College Football, Star Wars and Baby Behemoths

Books, Burnside Sells Out, Featured, Sports — By on August 6, 2010 at 8:00 am

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A few months after this site started up, which seems like 10 years ago, I received an emailed article about golf from some Alabamian named Chad Gibbs.

“No one cares about golf,” I muttered.  But I read it anyway, and it was surprisingly funny, so we ran it.

Then Chad sent another article, this one about his home state and American Idol. It was funny, too.  I showed these articles to Don Miller.

“That guy needs to write a book,” he said. “Tell him I’ll write the foreword.”

Then, a little over three years ago, Chad finished his book.  It was a hilarious collection of biographical vignettes, and it had a cover that would guarantee gangbuster sales.  But Chad didn’t have many connections.  I knew maybe three publishers around the country, which made me infinitely more connected than Chad was.

“Don’t worry, little Chadwick…I’ll lead you to the promised land of publishing deals.  I know people.”

For the most part, no one was interested.  But then Karen Spears Zacharias put us in touch with an editor at Zondervan, a plucky fellow named Andy Meisenheimer who got Chad’s humor, and, perhaps most importantly, understood the value of Baby Chad on the cover, in all his gargantuan glory.

With an editor hooked and sold, I started furiously pounding out percentages on my girlfriend’s graphing calculator.  “Let’s see…$30,000 advance…since he’s a rube from northern Alabama, I bet I could talk him into getting 30%…”

The problem: Andy’s enthusiasm was matched by an equal level of rancor from some Zondervan higher ups.  They didn’t see the appeal, and the more Andy worked angles to convince them, the more they pushed back.  As an illustration, here’s what I picture every time I imagine it:

Tron Lightbike Scene

(NOTE: Lest this video clip be chalked up to mere bandwagon jumping in lieu of the new Tron trailer released at Comic Con a couple weeks ago, I swear this article was written before.  I’m on the cutting edge like that.)

For over a year, Andy pitched and got turned down.  Finally, after a particularly disheartening hail mary, we gave up.  I called Chad.

“I think you need to find someone who’s actually an agent,” I told him.  “Maybe they’ll find you a deal elsewhere.”

Chad talked to the well-regarded Chip MacGregor, an Oregon-based guy who represents a number of other Burnside contributors, and who probably informed Chad 30% was a bit exorbitant for an agent.  A week later, Chad had a book deal.  With Zondervan.

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  • JamesW says:

    I have heard Karen SZ tout this book, and was considering it. I don’t like college football much, and my memory of Alabama is a negative one, since I spent 4 months getting trained at Ft McLelland (near Anniston) by drill sergeants who weren’t particularly polite. But this piece is about to put me over the edge and make me want to buy the dang thing.

  • Great piece. I grew up in Lexington, KY praying for basketball season to arrive because, when I was twelve, going to Wildcat football games meant eating better hot dogs than my mom made while waiting for the Cats to lose (they’re quite a bit better now). Then I went to an ACC school and realized how lucky I was to see KY get killed by really great teams while the Demon Deacons (also quite a bit better now) died slow deaths at the hands of mostly mediocre teams. So I’m off to to buy the book. I also want to see where Chad went to church in Lexington (for his sake, I hope it’s not the one I grew up in).

    • Jordan Green says:

      You mean you were a Kentucky fan during those tiny windows when they were awful? Then you were a Wake Forest fan during the times THEY were awful? You sound cursed, Steve.

    • When I was at Wake, they made a rule that you had to be out of the parking lot and in the game by the end of the 1st quarter because people would tailgate the whole game otherwise.

      I’m cursed with college football, but basketball season was usually redeeming. Tim Duncan was freshman when I was a senior!

  • bryan a says:

    great write-up jordan! looking forward to reading this piece of brilliance.

  • Erin S says:

    JamesW, trust Jordan on this one. I was lucky enough to work with Chad for 2 years prior to his meteoric rise to fame, but I had known of Chad for a good while longer. Chad used to write a wickedly funny blog every football Saturday about Auburn’s opponent that my husband, also an Auburn fan, sniffed out and shared with me. When Chad took the job at my office, we were crushed because he quit writing his column. I got to read some sections in the book as he was traveling through the South last year (and I’ve read parts of the baby behemoth memoir) and I really don’t think this book will disappoint!

  • karen says:

    A disclaimer first: I can’t help it. I’m biased about Chad Gibbs. He is, after all, the child I gave up for adoption following an ill-advised affair. (Don’t anybody tell Chad but his biological father is Pat Dye. I’m waiting till the right time to tell him. At this point, Chad doesn’t even know he is my biological son.)

    Okay. Now that we have the disclaimer out of the way, I will give you my completely objective journalistic opinion about Chad’s debut book: God & Football.

    First of all girls,this is not just a boy book.I’m fairly certain even Martha Stewart would pack this book, along with copies of her Living magazines, should she ever have to do another stint in the pokey.

    I’m married to a coach. I’ve hauled kids to games for the past 3 decades — football, basketball, whiffle ball. You name if – if there’s a ball involved my husband has coached it.

    I grew up 30 minutes from Auburn. I asked Jesus into my heart while kneeling on a blue rug next to a bed with an orange bedspread. (Mama was engaged to an Auburn Alum). So I get that whole football fanaticism that Chad writes so compelling about.

    Anyone who has evvahh attended a high school football game will appreciate this book.

    But at it’s core this is not a book about football. It’s a book about the love between a grandpa and a grandson. It’s about the legacy of faith and how we pass that to future generations. .

    I have read this entire book. It made me laugh. It made me cry. It makes me proud of my people and it makes me remember in tender ways the Jesus who met me there in that trailer in the bedroom decorated Orange and Blue.

    Read it. Buy your granny and grandpa a copy and tell them how much you love them. Get your mom and dad a copy, too.

    You will thank me for telling you about Chad’s book. And, you’ll even forgive me my biases because this is going to be a huge bestseller and you heard it here first on the Burnside site.

    That’s the inside scoop from a woman who knows.

    Karen aka Chad’s other mama.

  • Gary says:

    Really looking forward to this book.

  • Chad Gibbs says:

    Thanks Jordan for the nice piece, and all you guys for the comments. Hard to believe the book is actually sitting on my coffee table right now. I still feel like it’s some elaborate prank. I do hope you all enjoy the book, and Jordan, I’d love to put you on the NYT list once again!

  • Aaron Donley says:

    Chad Gibbs is my friend. And I am proud.

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