May 31, 2012

George R.R. Martin, the fantasy novelist behind HBO's Game of Thrones -- think castles, knights and dragons -- may be the world's most unsuspecting sports enthusiast. (He watched all three days of the NFL draft; how about you?) The New York Jets and Giants fan gave SI's Adam Duerson (@drstrangepork) a few minutes of his precious time:

SI: Based on your work, you seem an unlikely sports fan.

MARTIN: A lot of that dates to our childhoods, when the world divides us into jocks and nerds. But there are always the nerds who, though not jocks, are still into sports. Believe it or not, I worked four summers in college as a sports writer covering baseball for a parks and rec department in Bayonne, N.J.

SI: You could have wound up at SI!

MARTIN: Well, then I wrote two science fiction football stories: Amazing Stories published one called Run to Starlight, about a game against aliens; and Gallery ran one called The Last Super Bowl. I predicted computer sports would replace real sports. I had the last Super Bowl in 2014, between the Packers and the Hoboken Jets.

SI: That's fantasy football.

MARTIN: I do get invitations all of the time to play actual fantasy football, by the way, but I get the feeling that I'd like it too much. I have enough demands on my time. My fans would kill me.

SI: Yes, your fans are known to be very... anxious. If you had to bet, which will happen first: Your next book is published? Or your Jets win a Super Bowl? MARTIN: Probably my next book.

SI: You sound defeated.

MARTIN: I have to have the next book out in less than five years. And I think the Jets have taken a step back.

SI: Can we out any sports nerds? Have any pro athletes ever reached out to you as fans?

MARTIN: More often it's people in sports who work for teams in non-playing capacities. I think that in all of my time I got just one fan letter, from an NFL fullback named Darian Barnes. NFL players might not have enough time for my books.

SI: A popular internet story recently imagined Game of Thrones characters as politicians -- Barack Obama as Robb Stark, George W. Bush as Hodor -- can we try this with the NFL?

MARTIN: Sure. The Mountain, Sir Gregor Clegane, is 8 feet tall. He would make a hell of a lineman.

SI: Tim Tebow?

MARTIN: There's one minor knight (in Dances With Dragons, the latest book) named Sir Bonifer who is very pious -- Tebow would be him. And Mark Sanchez, a young talented guy, he would be Sir Loras Tyrell (who readers would know from Season 2 on television).

SI: What about the families: Are the Starks, say, the Green Bay Packers? MARTIN: Whenever I propose analogies like that, fans jump in with their own ideas, but it depends on what team you root for. To me, the Starks are heroes, so they would be the Giants.

SI: And the Patriots, the archenemies?

MARTIN: Maybe those would be the Lannisters.

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