Love in the Time of QB Controversy
A Look at David Benjamin’s Packer Novel: “A Sunday Kind of Love”
By Walter Rhein
Special to PTU
My introduction to the work of David Benjamin came through, of all things, a Facebook controversy.
A literary agent in Texas had taken offense at a humorous blog post Benjamin wrote in response to a fruitless meeting he had incurred great expense to attend. Online, people were passing around the agent’s snarky response to Benjamin’s article, which consisted mainly of screenshots lifted without permission from Benjamin’s page. Being enticed to fly from Wisconsin to Texas under misleading circumstances is certainly grounds for annoyance, and, having dealt with the literary establishment myself, I empathized with Benjamin and disapproved of the agent’s bullying.
However, Facebook is the type of place where hysterical masses tend to side with the first party to issue a complaint. Discussion threads are littered with frustrated writers attempting to cull favor with any agent they come into contact with. Their fanaticism includes adopting unreasonable stances on anonymous discussion threads as if this is somehow going to magically get them a book deal. I made the mistake of asking what I thought were reasonable questions regarding Benjamin’s ordeal on some of the more fervent discussion threads, and got banned from those groups.
So, I decided to delve deeper and I wrote an email to both Benjamin and the agent in question. While I awaited a response, I did some research on Benjamin and was surprised to discover what a successful career he’s had. This is an author who had been published with Random House! That fact alone put him in a different stratosphere from the nameless hoards grasping at threads on Facebook. The Life and Times of the Last Kid Picked is a novel about growing up in Wisconsin in the ‘50s. I was also delighted to discover that Benjamin is the author of a novel set against the 2009 Green Bay Packer season titled A Sunday Kind of Love. I’m sure many of you will remember 2009 as the year Brett Favre went to play for the Vikings, which meant a visit to Lambeau field as a member of the opposing team.
The agent involved in the controversy never sent a response, but after a few days I received a cordial email from Benjamin. He offered to send a review copy of Sunday, which I was only too happy to accept. Over the years, I’ve worked as a writer and editor for a lot of publications. I am a certified teacher, with a degree in English, and have a great deal of experience evaluating the written word. We live in an era of writing of average or sub-standard quality. Articles on web pages are often riddled with basic grammatical errors, and even noteworthy novels that gain public acclaim are frequently very poorly written.
It took only a few lines of A Sunday Kind of Love for me to realize that I had stumbled onto something special. Benjamin is a very accomplished writer. He delights in the clever turn of a phrase, has a great ear for dialogue, and injects more information and innuendo into a paragraph than most writers can convey in a page. As I continued to dig into Sunday, I found myself admiring the use of the 2009 Packer season as a backdrop for a love story. It’s common to see tales of impossible romance set against raging conflicts, but for we Packer fans, what era in all of human history contains more strife than the season when Favre first played for Minnesota?
The story of Sunday follows a woman named Trish, who for years has carried the torch for her boss, Allen Andrews. Trish is one of those quiet women who is prettier than she knows, and is content to allay her loneliness through unrequited love. The novel hints at a traumatic event in Trish’s youth that contributed to her reserved state, which establishes her as a sympathetic protagonist.
Allen is an attractive and – relative to Trish – powerful man. He is also an extreme Packer fan, and the quarterback switch of 2009 creates an intense personal conflict between his love of the Packers and his admiration for Brett Favre.
Trish has a small circle of friends who encourage her to win Allen by exploiting his love of the Packers. Trish herself knows nothing of Packer mystique, which works as a device for Benjamin to detail the singular adulation that Packer fans feel for their team. Although Trish is reluctant at first, as she delves deeper into Packer nation, she finds herself becoming a part of a wonderful and wholesome extended family, which helps her heal on a level she never even recognized was broken.
Many Packer fans have friends or family that simply don’t understand how the little NFL team from Green Bay can be considered so important. Those are the people for whom this book would make a perfect gift. A Sunday Kind of Love contains the definitive description of what it’s like to tailgate at Lambeau and the personal connections which are only possible through following the team. Furthermore Sunday shows how one can open oneself to making these connections. Packer fans are a unique fan base, and following the team is a special experience, but one that is hard to convey in a few short lines. Benjamin has managed to capture all the non-football related factors which make supporting the Packers such a soul-cleansing experience.
Every chapter in Sunday begins with a quote from a player or a sportswriter about the building Favre controversy. As I read this book, I was surprised how much nostalgia I had for the 2009 season. During that year, my wife and I moved back to Wisconsin from Lima, Peru, and we became pregnant with our first child. The episodes of Trish’s adventures in the book march along with the 2009 season, and I found myself remembering details of 2009 evoked by recalling the games. Sometimes you need years to understand how much excitement and stress you experienced in the past, and I, for one, was grateful to relive 2009. Perhaps I didn’t realize until now how much I relied on the games that year to bring me a little peace during a challenging and uncertain time of my life.
A Sunday Kind of Love works on many levels. It is a compelling tale of office romance, a celebration of both the legacy of Brett Favre and the emergence of Aaron Rodgers, and an effective representation of what it means to follow the Green Bay Packers. People who are already fervent fans will be delighted by how accurately their love of team is conveyed in this book. Beyond all that, the book is very effective as a novel. It casts a wide net, and if you have people in your life who have never been able to understand why you tune in on Sundays without fail, this could be the story which helps them see the light.
About the Author: Walter Rhein is the author of Reckless Traveler and Beyond Birkie Fever. His works are available on Amazon, and he can be reached for questions or comment at: WalterRhein@gmail.com.