Fred Bowen - Author
Fred Bowen wears many hats: lawyer, kids' columnist, author, dad, coach. One thing is for sure — he loves sports. He writes a weekly sports column for the KidsPost section of The Washington Post, and also writes fictional sports books for kids. He writes about all kinds of sports, plays some of them, and coaches even more!
RIF: What's your favorite sport to play?
Fred Bowen: My favorite sport to watch is baseball, but my favorite sport to play now is golf. But I played all the sports when I was growing up. I like to watch just about any sport that’s a good, close competition.
I was a pretty good Little League baseball player, but when I tried out for basketball and baseball teams in 9th grade, I didn’t make it. It was a big disappointment, and it became the basis for The Final Cut, which is about 4 friends who try out for the basketball team. Then I switched sports and I played soccer and I picked up golf.
RIF: Do you have a favorite sport to write about?
FB: I do like writing about baseball. I like the history and it’s an easy sport to write about because you can summarize the game up to a certain point and then drop into a dramatic moment in the game, describe it in great detail and then move on. In soccer, the action is constant and sort of similar. There aren’t as many points you can drop in the game.
RIF: Will you ever write a story about a girl?
FB: Maybe I will, but I always have girls in the books. I have not had a book that had the main character as the girl, but I’ve had important characters as a girl. Being a guy, I think as a guy and I remember my own youth through the character of a boy. Also, it takes a certain amount of imagination to create a full girl character. But maybe I will someday, I’m not sure. I’m not against it. The tendency is for me to write as a guy.
RIF: Who are your sports heroes?
FB: One thing I did for my column was interview Cal Ripken, and he didn’t disappoint me. As an athlete, he embodied a quality that is very important — he showed up every day ready to work, to contribute. He went through some hard times and there were days when he failed. But he was there all the time, ready to help his team. I think that’s an enormously admirable quality.
RIF: What's your favorite team?
FB: The Red Sox. So many people tell kids don’t quit, hang in there. Most of the time, that isn’t true. Most of the time, if you’re way behind and you hang in there, you don’t win. But I can tell you that 100 percent of the time you will not come back and win if you quit. When the Red Sox won — three games down, down in the 4th — that’s a big mountain to climb. But they did. It was great. As a fan, someone who follows a team, not quitting on your team, not rooting for someone else, you can see that last year that all that patience was wonderfully rewarded. You learn the intense pleasure of having your team win.
RIF: What are the best and worst things about sports right now?
FB: The best thing in my lifetime is Title IV and the increased participation of girls in sports. That’s been wonderful. My daughter, who was sort of mildly interested in sports growing up, plays high school field hockey and softball, and she’s run track. It is common now for girls to play sports. When I was growing up, it was more unusual.
One of the other trends in kids sports, I think there is too much organized sports and not enough what I call disorganized sports. Kids tend these days to play only in league-type of situations, with referees, people cheering, lots of rules. I think it’s better for kids to have situations where they’re in charge — they pick the teams, make the rules, and enforce the rules. That puts inside the kids what it is to be fair. Sportsmanship in those situations is not imposed by officials, parents, or referees, but by the group or the individual. That is really important.
RIF: Why do you work sports history into so many of your stories?
FB: One thing is that it gives the kids (readers) an idea that they’re playing in these games makes them part of an ongoing process. It gives them the idea that while the games are pretty much the same and some things haven’t changed, some things have changed. There’s a whole historically true world that’s different from mine and is fascinating.
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