Lincoln Peirce is a cartoonist/writer and the creator of the comic strip Big Nate. It appears in more than two hundred U.S. newspapers and online daily at

Lincoln Peirce lives with his wife and two children in Portland, Maine.

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Each of the Big Nate novels, from the very first to the one that goes on sale in less than two weeks, has included a dedication.  I hadn't really thought about dedicating the books to anyone until my editor asked about it while reviewing the manuscript for BIG NATE:  IN A CLASS BY HIMSELF.  It seemed like a nice idea.  So here's a primer on just who these folks are whose names are included in the front of each book.

1.    BIG NATE:  IN A CLASS BY HIMSELF:  (For Jessica)  Jessica is my wife.  We've been married for over 25 years.  She's the greatest.
2.    BIG NATE STRIKES AGAIN:  (To Elias, from your friend and admirer)  Elias is our son.  It might seem a bit unusual to have written "from your friend and admirer" instead of "from Dad," but Elias was in high school at the time, and I wanted to somehow express that I was enjoying watching him grow from a boy into a very fine young man.
3.    BIG NATE:  ON A ROLL:  (For Dana H.P., my good one)  Dana is our daughter.  When she was a little girl, she always signed her name "Dana H.P."  The H stands for her middle name and the P for her last name.  We have an expression in our family.  We say "You're a good one," which is just another way of telling people that we love them.
4.    BIG NATE GOES FOR BROKE:  (For Beanie and Poppa)  Beanie and Poppa are my parents.  I don't call them that, though.  I call them Ma (or Mama) and Pa.  But all their grandchildren -- in fact, everyone else in the family besides me -- calls them Beanie and Poppa.
5.    BIG NATE FLIPS OUT:  (For Nate and Al)  Nate, as I've written many times, is the nickname I gave my older brother Jon when we were boys.  And Al is his wife, Alison.
6.    BIG NATE:  IN THE ZONE:  (For the cousins)  This refers not to my cousins, but to our kids' cousins -- in other words, my nieces and nephews.  There are six of them, and it seemed too long-winded to include each of them by name.
7.    BIG NATE LIVES IT UP:  (To Ray and Blanche)  Ray and Blanche are Jessica's parents.  They know a lot of authors, so they may very well already have had books dedicated to them.

I've already decided who'll be included in the dedication for Book 8, BIG NATE BLASTS OFF.  But sorry -- it's a secret!

Fri, 02/27/2015

Fight Club

Have you ever been in a fight?

I'm quite a bit older than the kids who read Big Nate books, and I think the attitude about fighting in school has changed a lot since I was a kid.  Nowadays, most teachers and parents seem to realize that physical confrontations between kids never resolve anything, and can in fact create all sorts of other problems.  So adults are vigilant about making sure that kids don't act out physically, or take out their aggressions on other kids.  It's not just fistfights like this one between Nate and Randy that the adults are concerned with.  It's all sorts of things, from toddlers biting one another in pre-kindergarten to kids tormenting their classmates with noogies, wedgies, and the like.  Even certain games like Dodgeball have been banned in many schools, because they reinforce aggressive or even cruel behavior.

But years ago, the attitude was different.  I'm not saying that fighting in school was okay, but it was more common.  That's because teachers were not nearly as vigilant (or observant) about physical conflicts.  I can't say what it was like for girls, but for boys in 4th or 5th grade, there was an awful lot of stuff going on.  We'd punch each other -- hard -- on the shoulder, for no real reason.  Or one kid might grab another kid's bare arm with both hands and twist those hands in opposite directions.  Very painful.  And schoolyard games were rough, too. Tackle football and King of the Hill were take-no-prisoners contests that could quickly devolve into brawls.  And for the most part, the adults were pretty oblivious.  I can't remember a teacher ever telling us to stop playing so rough.  If a kid got hurt, he was told to go to the nurse's office.

For the most part, I was able to navigate this world fairly successfully.  I took part in most of the rugged schoolyard games without sustaining any injuries more serious than everyday bumps and bruises.  But I'd never been in a fight -- a real fight where punches were thrown -- and I didn't want to.  Fighting looked terrifying. 

