Sports! And some birthday surprises!
Happy Harry’s 29th Birthday Month! Happy Groundhog Day! Happy Valentine’s Day! I wanted to shine a spotlight on books that feature sports this month. I’m not a particularly sporty person, but I love a book that can make me love whatever sport is being played. One that can give me plot and action, and of course romance all in a package wrapped up in a uniform and balls.
Note that some AO3 fics are available publicly on the server, while some require an Archive of Our Own account/membership to access. If you don’t currently have access, you’ll need to sit on a waitlist – typically for a week or two – to gain access. Get yourself on that list ASAP as some of these require that access to read.
The “Summary” is taken from the author’s own AO3 summary. “Why I Liked It” is my opinion (and only mine). “Content Warning” is a mixture of my own warning and sometimes pulled from the Triggers the author has suggested.
These are NOT in ranked order.
1. Down the Line by sunflouwerhabit (Baseball)
“I hate all of you.” Louis’ cheeks flush. “You better watch yourself or Wootton is gonna release an article claiming all of our woes are a direct result of a serious Mario Kart addiction. He’s already got an insider ready to tell him Niall prances around the clubhouse pretending to be Yoshi.”
Some of the boys chuckle, but Louis’ heart nearly stops when a honk sounds from second base. Everyone turns in that direction and Harry fucking Styles slaps a hand over his own mouth, as if trying to muffle the fact that he’s a motherfucking Siren. Louis stares. He wasn’t… it really wasn’t that funny? He couldn’t possibly be laughing at Louis, right? He…
“Sorry,” Styles gasps. His shoulders shake as those dimples, which have had blogs and articles and entire columns dedicated to them, bloom. “Sorry…”
Louis hates him. Louis hates him. Louis hates him.
OR: Star shortstop Louis Tomlinson only finds solace between the white-chalk lines of a baseball diamond, until Harry Styles- the absolute bane of his existence and (probably) the worst pitcher in Major League Baseball- becomes an overnight sensation in the city Louis calls home.
Why I liked It: This one started out a *little* slow for me, because Harry doesn’t come in right away–there’s a bit of setting up happening. But that said, it’s a lovely, slow burn and a lot of great OT5. It’s super grounded in baseball. Louis is the first Pro-Ball player to come out as gay–so there are some lovely moments there. There are also some super homophobic moments that are written really well, horrible as they are. I loved the character development here.
There are also several companion pieces, one-shots, that take place in this world before and after the boys get together.
Content Warning: some angst, internal and external homophobia.
2. Be My Little Good Luck Charm by 100percentsassy (Golf)
Summary: In which Harry is a promising amateur golfer making his debut at the PGA Championship, and Louis is a Sky Sports anchor who would really rather be commentating on footie.
The other boys are around too: caddy!Niall provides victory pints, Liam is Louis’s Very Serious co-anchor, and poor Zayn just gets his face drawn on.
Why I liked It: Surprisingly there aren’t more golf stories considering how much Harry seems to play. I liked this one because it’s a sport you don’t see that often. I played golf as a kid and actually *wrote* a YA novel about golf so I have a soft spot there. This fic throws all the way back to 2013, and I’m always super impressed with decade-old fics that hold up. This one has some good smut, and even if you’re not a fan of golf, you’ll love it. Promise.
Content Warning: None that I can think of but read the author tags in case.
3. Soft Hands, Fast Feet, Can’t Lose by Dolce_Picante (American Football)
Summary: American Uni AU. Harry Styles is a frat boy football star from the wealthy Styles Family athletic dynasty. A celebrity among football fans, he knows how to play, he knows how to party, and he knows how to fuck (all of which is well known among his legion of admirers).
Louis Tomlinson is a student and an athlete, but his similarities to Harry end there. Intelligent, focused, independent, and completely uninterested in Harry’s charms, Louis is an anomaly in a world ruled by football.
A bet about the pair, who might be more similar than they originally thought, brings them together. Shakespeare, ballet, Disney, football, library chats, running, accidental spooning, Daredevil and Domino’s Pizza all blend into one big friendship Frappucino, but who will win in the end?
Why I liked It: There are a lot of American Football stories in the fandom, but this is one of my favorites. Not only is it by the same author as Escapade and Relief Next to Me (two fandom favorites), it’s got Harry as the footballer here, not Louis. I love Harry’s character here because he’s not what he seems at the beginning, and he’s persistent in fighting against the perception Louis has of him.
