One of the things I was determined to do when I set out writing a book centered on Latter-Day Saint characters living in an LDS culture, was not to have the book based in Utah. No offense to my Utah friends and family, but I get tired of reading about Mormons in Utah. I get tired of hearing about BYU and the soft snow of winter falling on…whatever it is soft snow falls on. I wanted to write about people I knew-people who had been born and raised in the desert and had little to no concept of soft snow falling on anything.
So, I decided to set my book in Gilbert, Arizona. I wrote about characters who had been born and raised in this community that has been swallowed up in recent years by the grand mass known as the Phoenix metro area. I personally did not grow up here. I was born and raised in a small community in southeastern Arizona. But for nine years of my life, I lived and loved this town that has carved out its own section of the Valley of the Sun.
Another aspect of my main character’s life that is referenced many times in the book is that he and his friends attended Arizona State University. Todd Landry is not a Cougar and he never will be. In fact, if he’s being completely honest, those who profess to have attended “God’s college” really get on his nerves quite easily. He is a proud Sun Devil who bleeds maroon and gold and has a particular distaste for all things Red and Blue coming out of Tucson.
Maybe I am wrong here, but I would imagine most authors write a bit of themselves into their protagonists. Because this is where I certainly did. My wife and I both graduated from Arizona State and continue to be proud members of Sun Devil Nation. Which brings me to this last weekend.
In an attempt to indoctrinate my children, I took my two boys, aged 10 and 8, to their first college athletic event. We got up early (and missed a pine wood derby…dang!!! sarcasm intended) and drove with some friends down to the Arizona State/University of Arizona basketball game.
The weather could not have been more perfect and it was absolutely awesome to walk around the campus, showing my boys where their mom and I went to school, long before they were born. We ate lunch at the Memorial Union and both boys were highly jealous that a school existed where students could get Papa Johns or Chik-fil-A any time they wanted it.
When we finally got back to the arena and settled in for the game, it was more fun than I could have imagined watching my son’s different reactions. Neither boy has shown a huge interest in sports, although the 8-year-old is coming around somewhat. But both boys were fascinated and the 10-year-old even admitted it was much more interesting watching it live than on TV. However, he is my technology kid and he was very mellow through the entire event, taking in the big screens and other technological gizmos that surrounded us. The 8-year-old, on the other hand, bought into the game itself, hook, line and sinker.
When he figured out that people yelled during UofA’s free throws, he told me he was going to concentrate all of his hatred (he reads A LOT!!! and has the vocab to prove it) and put it into his screaming. Turns out, the kid has a lot of hatred. He screamed at the top of his lungs every time and never quit.
Sadly, UofA basketball is almost always better than ASU. About the last quarter of the game, UofA started to pull away, much to the chagrin of my boys. The Tucson fans were there in abundance and began to chant, “This is our house” over and over. Both boys were highly offended and wanted to yell back something in response. And that was when my opportunity to teach them about the realities of a rivalry occurred.
I explained that because we lost, we had to sit there and take it. But I encouraged them to bottle it up and hold onto it (healthy parenting at its best) because I intend to take them to the ASU/UofA football game later this year. It will also be in Tempe and there is a much better chance ASU will come out on top. And when that occurs, I will show them how good it feels to lustily chant something back at these people who were taking such pleasure in our pain. I can’t wait.
And so, my boys have now been inducted into a grand tradition. They now despise a rival. I’ve never been so proud. Now, I just have to pray that neither one of them ends up attending that podunk college to the south. I don’t know if I will ever recover. Although, having a UofA alumnus in the house would be better than having to deal with the holier-than-thou attitude of one returning from BYU.
My debut novel, The Reluctant Blogger, arrives in bookstores August 2013. For more information and updates regarding the release, please follow me on Twitter or “like” my Ryan Rapier, Author page on Facebook.