Jonesing for Jocks

David BeckhamCurrently I am assiduously avoiding sports. Literally. Much of my family is in another room swearing at the television as my husband’s alma mater fights to move forward in the NCAA tournament. In the time they’ve cared deeply about the outcome of this game, I have chatted on Twitter, painted my nails a lovely shade of grape, bought two, actually three, new romances based on recommendations from my Twitter feed, and burned a pan of sweet potato fries.


I’ve never been into sports. I didn’t play sports growing up. In high school I avoided jocks and the games they played in. In college and graduate school, despite being in the fabled Tobacco Road, I attended one quarter of one football game.


When I moved in with my now husband I was appalled at how much he cared about sports. If his team lost a big football game, our weekend could be shot. Hours I’d have preferred to spend canoodling, he preferred to watch the NCAA, the NBA, the NFL, the NHL, and, fortunately not very often, MLB.


Over the years I have become slightly closer with sports. I do watch the occasional basketball game, and enjoy the current era of women’s and men’s professional tennis. I still, however, don’t really understand football, find hockey terrifying, and loathe baseball.


Thus it surprises me many of my favorite contemporary romances feature athlete heroes. Just today I read a book with an ex-NFL hero I adored. I’ve read and reread Rachel Gibson’s Chinooks series more times than I care to confess. I harbor an abiding affection for Susan Elizabeth Phillips’s Chicago Stars football players – and I hate football.


What is the appeal of the athlete hero? Is it their mastery of a difficult thing? I’m thinking no. If that were the case, we’d see a lot more really hot accountant heroes. Part of it has got to be the bodies. Athlete heroes are always built like gods. But here again, so is just about every other contemporary hero. And it can’t be just the salaries because every fifth contemp has a non-jock billionaire stud.


Maybe it’s that athletes rise above class, education, creed, and nation. Every culture celebrates those who shine at sports. Jock heroes are heroes we can all support in part because grown up admiring real life celebrated athletes.


My affection for jock heroes has made me, if not fonder, more tolerant and more understanding of sports. Thanks to Ms. Gibson and Ms. Phillips I can follow conversations about hockey and football. Erin McCarthy’s Fast Track series clued me in to the intricacies of car racing. Christine Bell and Meg McGuire taught me boxing’s not just about the fists. Maise Yates showed me the complexities of the rodeo circuit.


What about you? Do you love the athlete hero? If so, what authors have made those men come alive for you? Are there sports rarely written about you like to see explored? And, do you have a good sports romance you’d recommend to me?


Dabney Grinnan


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14 Responses to Jonesing for Jocks

  1. Sarina Bowen says:

    Okay, YES!

    But it’s even more than that. Reading sports romance has made me ask how it came to be that I’d grown up thinking that sports were only for *other* people. Now that I’m 40, I’m starting to ask myself about all the things that have (so far) passed me by.

    Funny thing–I used to work a high powered Wall Street job. And I will not read *any* billionaire books. Because rich guys in suits bore the snot out of me. Give me a hero who works with his hands (or his quadriceps) and I’m happy.

  2. LeeF says:

    I have lived in Texas my whole life. It is nearly impossible to avoid sports of some flavor every single day. And thanks to my DH, fantasy sports leagues and NASCAR have been added to the mix.

    That said, I have always been a bit intimidated by “jocks”- male and female. I can never quite wrap my brain around having any amount of physical prowess. PE for me was the ultimate torture in each school day. When I read a sports/jock oriented romance, it is almost like reading a paranormal- who are these alien creatures?

    I have enjoyed my brief, limited forays into the sports romance. Of course, SEP and Rachel Gibson are my favorites. In the past few years, I have found some happy surprises including Ruthie Knox’s Ride with Me and VW Sykes Philadelphia Patriots. Much like paranormal and Sci-fi, I have a low threashold for sports romance and have to limit myself to a few a year.

  3. maggie b. says:

    I like baseball :-) I don’t love it but I like it. If the St. Louis Cardinals are playing, I can do it on background. If they are playing the World Series, I’ll actually watch. I like football. Don’t understand it at all but I like it. And I always watch the Super Bowl. And my team won this year!!!

    I like the sports romances you mentioned above. I think one reason is that at the professional level its not just a game, its a job. It involves all sorts of things besides just being a jock, which is what makes them work for me.