Content Warning: None that I can think of but check author tags.
4. Unbelievers by IsThatYouLarry (Football, aka Soccer)
Summary: It’s Louis’ senior year, and he’s dead set on doing it right. However, along with his pair of cleats, a healthy dose of sarcasm and his ridiculous best friend, he’s also got a complicated family, a terrifyingly uncertain future, and a mortal enemy making his life just that much worse. Mortal enemies “with benefits” was not exactly the plan.
Or: The one where Louis and Harry definitely aren’t friends, and football is everything.
Why I liked It: I couldn’t have a sports-themed fic list without including Unbelievers, even though I’m sure most (if not all) of my readers have already read it.
I’ll be super honest in that I had a hard time getting past the very first scene of Unbelievers on my first pass of it back in 2021–It was a title I knew I had to read because so many people loved it. It was shocking to be dropped in the middle of a sex scene from the first word. I do like a slow burn. That said, this is a great fic. The plot is sound, and the character growth is lovely. The way the boys grow and learn to trust each other is pretty great. Also, great smut. Obviously.
**BONUS for a great Harry Happy Birthday scene. Gold Glitter anyone?**
There is also a companion piece from Harry’s POV. I like the original better, but let me know what you think!
Content Warning: smut right at the beginning. First word, even. If that’s not your thing, skip the first scene, but read this one. It’s that good.
5. For Reasons Wretched and Divine by IndiaAlphaWhiskey (Football, aka Soccer)
Summary: Ten years ago, Harry Styles was just a nerdy kid with one friend and a debilitating crush on the captain of his school’s football team. He thought the stars were smiling down on him the day he and Louis Tomlinson were paired for their end-of-term Literature project. But because Harry’s life is decidedly not a fairytale, the budding friendship quickly leads to the least happy ending of all time.
Now, Harry Styles is a household name. Barely twenty-seven with two Grammy nominations to his name, the singer-songwriter is poised to take the music industry by storm with his highly anticipated third album. So, what happens when the best producer in the business is also the only person Harry’s vowed never to speak to again?
An AU in two parts. Two boys, two stories, and hopefully, two chances at love.
Why I liked It: I’m not sure this one counts as an actual sports fic, but I love it so I’m recommending it because Lou is on the football team. It’s a two-parter in one fic. It angsty, with a long, slow burn, but such a great payoff and so well written. IndiaAlphaWhiskey is a great writer–I recommend their amazing Our Lives Non-Fiction, as well.
Content Warning: Angst. Internalized homophobia.
6. Player by Jacaronda_Bloom (Tennis)
Summary: Louis’ job should be simple. Harry Styles, one of the top ranking tennis players in the world, is every publicist’s perfect client. He’s charismatic, enigmatic, and fit as fuck. The darling of the media, a national treasure, and a sponsor’s wet dream. He’s also a goofball with the kindest heart, sweet, and polite, and singularly focused on achieving his goals.
There are just two minor problems. Firstly, Louis’ debilitating crush on said client. And secondly, Harry has just accidentally Instagrammed a picture of his dick to his 18 million followers. So no, Louis’ job is anything but simple.
OR the one where Louis is Harry’s highly strung publicist and has a thing for his client, Harry is an international sports star and has a thing for his publicist, Liam and Zayn have a thing for each other, and Niall wishes everyone would just get their shit together.
Why I liked It: Jacaronda_Bloom is one of our fandom’s most prolific writers. I recommend any of their works–all well done. This one is about a sport that’s not written about as often and I love the description of Harry in the summary because it sort of describes them in any universe. The first scene with the accidental dick pic is one of the most original openings I’ve ever read. I’m always a fan of a good OT5 story–this one has them all.
Content Warning: nothing I can think of, but read the author’s trigger warnings.
Summary: Harry is fifteen minutes late to the office on the day Louis Tomlinson comes out as gay.
Or, the one where Harry’s a chronically underpaid magazine intern and Louis is the Premier League’s first gay footballer and pretty much the last thing they need is each other.
Why I liked It: This was super cute and felt realistic. Harry is an up and coming journalist, Louis comes out as a gay footballer. I felt the ending was a bit abrupt…it could have gone on longer, as far as I was concerned. It’s a sort of meet-cute, two boys falling in love story.
