University of Oklahoma Football is the first title in the new Sports by the Numbers series. Sarah Keeney of Savas Beatie LLC recently interviewed authors Daniel Brush, David Horne, and Marc Maxwell about their unique concept, the OU team . . . and those diehard Sooner fans!
: We're just a week away from the release of University of Oklahoma Football, but I know your journey began last summer. I understand it all started thanks to a statistics professor?
Dan: That's right. After a psychological stats class with OU professor Dr. Joe Rodgers, we found ourselves sitting down and talking stats while watching sports. The concept for the books just melted together into this great idea that we had never seen done before.
: Can you tell our readers how you came up with the idea for the Sports by the Numbers™ series?
David: Well, numbers have always been an important part of being a sports fan. We keep score, and those numbers tell us who won and by how much. If our team comes out on top, we celebrate those numbers-and if not, we agonize about how close we came. But, regardless of the outcome, the numbers always tell us the story. And because we are sports fans, we talk about those numbers all the time. It was during a discussion about some of our favorite numbers in sports that the idea for SBTN was born.
Marc: That's right. Sports statistics are the great equalizer in any conversation. No matter what the situation is, you can count on the conversation continuing when you speak of all the great players and their career numbers. We found during our long talks that we all have a passion for sports and how it has affected our lives. From the legends our fathers grew up with to the heroes of today, sports is one conversation that is never-ending. We realized immediately that millions of other people think the same way and want to talk and read about sports . . . thus SBTN.
: How does each number in the book tell a story?
Marc: Each of the ten chapters in the book contains 100 numbers and 100 stories-a fact, a piece of trivia, a record, a legendary episode-that has something to do with that number. For example, numbers 1 through 100 are in Chapter 1, numbers 101 to 200 in Chapter 2, and so on. We think we've found a unique way to present a lot of fascinating sports information to fans.
: Well, I have never seen this done before. Why start with a title about the OU Football team?
David: OU football is one of the elite programs in collegiate athletics, and since we also attend graduate school at OU, it was the obvious choice. Plus, if you spend ten minutes in Norman I guarantee you will see someone wearing a T-shirt that says, 'I love Bob' - and that's just way cool.
Dan: Yeah, no matter what team you rooted for as a kid or as an adult, you always had to respect OU. The team is synonymous with Heisman Trophy winners, All-Americans, and National Championships. They are almost always in the hunt for the national championship.
: Here's an unfair question for you-which one of you is the biggest sports fan?
Dan: Of course I want to claim that I am, but that would not be totally true. David is the sports nut of the group. It is hard to match David when you claim the Montreal Expos/Washington Nationals and the Cleveland Browns as your favorite teams. (Laughter) Truth is, no matter how bad my teams do, I always find myself scouring over the box score. I love sports and can't wait to brainwash my kids into doing the same. (More laughter) David may be more rabid a sports fan, but I have more influence.
David: My wife caught me checking baseball scores on my cell phone during a performance of the New York City Ballet at the Lincoln Center. She gets it though, so it's all good. We only eat out at restaurants with big screen TVs with the ESPN ticker scrolling at the bottom of the screen. It saves minutes on my cell, at least!
Marc: I could never get away with that, nor would I even try! Although I will say sports are on my mind constantly. Growing up, I played every sport I was introduced to. It was a way to communicate with my dad. It was a way to stay connected. The day I played my first college basketball game vs. the Jayhawks of Kansas, I shared it with my dad. He drove up from Texas to witness the entire minute and a half I played. I think about that and I think about how great other families feel about games that have meaning to them. It's hard not to love sports and how it brings people together.
: Speaking of fans, OU fans seem to be some of the best any team could hope for. Why do you think Sooner fans are so dedicated to and passionate about their team?
Marc: That's easy . . . they WIN. Sooners are winners. With Stoops on the sidelines, they have a national championship and four conference titles. You gotta love a winner.
Dan: OU is like many other schools around the nation in the sense that students associate with their team as a part of that school spirit. The difference with OU is that their fans are a family, and a very successful one at that. It is hard to explain, but once you're in, you don't want to leave.
: Your descriptions of OU football, especially in the chapter intros, really capture the essence of OU football. Did being OU students help you understand their huge fan base?
Dan: Without a doubt. When you walk around campus, especially the Asp Avenue and stadium area, you cannot help but be drawn into the significance and history of OU football. Sometimes (maybe a little bit too often!) being an OU student has been secondary to being an OU football fan, especially between September and January.
Marc: Dan's right. Walking into the Switzer Center and seeing the national championship trophies, meeting with Coach Stoops and Coach Switzer, and enjoying the atmosphere of the OU fans gives you a better understanding of what it means to be a Sooner.
: It must have been an honor to have Coach Stoops write the Foreword to the book . . .
Marc: It is hard to overstate what that means to us. He is Oklahoma Football. He is what makes this team tick. But Coach Stoops would never say that. Instead, he will tell you it's the players, coaches, staff, and fans that make Sooner Football special. And, I think, that sort of selflessness is what makes him so exceptional.
