Thursday, April 16, 2009

March Madness: Final Four

Four titans of the library world faced off for a shot at the title-- Janet Evanovich, Mark Twain, Jeffrey Deaver and John Grisham were left from the 64 authors that started back in March. Only Grisham was a #1 seed, with Evanovich and Twain being 2 seeds and Deaver, as a #7 seed, being the suprise team of the tournament.

#2 Mark Twain vs. #2 Janet Evanovich
Mark Twain pulled off the upset of Superman in the previous round with the aid of a little Kryptonite, but there were no "magic" rocks available to help him against the fiesty Janet Evanovich. This was was billed as a classic clash of opposites, Twain's more literary, 19th century wit against Evanovich's edgier, 20th century humor. Evanovich's aliveness versus Twain's deadness. Man versus woman. Lots of contrasts, yet from the start it was clear that each author respected the other and that their styles-- tough, in-your-face defense and slashing drives to the basket-- were actually quite similar. The first half was low scoring, with defense prevailing and both contestants seeming to feel the other out and a 3-2 edge for Evanovich after the first. In the second half, both teams made adjustments, and the game became a little more fluid. Defense was still the order of the day, and the lead never got beyond one, but at least it wasn't a complete brick-fest and some astonishing twirling, slashing drives were highlighted on both sides.

It came down to crunch time, less than a minute left, and the score tied at five apiece. Both Twain and Evanovich are veteran writers, tested and proven over time. But while Evanovich had squeaked through several close games-- barely edging out Agatha Christie and struggling against H.G. Wells before pulling away at the end-- Twain had an easy path to the Final Four. Only Charles Dickens had really challenged him during the previous four games, the other had been complete wipeouts. As time wound down, it was clear that Evanovich was a little more comfortable, a little more adjusted to the pressure than Twain. He tried a cross-over dribble, but she picked his pocket clean, then stormed down the court for the winning lay-in with only two seconds left on the clock. When Twain's last second heave clanged off the backboard, Janet Evanovich was on her way to the Championship Game.

Afterwards, Ms. Evanovich was ecstatic, "It feels great, really great. To face off against such great competition, Dame Christie, H.G. Wells and now Mark Twain... well, it is very gratifying to be in the same league as them. Just so awesome... its hard to believe I'm still in this, but I thank the fans and I just hope that Stephanie and I have one more good game in us. I know matching up with either Mr. Deaver or Mr. Grisham will be a real challenge, and I look forward to it."

#1 John Grisham vs. #7 Jeffrey Deaver
Jeffrey Deaver has been the darling of this tournament, pulling off upsets against Dean Koontz, Ann Rice, Edgar Allan Poe and Carl Sandburg. Only the game against Rice was an easy one, the others were one point victories including an overtime win in the Elite Eight against Sandburg. John Grisham, by contrast, was one of the early favorites to win the whole tournament and he had made it to the final four fairly easily, recording convincing wins over Clive Cussler, Michael Crichton and J.K. Rowling. Only David Baldacci had come close to upseting Grisham. So, the table was set-- the underdog, crowd favorite versus the powerful #1 seed that was looking to add a championship to his long list of accolades.

The game opened with a flurry of missed shots. Both men seemed a little hyped up, running on a little too much adrenaline and the shots were all going just a little long. After the initial jitters faded, both teams seemed to find a little groove and they traded baskets until half-time, score tied 3-3. Unfortunately, there were no cameras or microphones in the Grisham lockerroom during halftime, but it must have been one heck of a good pep talk that he gave the team, because they came out like gang busters in the second half. Grisham jumped out to a 5-3 edge, then added another bucket after Deaver recorded a basket to bring it to 6-4. From there, Grisham clamped down the defense, holding Deaver to only 1 point in the entire second half and propelling himself into the championship against Janet Evanovich.

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