Then it happened.  During recess one day, I noticed that Lucy, a girl I knew, was playing on the monkey bars alongside a boy named Rusty.  My family and Lucy's family spent a lot of time together, so I thought it would be fine to tease her a little bit.  I pointed at Rusty and said something like "Ooh, Lucy's got a boyfriend!"  Two seconds later, Rusty tackled me and started raining punches on my head.  My only choice was to punch back.  Now here's the part that would never happen today:  we fought for probably 2 or 3 minutes, flailing away on the ground as a crowd of kids gathered to watch...and not a single adult stepped in to stop it!  That was unfortunate for me, because Rusty was a year older than I was and quite a bit bigger.  So he definitely won the fight.  Then the bell rang, recess ended, and we went back inside as if nothing had happened.  I was probably dirtier and more grass-stained than usual, and I had a bruise on my cheek.  But my teacher didn't seem to notice anything.  At home, my mother asked what had happened to my cheek.  I told her I'd been accidentally elbowed in the face while playing football.  That was it.

There was nothing pleasant about the experience, but it was certainly memorable.  And since much of what you read in Big Nate is inspired by my own childhood memories, it's not surprising that Nate has become involved in a scrape or two over the years -- most notably this one with Randy.  But here's where Nate's experience is different from my own:  in this fight with Randy, Nate was trying to help a friend.  Randy was teasing Francis, and Nate came to Francis's defense.  So maybe we can forgive Nate for fighting just this once.  As for me, I'm thankful my fighting career ended that day.  One fight was enough!

Tue, 02/24/2015


Here's your first look at a drawing from the next book, BIG NATE LIVES IT UP.  Nate's shaking hands with a somewhat undersized fellow who hasn't been part of any of the first six novels.  Nate seems to think he might already know this kid -- but who is he?

Well, if you read BIG NATE:  IN THE ZONE and made it all the way through to the sneak peek at the end of the book, then you know who he is.  You even know his name (which is sort of a mouthful).  And you know that he's a new kid.  Nate's the lucky one who's assigned the task of showing him the ropes at P.S. 38, and that's where the story really begins.

I enjoy creating new characters in the Big Nate books.  It's not only fun, it's necessary.  The "regular" characters like Nate, Francis, Teddy, and their teachers can't sustain a 216-page story all by themselves.  They need help, and "secondary" characters are there to provide it.  Think about it:  There have been six novels published so far.  Would those books be as interesting without the following characters?

•    Dee Dee
•    Randy Betancourt
•    Mrs. Hickson
•    Nick Blonsky
•    Nolan (the bully from Jefferson Middle School)
•    Maya
•    Uncle Pedro
•    Ultra-Nate, Super Sixth Grader
•    Claude, the Stupid Ideas Fairy
•    Luke Warm, Private Eye

Some of these folks play a larger role in the stories than others, of course.  But they all have one thing in common:  none of them existed in the Big Nate comic strip back when I began work on the first novel in the spring of 2009.  They were all "new kids," so to speak, at one time or another.

I only had to be the new kid once while I was growing up.  As I've mentioned in this blog before, my dad was a professor at the University of New Hampshire, and he took a sabbatical to Hawaii in May of 1971.  We all went with him and lived in Hawaii for six months.  For the first month or so, we stayed in the home of a colleague of my dad's, but eventually, we rented a rather run-down house in a town called Kailua.  We got to know a few neighborhood kids during that summer, but it wasn't until school began in September that my brother and I experienced what it felt like to be new kids at a strange school.  We attended Maunawili Elementary School -- my brother in 5th grade, and me in 3rd.  According to the "School Years" scrapbook in which my mom saved all my report cards and school pictures, my teacher's name was Mrs. Nakano, and my best friends were Rodney Chang, Scott Kawasaki, and David Bruno.  Do I remember much about my three months at Maunawili?  Well, I definitely remember that I didn't like being the new kid.  It can be intimidating trying to make friends and fit in when all your classmates know each other, but don't know you.