  4. Being British, it’s football (the real kind as opposed to handegg), cricket and rugby (union for me!) but an athlete is an athlete.
    It’s not just the physical fitness, it’s the drive. A male athlete is more often than not alpha. And for authors, once you start writing football stories, you have a team. A wealthy team. The salaries these guys own is heart-stopping, but I’d rather the talent got it than management. Plus, many of them are looking for new careers in their mid-thirties. Perfect romance hero material, I’d say!
    I love team sports, and watching a great rugby match is akin to watching physical chess. When the game was amateur, many of the participants were hospital doctors and lawyers. They just beat people up in their spare time! So there’s usually a lot of brains behind the brawn. Not always, though (cough, Wayne Rooney, cough). Wayne took over the number 7 shirt from Ronaldo, who took it from David Beckham, who had it from Eric Cantona, and yet Rooney has never done the same kind of advertising business as the other three, although he’s a brilliant footballer. Wonder why?
    Anyway, in case you wondered what’s so specially sexy about rugby union, here’s a little example. Rugby doesn’t do cheerleaders, it does hakas:

  5. Mary Beth says:

    @Lynne – Thanks for the link….they are very fierce. I loved it!

  6. Paola says:

    One of my favorite romances is SEP’s Lady Be Good, about golf, I only read some of SEP’s Chicago Stars and I have one about rugby in my TBR pile that got good reviews (Kat Latham’s Knowing The Score, it’s the first of a series) but I don’t know these sports at all.

  7. KristieJ says:

    While I love reading sports romance cause I love watching sports, I think it’s more of a vicarious thing cause in RL, I would stay SO FAR away from an athlete. I know of course there are exceptions but for the most part they are coddled and spoilt and raised with such a sense of entitlement. And very many are dawgs who have no problems accepting what groupies are offering.

    And when it comes to writing a sports book, it is ESSENTIAL that the author know the sport. I read a sports romance written by Jill Shalvis where she didnt have a clue when having a critic partner who knew the sport could have made all the difference. It didn’t matter to me how else the book was written, it was a complete wall banger for me.

    On the other hand, Rachel Gibson knows hockey and even some of the more obscure scenes about the game I was awed.

  8. Mary says:

    The sports that I do follow, I LOVE. I was raised on Alabama football, the Atlanta Braves and I will follow any professional sports team that has an Alabama graduate on their roster. I follow recruiting and spring practice. I am just a little bit of a fanatic when it comes to Alabama football. I was also an athlete myself (an elite gymnast as well as a cheerleader), so I know the hours that go into attempting to be the best you can be physically and mentally. *Here is the time to congratulate the University of Alabama Gymnastics team for winning the SEC Championship recently!!! I like baseball and softball. Basketball is OK (as long as I know some of the players) and I love watching just about any Olympic sport. I also have an ex-brother-in-law who played pro football. Having said all of that…I do like books where the heroes or heroines are sports figures. I would have passed Bobby Tom Denton’s football quiz with flying colors!!!

    • HeatherS AAR says:

      I love Bobby Tom! :) And that is awesome, Mary. I am a retired competitive dancer (or maybe just on sabbatical loll) and hadn’t thought how that may give me further appreciation for sports romances given the dedication and sacrifice it takes to be successful at something so physically demanding. (Anyone who thinks a dancer isn’t an athlete has never tried to dance a samba in 3 inch heels LOL) I did buy a couple of dance themed romances recently, but have not gotten around to reading them yet. I may have to pull those out…

  9. Nikki H says:

    I am a life-long Texan, and grew up involved in sports, even playing in college back in the 70′s (that’s a LONG time ago). And I married a college baseball player. So I say Yes! I love books about jocks. SEP’s are among my very favorite, and I reread the Chicago Stars quite often, and her golf books are hilarious. I loved Rachel Gibson’s books as well. So for the books about athletes, I say bring it on!

  10. HeatherS AAR says:

    I love sports romances and think it’s been an underutilized portion of the romance market. (Disclaimer: I like sports and get caught up in the excitement of game day, so for me I think that may heighten my enjoyment of the sports elements in these romances.) I love basketball, racing, like football and, um, let’s say “tolerate” baseball. (Sidebar: This is my boyfriend’s favorite sport. He canceled cable to get satellite so that we can watch the Reds games. Due to his obsession, I have however developed an appreciation for the finer aspects of baseball pants.) I believe a large part of the allure for me is that usually sports figures/jocks have enormous egos. And it’s so much fun to watch the heroine take him down a few pegs with some sass and bring him to his knees with love. That’s just one of those things that really works for me.

    Anyhoodle, I’m rambling due to some cold meds and too much tea. I welcome any suggestions for good sports romances. I have yet to find a decent basketball romance. Maybe the height difference is more than most readers want to overcome?

  11. Blythe says:

    I think the appeal of the sports hero is at least partly the swagger, which comes with well, winning. However, that also can provide conflict as they are facing retirement, injury, etc. I really only watch football (mostly Georgia or the Broncos), but I’ve read baseball and hockey romances that I’ve enjoyed.

    I am very active myself (yoga and running) but was never any kind of sports star. I definitely did not appreciate all the work (and stress) that goes into it until I had a child competing at a high level. Almost everyone at a high level has natural talent, but they also have to work their butts off to get there and stay there, and have lots of support from parents and coaches. And maybe that is also why those stupid Proctor & Gamble Olympic commercials make me cry.

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