January 22, 2013

Guest Post & Giveaway: Molly O’Keefe on Sports Journalism, Realistic Romance and the Consequences of Fame

Molly O’Keefe wrote one of my favorite books of 2012, and she continues to amaze me with her ability to infuse her stories with a heavy dose of realism. 

Romance tends to, well, romanticize every aspect of life, especially when said life is already seen as desirable but unattainable. This is particularly true with sport romances that mostly feature perfection and an idealized version of reality that gets old when constantly repeated. So when I read a book like Crazy Thing Called Love, a story that doesn’t pull any punches in its portrayal of the negative consequences of sport glory and fame, and still manages to deliver a very romantic love story, I feel hopeful that more authors won’t hesitate to tell stories that are closer to reality.

She’s here today to tell us more about that uglier aspect of fame, and what makes it so fascinating.

Also, stick around because there’s a giveaway at the end.

Wherein Molly O'Keefe Tells Us How Much She Loves Scandals Sports Journalism (And Michael Phelps' Body)

I love sports journalism. I love sports journalism way more than I actually like sports. I grew up falling asleep to the Cubs losing on the radio. Watching the grainy NFL films on Sunday afternoons. My dad was a wrestling coach and an amazing storyteller and the Dan Gable Hawkeye legacy was practically a bed time lullabye. 

A good sports story shares all its best parts with a war story and it can make you forget that it’s just a game. It will make you believe that the stakes are actually life and death.  And the men and women engaged in sports are heroes, like old Greek legend kind of heroes.  And there are a few stories every year that live up that mythology. Jeremy Lin? Oscar Pistorious? Chris Kluwe?

But more and more our sports heroes are coming up tarnished.  The stories being told these days might have heroic middles, but the last chapter is tragic.  Between the doping, (Lance Armstrong, I so wanted to believe in you!). The rape accusations that go nowhere or mysteriously go away and the rape accusations that turn into horrible, cover-up revealing convictions. The millionaire players fighting with the billionaire owners –the examples of glory gone bad are piling up around us.

But we still want to believe in that glory.  The promise of sports, of what sports can make of us, ask of us, the story it can tell – that promise is untarnished.  It’s why every year sports fans of losing teams are hopeful. Why kids get up at dawn to go to practice. Why we all watch the Olympics.

But I often feel the story we don’t get is the stuff in the middle, between the glory and the failure.  Thanks to amazing shows like ESPN’s 30 in 30, we’re beginning to really see the reality of what it takes to be a professional athlete. What it asks of a person and what it takes without asking.

One of my favorite sport stories of the year was Michael Phelps. Not so much his epic medal count – which is amazing. But the glimpse we got into what this sport has expected from him – he lost his adolescence to the pool. Which explained why he was skipping practice to go to Vegas and  getting caught smoking dope, unsure if he cared enough to make a run for that epic medal count. 

That reveal - that swimming wasn’t fun anymore to him, it wasn’t a passion or a drive despite his talent was totally fascinating. He seemed at turns petulant and sad. Bored and worried. Even Bob Costas couldn’t push away the shadow cast over Phelps. 

That’s a story I can’t look away from.

When I started to write about hockey players, I was really interested in what the promise of sports glory meant to two different men. For one, Luc in Can’t Buy Me Love, the sport kept its promise.  He found himself in the hard work, the discipline and camaraderie. And losing it, due to a career-ending injury throws him into some ugly places.

For Billy Wilkins in Crazy Thing Called Love the promise hasn’t come true. For every sacrifice he’s made for the sport it’s only asked for more. It’s rewarded the worst aspects of his character - his temper, his violence, his ability to push away anything that might distract him from the sport and in return it’s made him rich, lonely and full of regret.

I like the reality sports journalists provide to the mythology of sports. And I really like seeing that reality in sports romance. So, tell me, as a chance to win one copy of Crazy Thing Called Love – what was your favorite sports story of the year? Or your favorite sports romance?

Connect with Molly:

  • Everyone who comments will be entered in the giveaway, you can answer one of Molly's questions, or just let us know what you thought of the post. If you don't feel comfortable including your email on the comment, make sure to come back and check if you won.
  • Winner gets on copy (electronic or print) of Crazy Thing Called Love by Molly O'Keefe.
  • Open internationally.
  • Giveaway ends 01/27/13
  • Winner will be chosen using random.org and announced here and via email and will have 72 hours to respond.
  • For more info read our giveaway policy.


  1. Thank you, Molly, for the wonderful post.

    I obviously feel like sport romances need more variety. They are among the most idealized and fantastical stories in contemporary romance, and real life isn't like that at all.

    I keep thinking about the Stephanie Doyle character who was a national hero until a Tiger Woods-like cheating scandal turned him into a national villain. It was an interesting take on fame and on how society can’t separate the public person from the private person, and the type of expectations that we put on these people. I guess it’s about expectations and desire, something that, in a way, mirrors how we see romance heroes.

  2. Brie - thanks so much for having me and this blog topic was your idea - and a totally fascinating one. Thanks for giving me so much to think about. Did you watch the Lance Armstrong interview - I only caught a little bit of the first one and it was such an ugly line Lance walked - he was angry, you could tell he wanted to say EVERYONE is doing it and EVERYONE was after me because I did it better than anyone else. And I was actually sympathetic to that point - the sport is dirty. He was doing what everyone did. But suing his friends, slandering people who accused him in the beginning - ugly. An ugly guy.