One memory from Maunawili came in handy when I was writing the first book, BIG NATE:  IN A CLASS BY HIMSELF.  As you might recall, in that book Nate inadvertently finds a way to get in trouble during each and every class on one memorable day at P.S. 38.  While working on the book, I had in mind a scene in the art studio, where Francis creates a diversion so that Nate can sneak out into the hallway.  An ideal diversion would be Francis releasing a balloon and letting it fly around the classroom...but what would kids be doing with balloons in art class?  Then I remembered a favorite art project from my time at Maunawili:  we made puppets, and created the heads by layering strips of paper maché over inflated balloons.  So I recreated that very same art project for the book.  It worked great -- for me, not for Nate.  He ended up setting a school record for most detentions in a single day!

Fri, 02/20/2015

Washington vs. Lincoln

Happy late Presidents Day, everyone.  February is the birth month of both George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.  (And when I say "late" Presidents Day, I'm referring to the fact that you'll read this greeting after the holiday has already passed, not the fact that the presidents in question are dead.  Just wanted to clear that up.)

A year ago, I wrote an entry about the history of Presidents Day, so I won't plow that field all over again.  What I WILL do is declare that, of the two presidents honored on this holiday, Abe Lincoln definitely wins the pop culture battle.  Washington might have been the first president, but Lincoln maintains a greater hold on people's hearts and minds.  That means Abe shows up more frequently in a variety of pop culture contexts than does George.  I've drawn comics about Abe (or Nate has, to be more specific); he's appeared as a character on countless TV shows (including Star Trek, shown here); there's even a Lego Lincoln.  In recent years there's been an Oscar-winning film about Lincoln, a book/movie entitled "Abraham Lincoln:  Vampire Hunter, and a Louis CK Saturday Night Live skit called "Lincoln."  Washington remains one of history's most recognized individuals, but he's probably less likely to show up on SNL than Abe is.

Why is that?  Well, it might have something to do with the fact that Lincoln is almost unanimously regarded as our greatest president.  But I think it has more to do with his appearance and his personality.  Lincoln was definitely a striking individual.  He'd be considered very tall even today (he was 6'4"), but during his era, his height made him an absolute giant.  His signature stovepipe hat not only accentuated his height, it added to the visual impact of his appearance.  So, bottom line, Abe's more fun to look at.  And because photography existed during Lincoln's time but not Washington's, we know exactly what Abe looked like.  With George, we have only paintings to guide us.  Then there are the personalities of the two men.  Washington's demeanor was said to be rather formal, even stiff.  Lincoln, on the other hand, was a wonderful storyteller, a great writer, and an engaging conversationalist.  Lincoln seems much more human to us today; Washington is more like a wax figure.  Let's face it:  if you had the chance to hang out with either guy for 24 hours, wouldn't you pick Lincoln?  I would.

Don't worry, George Washington fans.  Your man is always going to be on everyone's list of the top 5 presidents of all time.  His picture's on the dollar bill, and the nation's capital is named after him.  But he can't measure up to Abe Lincoln.  He doesn't stand quite as tall!

Tue, 02/17/2015

Nate & Jenny: Will They or Won't They?

Dumping a plate of egg salad on a girl's head probably isn't the best way to win her heart.  But that's exactly what Nate's done -- accidentally -- in this scene from Big Nate Strikes Again.  With Valentine's Day almost upon us, I thought I'd write a few words about Nate's longtime crush on Jenny, and why the two of them will never get together.

Let's get this out of the way first:  On a few occasions, I've read comments from readers at expressing their dismay that Nate likes girls.  They think sixth grade is too early for kids to be interested in romance.  As I've written in this space before, I respectfully disagree.  Eleven year-old kids are ABSOLUTELY interested in romance, and sixth grade is when many kids start "going out" (or "going steady," as we said back in the day).  So Nate having a major crush on Jenny doesn't strike me as unusual in the least.

What IS a bit unusual is just how long Nate's been carrying this torch.  He describes himself as having been in love with Jenny since first grade.  Jenny's never returned Nate's affections and, in fact, has even dated other boys, including Artur...but Nate remains undeterred.  He's always been convinced that he and Jenny would make a great couple, and the fact that Jenny already has a boyfriend doesn't seem to have sunk in.  You've got to give him credit for his optimism.  And his stamina.

