by Geralyn Ruane
Every few years or so I dust off Touch Not the Cat by Mary Stewart and reread it, just so I can get to page 227, when Bryony runs out into the moonlit orchard and â€“ well, I wonâ€™t tell you – but itâ€™s the best part of the story.
And Iâ€™ll bet that everyone knows the feeling Iâ€™m talking about â€“ reading a dog-eared book or watching a favorite movie just to get to that scene that makes you go mmmruh! We donâ€™t skip ahead to the incandescent chapter, or fast forward to the culminating scene, because without the build up, the climax is a let down. Captain Wentworth’s striding in and asking for Anne in front of everyone wouldn’t grab you by the guts and never let go without that preceding heartbreak, betrayal, belittling and loneliness.
Build-up, climax, bliss â€“ itâ€™s the pulse of romance . . . and sports.
I watch sports to feel the thrill when that 3-point shot at the buzzer wins the game, when that amazing catch in the end zone defies physics, when that guy nobody ever heard of knocks out an invincible champion, when that bunch of college kids ices a communist powerhouse.
A romance writing friend once commented, â€œGeralyn, thatâ€™s why there are highlights.â€
But come on! Who wants to read a romance that catalogs scene after scene of the heroine and her man having great sex because they are just so in love and their lives couldnâ€™t be more perfect? Highlight reels provide no more than superficial thrills. But when you know whatâ€™s at stake in the contest, and when you sweat as you watch the fight, the pay-off is visceral. Mmmruh . . .
Romance, like sports, is an aching quest for the moment of perfect climax.
Why else was this Sundayâ€™s Super Bowl XLII the most watched thing ever on TV, second only to the final episode of M*A*S*H? Are there so many Patriots and Giants fans out there? Maybe, but I suspect the game’s popularity was due to not just the foreplay, but more significantly, the guarantee of an explosive climax.
As Sports Illustrated so succinctly says, “The Super Bowl would be either a CORONATION or a COLOSSAL UPSET.” In one corner is a smug, undefeated, championship team who wants to make history by becoming the only NFL franchise to go 19-0 in a season. In the other corner is a scrappy wild card team who had unexpectedly beaten redoubtable play-offs rivals to become the second-worse franchise ever to make it to the Super Bowl. New Yorkâ€™s Plaxico Burress predicts a 23-17 Giants win. Tom Brady laughs at a press conference at the notion of his Patriots scoring a mere 17 points. Can the New York defense stop the locomotion of the New England offense? Tom Brady looms infallible – can Eli Manning, league leader in interceptions thrown during the regular season, step up?
As it turns out, Plaxico is wrong. The Giants hold the Patriots to 14 points, not 17, thanks to a defense that sacks Tom Brady 5 times and breaks up the Hail Mary. And in the last 2 minutes of the game, Patriots on top by 4, young Eli steps up. Courtesy of an offensive line that wouldn’t quit, he breaks out of a near-sack to throw to third-string receiver David Tyree who makes one of the most amazing catches in NFL history. Seriously, who catches a football with his head? A final pass to Plaxico in the end zone, and those scrappy Giants win the Super Bowl.
It was the perfect climax.
Geralyn Ruane’s new favorite numbers are 18 and 1. She co-hosts the radio show Better Times After 50 on AdviceRadio.com when she’s not drinking chocolate milk straight from the spoon or writing humorous women’s fiction. Her short story â€œJane Austen Meets the New York Giantsâ€ is published in the New York Times Bestselling anthology The Right Words at the Right Time Volume 2.