Letter from the Editor: Lay-ups and pay-ups

Brock and his books. // Photo by Travis Young

Brock and his books. // Photo by Travis Young

In YMCA grade school basketball back in the early ‘90s, I was something of a star. I was triple the height of my point guard on our third-grade team. I towered over the next tallest kid in the league. Certainly, my family thought, I was on track to wind up somewhere in the mid 7 feet-tall range.

Unfortunately, I was terrible at basketball. But, again, I was quite tall. Being tall can help mask many things. My wife and her friends will often debate whether a male celebrity is sincerely attractive, or if he’s just tall. I suspect that I do not want to know how the group would judge me within this binary.

My primary hurdle regarding basketball stemmed from my complete lack of interest in basketball. This was, predictably, a roadblock in my otherwise inevitable future career as a mega-sports hero. One of the first times I met Roy Williams, instead of playing basketball for him, I just led a gym full of fellow summer campers in repeated rounds of Beatles sing-a-longs. This was not the purpose for which my parents dispatched me to Lawrence for the summers, and surely not what [then KU head coach] Roy Williams expected to be doing with his time. Do you think he ever ponders what happened to that kind-hearted doofus whomst had no business stepping on the court of Allen Fieldhouse?

My heart was in books. My love language was books. I did whatever I could to avoid being any part of the real world when books remained an option. In school, my teachers constantly lost patience as I scribbled nonsense answers on my homework sheets, only to resume giving my full attention to some Michael Crichton novel that no grade-schooler should have been allowed to possess. [My fourth grade teacher threw my copy of Sphere in the trash one day while disciplining me. Madame, Sphere wasn’t the most adult text I read in your class. It’s also a book about other books coming to life to take revenge, so like, watch out Mrs. Tiffany.]

My father hoped that my love of books could become the carrot dangling in front of me, compelling me to give a crap about basketball. Starting in the second grade, he made me the offer that for each basket I scored at our Saturday morning YMCA games, he would get me one book. Hence, a gangly weirdo kid that would retreat down the court after each bucket, while taunting my father with “That’s one book! One book!” while holding a single finger aloft. 

“That’s one buck!” is what the other parents heard. They found it a bit odd that my father was bribing me with money. Nothing could be further from the truth. He was bribing me with options at the upcoming scholastic book fair. Where the books cost more than a single dollar. I suppose… I was technically being bribed with more money than it appeared? Hm. Whatever, this isn’t therapy and we don’t have to unpack all that today. 

What is of note is that this love of books has never subsided. Not a day goes by where I don’t add some new text to my list, or dig up a bound set of pages that I’d forgotten how thrilled I was to tackle when I first purchased it, or how ecstatic I am to tackle it again. Books have always been there for me, and I for them—as you can probably tell from how I’m buried in a fraction of my library on the cover of this magazine.

Normally, The Pitch goes into a themed print issue with a theme in mind. Once in a while, the writers seem to just be ~vibing~ on the same frequency, and we discover that the whole team has their passions aligned. Such is the case of this September issue. We expected our primary stories to circle the transition into a new school year, coronavirus spikes, and the return of concerts. Instead, the whole SuiScribe Squad wanted to talk about books and bookstores. Sometimes in this job, it’s easy to surrender control over what we’re doing, especially to those who can’t help but follow their personal passions.

And who am I to disagree? I was the kid trying to figure out how to fumble my way into a successful layup in exchange for the latest Encyclopedia Brown, Goosebumps, or Boxcar Children release. To still be surrounded by a diverse and expansive network of Kansas Citians, whose passions can be found in the secret worlds of the printed word? Gosh darn, I’m brimming with joy. And this (now book-themed) issue of the magazine is a chance to let that joy be contagious unto you. If you’ve forgotten the wonder of the bound page, during this time of nothingness and distraction, let this be a reminder that we are your bookmark and we never stopped saving your place.

Pitch in and we’ll make it through,

Brock Signature

Categories: Culture