I used to get a lot of emails from readers asking me to allow Nate and Jenny to get together, but in recent years, those requests have slowed to a trickle -- probably because people are tired of seeing Jenny treat Nate with such disregard.  Readers think Nate deserves better, and I agree with them.  Not only that, I don't think it would ring true if Jenny, after all this time, were to suddenly realize she really DOES care for Nate.  That's not going to happen.  And finally, don't forget the Li'l Abner & Daisy Mae precedent.  As soon as Al Capp, the creator of Li'l Abner, finally caved in and allowed those two characters to marry each other, his comic strip lost its most compelling storyline.

In the last year or two, I've gradually been bringing Nate's infatuation with Jenny to a close.  He's not officially over her yet, but he's getting closer.  In the comic strip, I will probably create a new love interest for him at some point.  And in the books, there just may be a new object of Nate's affections in book #8.  And no, it's not Gina.  You'll have to wait and see!

Happy Valentine's Day, everyone!


Fri, 02/13/2015

Liar, Liar

Ever heard of Brian Williams?  He is -- for now, anyway -- the chief correspondent and anchor of the NBC Nightly News.  He's also a man in a bit of hot water, due to his apparent habit of embellishing stories to make himself appear more (choose one):  interesting, admirable, brave, heroic, etc.  The problem is that in Mr. Williams's role as a newsman, it's important that people be able to trust him and believe what he says.  So NBC must decide if Mr. Williams has made that impossible, or if the people who watch NBC News will forgive and forget.

This isn't an attack on Brian Williams.  Everybody lies.  Most of us do it several times a day, usually as a means to make a conversation go more smoothly, to make ourselves and/or others feel more comfortable, to make ourselves appear more accomplished (as Mr. Williams seems to have done), or to keep ourselves from getting into trouble (as Nate is doing in the drawing shown here).  What seems odd about Mr. Williams's situation is that he really had no reason to pump himself up; he was already at the absolute pinnacle of his profession.  He was a nationally recognized network news anchor, widely admired, and very well paid.  He really couldn't go any higher, at least in the "professional accomplishments" category.  There was nowhere to go but down, and sadly, that's his current trajectory.

I went through a phase in my life when I told lies simply to get attention; I think a lot of people briefly experiment with that sort of thing, usually when they're young.  You're in a group of people, and everyone seems to have a more interesting life than you do, or they all have more interesting stories to tell.  So you make something up, and for perhaps 15 seconds, you get the attention you were craving.  Then it's over.  I suppose that after awhile, people go one of two ways:  they either stop telling lies to get noticed, OR they ramp it up and start telling bigger and bigger fibs.  Maybe after awhile they even start believing them.


I can remember a couple of kids I grew up with who were known as major liars.  They told stories that were so outrageous, even your basic 8 or 9 year-old could tell they couldn't possibly be true. I can still remember some of their more unlikely tales.  (I don't want to use their real names, so I'll just call them Joe and Tommy.)

•    Joe claimed that, while he was waterskiing behind his grandfather's boat on Lake Winnipesaukee, the engine exploded.  The boat caught on fire.  Joe kicked off his skis, swam to the boat, pulled his unconscious grandfather into the water, and dragged him to shore, where a group of townspeople gave him a standing ovation.
•    Tommy came to school one morning and told us that a meteor had landed in his back yard the night before.  When we asked him how big it was, he said he didn't know because, as soon as it hit the ground, the meteor broke into so many pieces, you couldn't even tell that the meteor had been there.
•    Joe said that at his previous school, he'd been stabbed in the stomach by a kid with a jackknife.  He did have a scar, but later we found out from his sister that he got the scar when he fell on a rake.
•    Tommy told us that his uncle was Bobby Orr, who at that time was easily the most famous hockey player in the world.
•    Joe swore that he'd once bowled a 300 game in candlepin bowling.  (Note:  In the history of candlepin bowling, there's never been a 300 game.  The all-time record is 245.)

There were plenty of others; those are just the ones I came up with off the top of my head.  Joe and Tommy were pretty harmless, I guess, and both of them eventually grew out of their "embellishment" phase.  Nowadays, they're probably just like the rest of us:  they only tell little white lies.


