January 15, 2010—The Literary Death Match’s love affair with Texas began with Austin, Ep. 1 (in a church, on Halloween), and continued in a big way with the series debut at the Dallas Museum of Art. Following four brilliant readings, and sharp-witted judging that set hair aflame, the night ended with Dallas' own Will Clarke capturing the LDM title over Houston's Katherine Center by hitting literary wide receivers Sandra Cisneros, Rick Bass and Larry McMurtry in consecutive fashion before launching the final touchdown pass into Miles Austin's chest to win the Tony Romo v. Troy Aikman Fling-the-Foamskin finale.
But prior to Clarke's crowning, the night started with Opium's founding editor Todd Zuniga opening proceedings, then seeing Center leading off against Austin representative (and Austin, Ep. 1 champ) Amelia Gray in the event’s opening round. Center read a hilarifying piece about, well, boobs, while Gray countered with a story about, well, ass-kicking.
After the tales were told, the focus shifted to the judges. Literary Merit judge Ben Fountain (author of Brief Encounters with Che Guevera) counted 16 boobs overall, admitting an even number was best, while performance and intangibles judges Tina Parker and Owen Egerton (How Best to Avoid Dying) both ripped of a string of levity that must be seen to be understood (video forthcoming). Once the comments were made, the judges huddled up and emerged after a lengthy discussion to narrowly declare Center as the night’s first finalist.
The second round began straightaway, as William Razavi (San Antonio) led off against Clarke. Razavi's perfectly performed tale twisted and turned, the crowd atwitter (and literally on Twitter). Then came Clarke, whose book excerpt broke well beyond the time limit, but his steady performance had the home crowd mesmerized, and no one cared for it to end.
Again the judges were tested, another tough decision ahead, and after a conference, they made the difficult decision of choosing Clarke to advance as the night's second finalist, with Egerton announcing, "Tonight, literature has been reborn!"
The final round was Texas-sized in scope, as both Center and Clarke were tasked with launching miniature plastic footballs at some of Texas’ best authors: Cisneros (author of The House on Mango Street); Rick Bass (Where the Sea Used to Be) and Larry McMurtry (Lonesome Dove and Brokeback Mountain), then finally striking Cowboys wideout Miles Austin in the mitts to claim victory. After a feverish start in which Center was 3-for-3, her deep throw accuracy was tested, and she hit Austin on her fourth try. Up next was Clarke, tasked with needing seven throws or less to win. After Clarke missed Rick Bass with his second throw, a window of hope opened for Center, but then Clarke nailed McMurtry and it took him only two tosses to secure victory by hitting Miles Austin, thus he was crowned champion, and thus he claimed Literary Death Match immortality.