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Why I Wrote The Last Football Player

As a teacher, I noticed that teens on the playground were brilliant at organizing themselves to play sports games or to accomplish hands-on projects. I could see how happy they were to be outside away from their computers and all the pressure that comes from social media and the relentless advances of technology. 


I grew up watching football with my dad, and I love the game. It’s a great game for kids to play, but then the aspect of the life-changing injuries that were possible got me wondering if there could be a way to play the game in the future that would be safe. I thought about all the technology that is going into football analysis and football equipment these days, players with elaborate braces and so on, and it occurred to me that players are slowly becoming robots! Could robots be the solution? But they’re not human, and so much would be lost if robots played the game.


So then I thought why am I trying to figure this out? Let the kids work on it! Who would be more able to create the solution to the problem of robotic humanity than a team of teen techies?


So that’s where the whole thing came from - faith in kid’s and their ability to work together on any project that they set their hearts on, and the protagonist’s love for a game and his conflict with his dad when it finally had to be banned for being too dangerous. 


But I didn’t want just a story about robots playing football. That’s not a good enough solution. I wanted a story about what it means to be a human being playing football with all the drama and self-fulfillment that is involved.  I wanted the novel to be an exciting sports story with diverse characters, but I also wanted it to be about love and teamwork, and the essential quality of creativity that makes us human. Afterall, so much of that is in danger of being lost to kids whose lives are dominated by AI and too much screen time.


So, it made perfect sense to tell The Last Football Player from the perspective of young teens living in the near-future, in an on-line world dominated by AI, misinformation, parental obliviousness, and corporate greed. It was really fun to write. 


But there’s more to why I wanted this to be particularly about teens in the future. I think if the world has any chance to solve the problems we face with technology, AI, and climate change, we need to listen to our young people for guidance because they are very smart and still intimately close to nature and what life is really all about. Young people are also the ones who still naturally know how to work creatively together as a team when they decide upon a common goal. Just watch them organize themselves on a playground or build something together in the art room!


Teens are also the ones who have the ability and power to naturally tell adults like it is and then insist we act on what is important and not just pay lip service to it. Whether you agree with her politics or not, Greta Thunberg is a prime example of this teen quality.  


I also think it is urgent to look at AI in the same way we look at educating teens. As AI robotics advances in ability, these new beings we are creating are going to need experiential education and lessons in social behavior, cooperation, and fulfillment. After all, they are every bit as much our children as our real children are. We don’t need to project our fear onto them. That doesn't work for children, and it won't work for robots. We need to nurture and love them if we have any chance of keeping them on our side.  


It has always been my goal to write books for teens that respect their intellectual ability and challenge them with complex and real-world ideas and conflicts. Information is readily in their hands these days. It’s what they learn to do creatively with that information that will matter. Novels are a great way to stimulate that creative thinking because by their very nature they model creative world-building, something the world desperately needs more of these days.  

So many exciting things happening! Three books coming out this year, and all kinds of opportunities for me to learn more about the art and craft of writing novels! I'm so grateful to everyone who has supported me on this journey! 
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