Tue, 02/10/2015

Stop the Snowfall

That's right, I'm starting this blog entry with a picture of everyone's favorite TV meteorologist, Al Roker.  Why?  Because when the weather is tough to deal with, everybody gets mad at the weatherman.  It comes with the job.  Now, I don't know what the weather has been like where you live, but the last 10 days have been challenging here in New England.  Here's a brief rundown:
• Tuesday 1/27 & Wednesday 1/28:  Winter storm Juno blows through New England, dumping 28 inches of snow here in Portland.  School is canceled both days. 
• Thursday 1/29:  A brief respite from the storm activity during the day; but on Thursday night, more snow moves in.
• Friday 1/30:  The snowfall continues most of Friday (about 8 inches total) and is heaviest during the morning commuting hours -- which means school is canceled again.  Our daughter rejoices.
• Saturday 1/31:  With forecasts of another storm moving in on Sunday night/Monday morning, panicked shoppers stampede to the nearest supermarket to buy household essentials (like milk and water), along with Super Bowl essentials (like Doritos and chicken wings).  Fortunately, I'm able to avoid this bedlam by driving down to Boston to watch a Bruins game with my brother.
• Sunday 2/1:  Just as the New England Patriots are winning the craziest, most exciting Super Bowl of all time, it starts snowing again.
• Monday 2/2:  It's Groundhog Day, and it's also my nephew Derek's birthday.  Plus, we get 14 more inches of snow.  School canceled again.
• Tuesday 2/3 & Wednesday 2/4:  No additional snow.  Just a few gale-force winds to contend with.
• Thursday 2/5:  Another 4 inches of snow. 

That's a lot of snowfall in 10 days.  Boston exceeded its ANNUAL average snowfall amount in less than a week.  Here in Portland, there's no place left to put the snow.  So I'm making the following plea to Al Roker:

Dear Al, stop the insanity.  Your friend, Lincoln

It's not that I don't like snow; I do.  But our family doesn't have a snowblower or a plow guy, so I shovel our driveway and sidewalks by hand.  All this shoveling is keeping me from working on Big Nate stuff.  Come on, Al, help me out!

Speaking of weather, I'm dropping a hint about the book I'm currently writing, BIG NATE BLASTS OFF:  Part of the story involves a sporting event played in extreme weather conditions.  I've written four chapters (out of twelve) so far.

Also, here's an update about the next book, #7 in the series:  BIG NATE LIVES IT UP.  It goes on sale on March 10th, which means I'll be heading out on a book tour in a little over a month!  I'll be visiting bookstores and schools in and around the following towns, so keep an eye out:

• March 10th, Atlanta, GA
• March 11th & 12th, Columbia, SC
• March 13th, Myrtle Beach, SC
• March 15th & 16th, Cary, NC
• March 17th, Rockville, MD
• March 18th & 19th, Madison, CT

And finally, a word about the Super Bowl.  As I mentioned earlier, it was a phenomenally exciting game.  It's not very often that a single play turns an almost certain defeat into a victory, but that's what happened on Super Bowl Sunday.  The Seahawks had the ball on the Patriots' one-yard line with under 30 seconds to go in the game.  It seemed almost a guarantee that Seattle would give the ball to their star running back, Marshawn Lynch, and ask him to run the ball into the end zone.  Instead, though, the Seahawks tried a passing play, and the ball was intercepted by an undrafted rookie named Malcolm Butler.  Some people immediately declared it the greatest play in the history of the Super Bowl.  But if you're a Seattle fan, "greatest" probably isn't the word you had in mind!

Fri, 02/06/2015

Non-Favorite Foods

In Big Nate:  In A Class By Himself, Nate tries to set a speed-eating record by stuffing himself with an Everest-sized mountain of green beans.  He doesn't choose green beans because he likes them; actually, Nate can't stand them.  But there are plenty of them available because so few of the kids in the lunchroom (sorry; the cafetorium) have bothered to eat their green beans.  Francis and Teddy go from table to table, hijacking servings of green beans and piling them in front of Nate.  I don't have the book in front of me right now, but I think I remember that Mt. Green Bean is eventually comprised of 147 individual servings of beans.  As you can tell from this picture, Nate isn't too thrilled by this turn of events.

