How many times did you play?"  

"Seven," Labove said.  "One of them nobody won."

Georgia has not lacked for attention in print.  There is Bill Cromartie's Clean Old-Fashioned Hate and there is Cale Conley's War Between the States and there is John Stegeman's The Ghosts of Herty Field.  There are reminiscences by Dan Magill and remembrances by Vince Dooley and commemorative editions by Loran Smith and Lewis Grizzard, among many others.  

To my knowledge, though, there is no novel in which Bulldog football plays a significant role . . . despite the fact that Alabama, Auburn, Georgia Tech, L.S.U., and Ole Miss all feature prominently in critically acclaimed and award-winning novels.  

Am I missing one?  If not, why haven't the Red and Black been given their due in fiction the way so many other Southern schools have?  

Go 'Dawgs!