Saturday, April 11, 2009

Week Five, Elite Eight

The play-in games for the Final Four: Comics vs. Literature, Suspense/Horror vs. Poetry, Children's Books vs. Popular Fiction and Mystery vs. Science Fiction/Fantasy.


But fascinating madness. How would the 19th century, and long-dead, Mark Twain fare against the entirely fictional, but nearly indestructible Superman? Would Carl Sandburg be able to continue his run now that he had to face an author other than a fellow poet? Why did so many of the remaining authors have first names that start with J? Okay, that last question, while odd, is probably not going to resolved in the games-- just one of those quirky things. For a berth in the Final Four:

#2 (Mystery) Janet Evanovich vs. #2 (SF/Fantasy) H.G. Wells
It had been a while since either Evanovich or Wells had last played a game. Our Week 1 winners had to sit by, perhaps working on their jump shot or doing some passing drills, while weeks two, three and four played out. Would the layoff affect them, and if so, would it affect one more than the other? The layoff did appear to be a factor early, as neither team started well. Midway through the first half it was only 1-1. From that point on, however, Evanovich seemed to find her groove, while Wells continued to struggle. At halftime, it was 4-1 and Wells was visibly agitated, shaking his head and mumbling under his breath. The break allowed him to regroup, and he came strongly out of the gates in the second half, quickly closing to 4-3. But then, with the score at 5-4, fatigue or rust or just the fact that he died in 1946 seemed to catch up to Wells and the last part of the game was all Evanovich. She cruised down the stretch, with a final score of 8-4. Congratulations to Evanovich, our first member of the Author's Final Four.

#1 (Comics) Superman vs. #2 (Literature) Mark Twain
Superman is nigh onto invulnerable: super strength, super speed, able to fly, bullet proof and well, super. Mark Twain is irreverent, satirical, a brilliant writer and, well, dead. On paper, this one seemed like a complete mismatch-- game over for Twain, welcome to the Final Four, Mr. Kent. But, as the cliche goes, that is why they play the game. In reality, this game was a complete mismatch, but the overwhelmed team was Superman's, while Twain was in a groove and seemed incapable of missing. When the dust settled, the final tally was, Mark Twain 11, Superman 1. Afterwards, Twain was asked about his success, "Well, I appreciate the value everyone places on my writing, I do. But I am also a voracious reader and, well, all it really came down to was finding this funky little, green rock." At which point the white-haired author pulled a small chunk of glowing, green crystal out of his front vest pocket. "Some of my coaches were concerned about the effect it could have on me, but I said 'Hey, I'm already dead, what's the worst that could happen?' That's a pretty convincing argument I find."

#7 (Horror/Suspense) Jeffrey Deaver vs. #2 (Poetry) Carl Sandburg
Jeffrey Deaver is undoubtedly the surprise of the tournament-- he was supposed to lose to Dean Koontz, then to Ann Rice, then to Edgar Allan Poe. A big underdog in all of those games, he edged both Koontz and Poe and demolished Rice. Could the Cinderella of the tournament keep dancing? In his path is Carl Sandburg, the champion of the Poetry Bracket and one of the premier defenders in the tournament. The match-up was all defense early and neither man seemed able to find a rhythm. At half-time, it was only 2-2. Both men found their stroke in the second half, but neither was able to distance himself from the other. The score and lead see-sawed back and forth, with Deaver grabbing a late 6-5 lead on a beautiful, driving floater in the lane. But Sandburg took the inbounds pass, drove down court, then dished for a wide open jumper that just beat the clock and swished home-- overtime! In overtime, the defense reasserted itself and it was a late steal and break away layup by Deaver that proved to be the difference, and the underdog Deaver was on his way to a Final Four match up.

#4 (Children's) J.K. Rowling vs. #1 (Popular Fiction) John Grisham
Wizards and lawyers and multi-million selling titles, oh my! Dumbledore's Army against The Firm. An intriguing matchup, and one that promised to match the Deaver/Sandburg game for intensity. But, of course, as is often the case promises aren't always kept. Grisham jumped out to an early lead in this one and never looked back, cruising to a surprisingly easy 7-4 victory over Rowling, filling the final slot in the Final Four.

Twain versus Evanovich and Grisham versus Deaver-- who will be the Final pairing of the 2009 Authors Showdown? Stay tuned!

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