I'm with Nate.  I'm not a fan of green beans, either -- especially the kind you're likely to find in a middle school lunch room.  FRESH green beans would be one thing, but the green beans you see in school lunches definitely aren't fresh.  They're a washed-out green color, they're mushy, and they're coated with a kind of slimy film.  When I was in middle school, I usually brought a bag lunch to school; but on those occasions when I paid for a hot lunch that included green beans...well, let's just say that the beans always ended up in the garbage can instead of my stomach.  And I wasn't alone.  NOBODY ate green beans at school.  You'd eat them at home if and when they were part of dinner, because Mom or Dad would be watching to make sure you cleaned your plate.  But why would anyone in their right mind eat mushy, slimy green beans at school?

So now you know I'm not a green bean fan; and if you've been reading this blog for any length of time, you know how much I despise egg salad -- easily my most hated food of all time.  But the fact is, there are plenty of other foods I don't like, either.  Here, off the top of my head, are a few of them:

•    cauliflower - It smells, almost literally, like rotten eggs.
•    broccoli - It's more or less green cauliflower.
•    liver - The only person I know who likes liver is my father-in-law.
•    goat cheese - My go-to animal for all dairy products is a cow.
•    any kind of sushi - I'm from Maine, where we prefer our fish breaded and deep-fried.
•    olives - What can I say?  Olives gross me out.  
•    dill pickles - It's hard to believe that something as delicious as a sweet gherkin is even remotely related to those limp green slabs that come with your sandwich at virtually any restaurant.
•    lima beans - I've managed to successfully avoid eating lima beans for about 35 years now, so I can't say for certain that I still dislike them.  Actually, yes I can.
•    pears - The taste of pears is pretty nasty, but it's the texture of them that gives me the creeps.
•    coleslaw - It contains two ingredients -- cabbage and mayonnaise -- that should be wiped off the face of the earth, except when the mayonnaise is being used to make a tuna melt.

I could probably go on, but you don't want to hear me complain about mushrooms or Thousand Island salad dressing.  Thanks for indulging me.  What are YOUR most hated foods?

Fri, 01/30/2015

Snow Day

I'm writing this at about 9:00 pm on Monday night, but I don't know if you'll be reading it on Tuesday or not.  For my entries to show up on, my friends at HarperCollins in New York City have to post them to the blog.  And I don't know if anyone will be at the HarperCollins offices tomorrow.  There's going to be a big snowstorm blowing through the Northeast tonight and tomorrow, and plenty of businesses  -- not to mention schools, airports, and so on -- are closing until the storm is over.  So if you're reading this entry on Tuesday, it means that some intrepid HarperCollins employees made it to work!
I chose two pictures to go along with today's entry:  a wintry Big Nate Sunday page, and a picture of the aftermath of a memorable blizzard.  The first is about ice, and the second is about snow.  Lots of snow.
Ice is obviously hazardous in many ways.  It's treacherous to drive on, it can do all sorts of property damage, and icy sidewalks and driveways are accidents waiting to happen.  (In fact, a number of years ago, my wife slipped on some ice and cracked a bone in her elbow.)  But I think it's mostly adults who view ice in a negative light.  Kids LOVE ice.  There's nothing more fun when you're a kid than getting a running start and sliding across a long, smooth patch of ice.  That's certainly how Nate and Teddy feel about it in the strip shown here.  To them, the icy sidewalk in front of P.S. 38 is an opportunity for fun.  To the school custodian, it's a safety hazard.  Therein lies one of the ongoing themes of Big Nate:  the different ways that kids and adults view the same situation.
The second picture was taken the day after the historic Blizzard of '78.  I think I've written before in this blog about this amazing storm, so I'll provide just a few details.  In Durham, New Hampshire, where I grew up, we got hit with almost three feet of snow.  The storm began on a Monday, and school was canceled for the rest of the week.  It was the only time I remember a storm causing more than one "snow day."  But we got off easy compared to the folks in Massachusetts.  Hundreds of homes were destroyed, especially along the coastline.  And the snow fell so fast that some people who were driving through the storm were trapped in their cars.  Remember, this was long before the age of cell phones.  If you were driving, and your car got bogged down in the drifting snow, you had only two choices:  stay in your car until a snowplow came along; or leave your car and try to make it through the howling wind and snow to safety.  Many folks ended up trapped in their cars for DAYS.  And sadly, some folks did not survive the storm.
Up here in Maine, everyone's preparing for a whopper.  All the schools had already decided by mid-afternoon today that they'd be closed tomorrow.  And when I stopped by the hardware store this morning, the snow shovels were nearly sold out.  But it doesn't sound like this upcoming storm will match the one shown in the picture above.  It's been almost 40 years, and nothing has approached the Blizzard of '78.

