When Steve Feit (92C) and David Marmins (91C) reminisce about the trip they took to Kentucky in 2015, it’s likely that their memories of visiting the Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory are clouded by a memory much more integral to their friendship — the decision to write a book together.
In “Appalachian State Silences the Big House: Behind the Greatest Upset in College Football History,” Fein and Marmins stitch together a narrative of the Appalachian State (N.C.) Mountaineers’ stunning 34-32 victory over the perennial powerhouse University of Michigan Wolverines on Sept. 1, 2007.
It was during that Louisville, Ky., visit that the two friends realized they had each recently read Daniel James Brown’s “The Boys In The Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics,” which chronicles the University of Washington crew team at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Feeling like he hadn’t been doing enough writing outside his career, Marmins, a litigator, asked Feit if he’d be interested in writing a book with him. They resolved to go home after the trip and think about topics. Less than two days later, Marmins came up with the idea.
“I didn’t watch it live, but it was the big story of the day because Michigan had aspirations of national championships, and on the first day of the season it got blown to bits by a lesser division school that beat them in such a dramatic fashion,” Feit said.
Feit agreed to the topic after verifying that it had not been written about before. They put together a pitch, and after being rejected twice from publishers, they got a resounding yes from McFarland and Company, Inc.
From David and Goliath to the Little Engine That Could, the underdog narrative that pins humble beginnings against outgunned competitors is ubiquitous. By writing player profiles and interviewing the rosters, Feit and Marmins attempted to solve the mystery of the game.
“Appalachian State had that quintessential thing that all underdogs have, which is optimism and hard work,” Feit said. “These things also helped a couple of former Wheel sports editors publish a book.”
Feit and Marmins’ friendship was founded in the newsroom of The Emory Wheel, where they spent countless hours every Sunday and Wednesday writing humorous headlines and sports features on Emory athletes.
“Writing is not just about the mechanical form of writing; it’s also about being able to listen and process, and I think you get better at that as you get older. … You become more honed in on the human condition as you gain experience,” Feit said.
When Marmins recalls his time at the Wheel, Marmins remembers writing a story about Sabrina Collins, a freshman who accused people of writing racist remarks on her dorm walls but later admitted to writing them herself. He also remembers having to call former law professor Abraham Ordover’s home number amid sexual harassment allegations against Ordover.
Marmins also remembers his election for editor-in-chief, a process that included Feit demanding answers to random sports trivia questions.
“[Feit] and I were roommates in college. He was my roommate when I was in law school. He actually lived in my condo when my wife was pregnant with our first child,” Marmins said. “I eloped to get married, but there were two friends there, and Steve was one of them.”
Although both cited the challenge of having other time commitments when writing a book, both Feit and Marmins articulated a willingness to collaborate with one another in the future.
“We found ourselves finding about a team that considered themselves brothers, and they bonded together and united to do something extraordinary, and along the way David and I realized that we were doing the same thing, although we didn’t have to tackle anybody to do it,” Feit said.
The collaboration to work on a book together stemmed naturally from the roots of their storied friendship. It’s clear now that although their friendship has now evolved into one of maturity, they have not forgotten the lessons they learned at the Wheel. It’s as if they left a decanter of scotch in the sports room on the fifth floor of the Dobbs University Center (DUC) and returned to it some 25 years later to find that the flavor was more sophisticated, free from the sediment that muddles a college perspective.