Getting the details right

Sports romances are dangerous things.  Dangerous because they can be hard to do well:  balancing between the fantasy of romance (het or gay) and the reality of the professional sport is difficult.

I love baseball.  (I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned that before; I’m an Orioles fan who has lived through thirteen consecutive losing seasons, yet still goes to the ballpark.)  So when someone in my feed recommended JF Smith’s The Last Day of Summer, I bought a copy.

First:  if I had realized that I’d tried Smith before, I would have been more cautious about buying, despite the very reasonable price.  I found his Latakia to be problematic (at best) in terms of content and not very well written.

Second:  when it comes to any professional sport, there’s what is technically possible and there’s what is extremely unlikely.  String too many technically possible but extremely unlikely things together, and fans of the sport will roll their eyes.  It weakens the plausibility of the rest of non-sport-related plot.

General criticism of The Last Day of Summer (in short):  narrated by an immature drama queen who likes to play the victim while being a pretty crappy friend and boyfriend; dialogue that was supposed to be snarky and funny (I think) but was just stilted, crass, and unfunny; in need of better pacing; peopled by one-dimensional secondary characters; and riddled with wonky punctuation and language.  It’s self-published; it could have used professional editing or polishing by a critique group IMO.  (To balance:  there are a lot of five star reviews at Amazon, so obviously other readers like this style/voice/writing.)

Worse than all of that is the baseball.  Look, I can tell some research was done:  the narrator infodumps as he “learns” the sport in order to be a physical therapist for an expansion team.  But it’s as if the rules were absorbed without the observation of how they work in practice.

Not quite right things:

  • road trips that mixed AL team series with NL team series (FFS, look at schedules published on MLB.com:  interleague play is bunched up and only happens twice a season, not randomly interspersed.  Unless the author was setting the book in the vague future, after Houston moves to the AL this season and interleague becomes less bunched?  See this wikipedia entry on scheduling.)
  • an AL pitcher taking batting practice (for no apparent reason since NL games weren’t next)
  • a pitcher who red-shirted in college going in the first round of the draft and then skipping the minors entirely (NO. Absolutely not.)
  • the highest batting average on the team being .295 (possible but not really likely for a team with any playoff aspirations)
  • a subpar fielder hitting below the Mendoza line who remains in the line-up as a starter (unless he’s a big name – and he wasn’t in this plot – he needs to be bringing it at the plate or in the field)
  • a rookie coming into to pitch three innings in relief, then pitching a complete game that is a no-hitter into the 10th inning the next day/game (uh, no)
  • the pitching rotation seemed not quite right — somehow the same rookie managed two starts within four days, then came in as relief on the sixth day (unless you are Curt Schilling in the World Series, no)
  • a relief pitcher coming into the game from the dugout rather than the bullpen.  With no warm up. To catch a runner stealing as the third out in the ninth on a trick play.  (*eyeroll*)
  • the expansion team is in a city that, frankly, I’m not sure can support a major league team, even though it has a rich history of producing MLB players.  (Check out this discussion of the possible league expansion after Houston moves to the AL West.) 

There’s only so much disbelief I can suspend, and asking me to buy all this was too much.

Not recommended.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Getting the details right

  1. Oh, what a bummer. I hate reading books where I’m constantly tripped up by minor mistakes. I had one of those last year or the year before, and I marked the book down because of it. Later I saw a comment by the author that mentioned that some readers were really picky (it wasn’t a mean remark, just an observation).

    I found it interesting, because while it’s true that the errors weren’t huge (although a couple of them were consequential to the story), *every* time I ran across one it would make me stop, reread, and then think about what was going on. Add all those minor mistakes up and it’s a major disruption of the reading experience!

    • Minor mistakes create continuity problems in reading; I’m not sure why authors dismiss that as picky.

      This sort of thing reminds me of a panel at RWA by Lauren Willig several years ago. The topic was doing research, particularly internet research, and TBH I found it to be elementary. But one thing she pointed out was that authors have to take into consideration what readers know and what they think they know. The second part goes to credibility and likelihood: even if an event occurred or technology existed or what-have-you, if it sounds or feels unlikely, a reader will be jerked out of the reading experience. Which is the last thing a fiction-writer would want.

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