Tue, 01/27/2015


Today's subject:  football!  If you're a sports fan, or even if you're not, you're probably aware that the New England Patriots, the team representing the AFC in the upcoming Super Bowl, is being investigated for using under-inflated footballs during the first half of their 45-7 win over Indianapolis last weekend.  Footballs used in NFL games must meet certain specifications for air pressure; a ball with less air in it is theoretically easier to grip, throw, and hang onto.  So those who believe that the Patriots intentionally deflated some of the footballs used in the game see this as a clear violation of the rules, and believe the team should be punished in some way.  The two highest-profile members of the team, the coach and the quarterback, have both claimed to have no idea how the balls became slightly deflated.  The National Football League is conducting an investigation.  What will happen?  I have no idea.  But as a Patriots fan, I will be dismayed and disappointed if it's determined that they deflated the footballs in an attempt to gain an unfair advantage.  That's poor sportsmanship.  Perhaps it's not quite as obvious an example as Lucy pulling the football away before Charlie Brown can kick it (shown above), but it still amounts to trickery.

I write about sports a lot in the comic strip and the books, and themes like sportsmanship, cheating, teamwork, and fairness vs. unfairness all come into play.  Here are a few highlights I've written about over the years:

• In Big Nate Strikes Again, Nate's fleeceball team goes against Randy's in the championship game.  Nate is knocked out of the game when Randy -- very intentionally -- stomps on Nate's foot during a close play at first base.  Randy is not punished for his transgression, but justice is ultimately served when Nate's team wins the game (thanks to a very unlikely hero).
• In the comic strip, Nate's soccer team is beaten by a team that hasn't won a game in several seasons.  The problem is, they score the winning goal when a ball deflects into the goal off a player's hand -- a clear violation of the rules.  But the referee doesn't see it, and the result of the game stands.  Nate is outraged, but is told in no uncertain terms by Coach Calhoun that P.S. 38 must respect the referee and abide by his decision.
• This isn't exactly a sporting event, but it's definitely a competition: In Big Nate Goes For Broke, Nate and his P.S. 38 classmates challenge their arch rivals from Jefferson Middle School to a snow sculpture contest.  Jefferson cheats by simply molding snow around a second-hand suit of armor.  Fortunately, integrity -- and creativity -- win out.

When you play and watch sports, you want to believe that two opposing sides are facing each other on a level playing field.  Neither has an unfair advantage over the other.  Unfortunately, that's not always the case.  In college, coaches illegally recruit players, or cut academic corners so that gifted athletes can remain eligible.  In the pros, players use performance-enhancing drugs or commit crimes for which they're not punished due to their status as famous athletes.  It can be very disillusioning.

I try to make sure that Nate plays by the rules.  He does have his moments, such as his ham-handed attempts to cheat at Monopoly every New Year's Eve, but when it comes to school sports and Little League games, I'd rather see Nate's team lose honorably than win by doing something dishonest.  And if his team happens to win in the process of following the rules?  So much the better.

I'm sure I'll still be rooting for the Patriots to win the Super Bowl, but some of the shine is already off the game for me.  If the Patriots win, many people will assume that they cheated their way to victory.  If they lose, it will be ammunition for those who claim that the Patriots are incapable of winning without cheating.  The Patriots are, almost literally, in a "no-win" situation.

If teams would simply promise to play by the rules, and then lived up to those promises, the sports world would be a much simpler place!

Fri, 01/23/2015