I recently read Sooley by John Grisham. It was not a typical Grisham book. Instead of a legal thriller, it was sports fiction about a basketball player from South Sudan who comes to the states to play college basketball. The book starts out strong. Sooley tries out for a team from Sudan that will tour the US. While he is there his village is attacked by rebels. His father is killed. His sister is missing. His mother and two brothers are in a refugee camp. He is offered a scholarship to play at a small HBCU in Durham, NC. All of that happens early in the book. The bulk of the book is about Sooley’s time at the college. Most of the story from here is pretty far-fetched and then the ending takes a turn and completely ruins the book. All of the would be bad enough without the reason for this post – the fact that Grisham either has no clue how the NCAA basketball tournament works and didn’t bother to research it or he made the bad decision to change the way it work for dramatic effect.
For the non-basketball fans – 68 teams make the NCAA basketball tournament. 8 of those teams play in what is called the first four. There are four games n Dayton, Ohio to start the tournament. Two of the games are small schools like the one in the book. They are 16 seeds competing to play the 1 seed in the tournament. 16 seeds are always small schools that had to win their conference tournament to get a bid to March Madness. The other two games are the last four teams from major conferences to get an at large bid to the tournament.
In the book, Sooley’s team makes the tournament, but will be playing as a 16 seed in the first four. That part makes sense. A small HBCU that overcomes a bad start to win the conference tournament is the type of team that plays in the first four. The problem – Grisham has them play Florida in the first four. Florida is in the SEC. An SEC team would never be in the 16 seed game in the first four. If Florida was in the first four they would have been playing another big conference school for an 11 or 12 seed. Maybe Grisham thought it would be more dramatic to beat a team like Florida in the fort game instead of another small school. Maybe he assumed no one would care. He was wrong. It really bugged me. If you are going to write about sports you need to write it accurately. It didn’t add anything to the story to have them play Florida first. For me, it took away from my enjoyment of the book an made me mad at the author for messing up the story. Do your research and get it right. It’s not that hard.
This isn’t the first time an author has irritated me with little details with college basketball. In a recent James Patterson book he has the Cross family attend a Georgetown basketball. game. In the process of talking about the game it is mentioned that they are in the ACC. They are not in the ACC. They never have been. A simple thing to check before you publish the book. I don’t know why I still insist on reading the Cross books.
I once stopped watching a TV show after one episode because they had the DC Metro extend out to Frederick, MD. Is it so hard to get details right?
Do these things bug you as well? Am I overreacting and it is only a big deal to me?