Dan: Marc pretty much summed it up. Bob Stoops is Oklahoma Football, just as Barry Switzer and Bud Wilkinson are as well. Having one of today's premier college football coaches sit down and read our efforts to contribute to the football tradition that he epitomizes is an honor unlike any I've experienced.
: There is also a great drawing of Coach Stoops in the book . . .
Marc: Yes, it is an original full page pencil drawing by artist Val Laolagi. It captures the Coach and OU so perfectly-you have to see it to believe it. Val is so talented. He also drew the original pencil drawings for Gary Moore's Playing with the Enemy: A Baseball Prodigy, a World at War, and a Field of Broken Dreams, which is going to be a major motion picture. Val's art captures the spirit and soul of that book and era. It is just so amazing how he is able to do that.
: I know you will be donating a portion of the proceeds from book sales to Coach Stoops' charity. Can you tell me more about that?
David: We are honored to do all we can to support the Bob Stoops Champions Foundation, and we know Sooners' fans will help support us in that effort. The organization does wonderful work to support disadvantaged children in the communities surrounding OU. In our book, we mention specifically the prominence of family in the Sooner tradition, so it only makes sense that a book on those honored traditions be used to benefit children and families in the OU community.
Marc: It is our obligation to assist this community; a community that has given us so much. As a father, I understand and am pleased to have a hand in contributing to our youth.
Dan: Charity work is something we hope to continue with every book we write.
Anyone who wants to find out more about Coach Stoops' charity and how they can help support Champions Foundation can visit out website at www.sportsbythenumbers.com. A portion of the proceeds of every OU book sold on our website will go directly to Stoops' charity.
: Your website has some wonderful content on it. I enjoyed reading your sports memories and unlocking the additional "interactive" content available in "The Locker" section. That's pretty cool and cutting edge!
David: Thank you, we think so too and hope our readers do as well. I hope the website will remind parents how important it is that they spend time playing catch with their kids. I also hope they will use it to order autographed books for all of their extended family members!
Dan: Val Laolagi created this fantastic website . . . a place where sports fans can go to share their experiences, memories, and love of sports. I hope people will go there to renew their passion, allow us to relive our memories, and maybe pick up a book or two. I also hope readers will let us know what direction they want the SBTN guys to go, what book to write, or how we can make our website, our series, and their experience better.
: What was the most challenging thing about writing University of Oklahoma Football?
David: No question, it was stopping at 1,000 entries. We wanted to keep going! We also wanted to include fifty chapter intros instead of ten, so maybe a second volume will be in order down the road . . .
: Was it also hard to choose what content made it into the book?
Dan: Yes, it was exceptionally hard to decide which stories to associate with a number. There were certain numbers that had such great stats to go with them, we could have written 10 pages on that one number. In other words, it was difficult to decide which stories to use with certain numbers because there were just so many stories to tell.
Marc: We also had some disagreements about which numbers should be labeled as SBTN Hall of Fame and All Star numbers in our book. We debated for hours, but in the end we all came to a consensus, and I think our different views have made this book better.
: As you were deciding which story to tell for every number, 1 through 1,000, how did you gather all the stories, facts, and records? It seems like an incredible amount of work!
David: The Bizzell Memorial Library on the OU main campus is where we spent a great deal of time when we began the project in earnest-and for me, it was very helpful because we were in the shadow of Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium, and in the presence of all the Sooner traditions and memories we were trying to relive with our numbers.
Dan: We wanted to be sure to use a number of different sources because it was very important to us that the numbers we put out were as accurate as possible. Of course using sources through the University was the best place to start, but branching out to other resources, both in print and online, was important to our research. It really helped us get to the heart of a lot of numbers.
: Were any websites particularly helpful?
Marc: Yes. As we discuss in our book, we used a lot of sources that honor the Sooners. Combing through the OU Media Guides and spending long hours in front of my computer sorting through numbers at Oklahoma websites is where I think I gained a greater appreciation for what OU Football is. It truly was a pleasure to write this book and sort through all the data.
: With football season right before us, I know Sooner fans can't wait to get their hands on your book.
Marc: We had so much fun writing the book and we are really looking forward to being able to share it with everyone now.
: What's coming up next in the SBTN series?
David: Baseball, and I love it - I can't wait.
: (Laughing) Ah, that's right. We did decide you were the biggest fan...
Dan: There are a few in the works right now, but we are of course limited in the number we can actually put out at any given time. Not to worry though, we'll hit all the big ones as soon as possible. Here's a hint. One of the next books has a fan base that may very well exceed 75 million worldwide.
Marc: It's never-ending. We expect and look forward to writing a book for every major sporting team in every region of the country. There will be no fan disappointed-at least that's our goal. In time, SBTN will cover every team that has a sizeable following. You can count on that.
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