    And we lifted him up SO high! SO high. People in the public eye have so little privacy and when they protect it - like Jodi Foster - we think they're hiding something. Or crazy.

    Stephanie's book - The Way Back - was an awesome look at scandal and public figures and heroes.

    1. Lance Armstrong is a sore loser. That’s all there is to him. He can’t even be repentant and doesn’t know how to ask for forgiveness. He’s only sorry he got caught, and I’m not so sure he’s *that* sorry. He’s certainly interesting, though. Maybe you and Stephanie can team up and use him as hero *grins*

  3. I watch tons of sports, but I try to stay out of the drama. Of course it is impossible to avoid...

    I wouldn't say it was my favorite sport story, but at least it was the most interesting - all of the drama in the final couple of NASCAR races this past season.

    Let me say I glad Hockey is back - I have missed it so much ;}

    Heather ~ Books Books and More Books

    1. Oh. Just wanted to add new GFC follower - Beautiful blog! Added it to my Favorite blogs!

    2. Ha! I'm your opposite -- I stay away from sports, but if there's drama I'm in! Don't judge ;-)

      And thank you for your kind words, I really appreciate the support.

  4. Thanks for the thoughtful post! I love that Molly's romances are showing the ugly sides of life, too. We had a similar figure to Lance Armstrong here in Germany, also a Tour de France winner and always assuring he achieved it without doping. You can guess what he really did. His whole life fell apart after it had gotten out. He was banned from racing and even got divorced. But that's real life, I guess, sad really.
    So, it's really nice to see a romance story where it is not always happy and full of sunshine and unicorns. :) And after reading the short story from the Christmas anthology, I really want to read Billy's and Maddie's story!

    Thanks for the giveaway.
    claudigc at msn dot com

    1. Doping in cycling seems to be very common, right? Spain also had its own scandal with the guy Contador (?) I wonder how much of it is ego, how much of it is pressure and how much of it is both.

  5. I love all of Susan Elizabeth Phillip's sport romances. Sometiems the sport aspect aren't a big part of the story but just having this background can be interesting. If the hero or heroine is a famous sports player they may have to deal with the cons of being famous or there is so much more to them. I agree Michael Phelps was a great sports story. It stuck in my head for a while after I heard about it.


    1. Hi, Na!

      I like SEP's books too. She can even make golf seem interesting.

  6. I enjoy romance books with a sport's theme. The story about PEDs in all sports, not just cycling, keeps evolving. It appears that a generation of athletes cheated and now everyone is assumed guilty. In the Lance Armstrong case, although his use of PEDs was bad, his bullying behavior was actually worse. How do you sue someone when you know they were telling the truth?


    1. I agree with you. Armstrong behavior and how he's dealing with the situation makes it all worse, but also more appealing. It's a huge train-wreck, we can't look away, and the media is milking it for all it's worth.

  7. First I want to say that because of Brie Can't Buy Me Love is at the top of my list to buy.

    Second, I never thought about how now, largely thanks to social media a our on all the time world, we know way more about our sports heroes than most of us care to. And it does tend to taint the way we see them when they do fail. Which probably shouldn't be since in essence we're all human. But people I guess want something to believe in.

    My favorite sports story of the past year was Olympic champion Gabby Douglas and The Fab Five. I thought they were awesome and totally rocked last year's Olympics.

    Thanks for the post, I thought it was intriguing!!!!!


    1. I loved that story! Especially because it was positive and inspiring. It's the complete opposite to Armstrong and shows how obsessed we are with the extremes: heroes and villains.

  8. Oh! The Fab five!! Such a good story and so many great photographs came out of that gymnastics all around final. One fo the great 30 in 30's I've seen is on Bo Jackson and how his astounding ability to succeed in both baseball and football - was totally an example of physical blessings and insane work - had a story like Bo happened now - it would be doping.

    I think the sick thing about Armstrong - is he probably would have been great. He, like Phelps, was physiologically gifted for the sport. Would he have won seven? No. No one should. I just keep my fingers crossed that there isn't a Phelps doping scandal.

  9. Great post! I'm a big Jaci Burton fan and her sport books are great. Excited to check out this book. Thank!

  10. The US women's gymnastics team


  11. In everyday life I do not follow any sports, but I love to read books where the hero is a sportsman. For example I like books written by Susan Elizabeth Phillips or Rachel Gibson, these are just a few examples.
    Thank you for this great giveaway.

  12. I don't know that I have a favorite one...Yet! But recently I read Offside (The Barker Triplets) by Juliana Stone and it was pretty good. I like reading romantic books with sports figures in it.

  13. I love sports related books - Kate Angell's baseball ones, Jaci Burton's, Rachel Gibson, SEP.

  14. Forgot my email: patoct@yahoo.com (Pat L)

    And I loved all the trades the Dodgers made to improve their team.

  15. I love sports stories and especially loved SEP's Chicago Stars series.

    Natalie's Mama

  16. I love the whole lance armstrong story. I think he deserves to have all his title and medals taken away. I love Dan Gable. I am from iiowwaand a huge hawkeyoe and wrestling.

  17. Oops forgot email.
    Christinebails at yahoo dot com


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The books reviewed here were purchased by us. If the book was provided by the author or publisher for review, it will be noted on the post. We do not get any type of monetary compensation from publishers or authors.