Thoughts on Robin Williams and Other Notes

It would be hard to imagine writers who were not inspired by the film version of “The World According to Garp.” The book, of the type you were made to read in English Lit class, was difficult to read. The movie starring Robin Williams was a perfect mix of his offbeat humor and drama and, yes, some people didn’t like it.

But it showed a lot of what the writing life is like. Williams’ young T.S. Garp crafts a brilliant novel, only to be overshadowed by his feminist mother, whose drivel becomes a bestseller and turns her into a cultural icon. As a writer, how much crap do we see receiving critical acclaim while our own brilliance gets ignored? The odds are most of us end up in the latter category.

I saw the movie not long after it came out in 1982 while I first was toying with the idea of becoming a writer. Meanwhile, my girlfriend of about one year were quite serious and fully aware that we were heading towards a long-term relationship. We walked a long way to the theater and had another long stroll home, and we were silent most of the way back as we considered the meaning of the film on our lives. As a writer, the story seemed to paint the picture of where we would be heading some day — although it turned out to be much later. As a couple likely to be married, we were confronted with the consequences of various decisions we could make. Oh, we’re still together.

It wasn’t until a couple hours after I heard of Williams’ death that I had a chance to consider the parallels between Garp and George Steele, the lead character in my upcoming debut novel, A COACH AT HEART. Both follow their dreams while facing monumental challenges — and have strong mothers. Both stories have some quirky humor. And, hopefully, you’ll feel as good after reading about Steele as you did about seeing Garp.

Life is full of joys and sorrows, and as Steele finds out, one can follow the other pretty quickly. Just a few hours before the news of Williams’ death, I was celebrating the announcement that one of my main sources for A COACH AT HEART, Peter Inge, had been selected to the San Diego State Athletics Hall of Fame.

Inge was a second-team All-American as a guard for the Aztecs in the 1970s, responsible for creating running room for David “Deacon” Turner and pass-protecting for Joe Davis. Their 1977 team was arguably the best in school history.

One of the great things about researching the background and setting for the story was discovering the bond the various teammates still have with each other after all these years. In trading Facebook messages with Inge recently, I mentioned that I had finally contacted Joe Davis. He responds with “Joe D was the man, probably my most favorite Aztec, I love that dude.” I hope he doesn’t mind me quoting him, ha, ha. On the phone a few days later, Davis said much the same about Inge. And they haven’t seen each other in a few decades.

And the Aztecs Hall of Fame is by no means small-time. Inducted with Inge will be Nationals P Stephen Strasburg and former Bills LB and radio broadcaster Kirk Morrison.

Baseball transactions should come with the standard line in a financial prospectus — past performance does not guarantee future results. Not long after touting the Giants acquisition of P Jake Peavy on this blog, he’s 0-3 with a 4.82 ERA. Not all of his starts have been bad, but the Gigantes really needed help at the plate, not the mound. No question that the Giants have been stellar at THE TRADING DEADLINE in recent years, but this one is not looking like one of the better moves. Peavy is scheduled to throw Wednesday against the White Sox.


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