Content Warning: None that I can think of, but check tags.
8. PullMeUnder by zarah5 (Football, aka Soccer)
Summary: AU. As the first British footballer to come out at the prime of his career, it helps that Louis Tomlinson is in a long-term, committed relationship. Even if that relationship is fake. (Featuring Niall as Louis’ favorite teammate, Liam as Louis’ agent, and Zayn as Liam’s boyfriend, who just happens to be good friends with one Harry Styles.)
Why I liked It: for some reason, I’m always up for a good fake boyfriend story. Does that ever happen in real life? Anyway, of course it’s strangers to lovers and fake boyfriends to boot. My only (tiny) criticism here is that I think Harry should have been 21 or 22, not 20. His character felt older to me; but it’s not a big deal at all. This one was first posted in 2013, and when I tell you it holds up, I’m telling you it holds up. Seriously always impressed that people were writing older Larry back in those days and got so much spot on. It’s really lovely–both characters are written with such thoughtfulness. Louis in particular, as a famous/rich ball player who has little to no sexual experience is lovely as he works through it.
Content Warning: internalized and external homophobia.
9. The Finish Line (Is A Good Place for Us to Start) by loadedgunn (Formula 1, Race Car Driving)
Summary: Louis Tomlinson, one-time Formula 1 World Champion, is looking forward to the 2013 season. He’s got Zayn in his garage and Liam in his ear, he’s got Cowell Racing backing him despite former indiscretions, he’s got experience and the best race car out there. Not to mention he’s the only racer they have, after Oliver dropped out late last year.
It hasn’t occurred to him that Oliver would have to be replaced by February. That is, until he finds himself at a party celebrating Harry Styles leaving Ferrari for Cowell. Harry hotshot Styles, who broke a record last year and is probably looking to make a big splash. Harry Styles, who is talented and somewhat intimidating. Harry Styles, who left Ferrari for reasons unknown and seems kind of lonely and harmless in person. Lonely, harmless, hot as fuck. Whatever.
The first thing Louis does is take him under his wing. From there it’s nine months of slow-burning romance, the past catching up to them, turning into the human puppy pile that is OT5 and a lot of feelings until, of course, reaching the finish line.
Why I Liked It: With Formula 1 as a backdrop, this one was cute. I don’t know much (okay nothing) about race car driving, and I’m not sure it even counts as a sport (does it?), but it’s different and this was well done. It’s a bit of a slow burn, friends to lovers vibe. And I’m always down for a good OT5 story.
Content Warning: None that I can think of, but check tags.
10. Small Doses (Loving You It’s Explosive) by QuickedWeen (Boxing)
Summary: Louis Tomlinson finds himself at Vitality Fitness to try and turn his life around after having left his cheating boyfriend of four years. The gym’s owner, Liam, quickly becomes a good friend, but his right hand man is rude and dismissive from the get-go.
Louis and Harry continue to clash all while Harry is trying to move his way up the ranks in Manchester’s amateur boxing circuit, but they can’t seem to stay away from each other.
Why I Liked It: This is a sport you don’t read too much about, and it felt realistic in why Harry came to be a boxer. Lovely side of Liam as a bff to both of them. The smut is super hot.
Content Warning: slips into a bit of a dom/sub role playing situation, so if that bothers you, beware.
Bonus: A couple non-sports fics in honor of Harry Styles’s 29th Birthday.
1. You Took Me By the Wrist by Orphan_Account
Summary: In the moment, everything feels like it’s on fire, but suddenly Louis just feels boneless. He kind of can’t believe that this beautiful boy is all his. Harry looks wrecked but he’s grinning like a criminal, and city lights smile over them both.
(Harry’s twenty-one; Louis still loves him. there’s birthday sex.)
Why I Liked It: Orphan_Account means that the original author has abandoned this, which is always sad for me. This is pure porn without plot. All smut, and beautifully written as Louis imagines all the birthdays he’s shared with Harry and how they’ve grown into themselves.
Content Warning: All smut
2. For Your Eyes Only (and a million others) by Galaxie
Summary: It’s Harry’s 25th birthday and he’s supposed to be with Louis, lounging on a Californian beach. Unfortunately, Harry had to reschedule a show, and now he’s in London, playing the O2 on his birthday of all things. What he doesn’t know is that Louis is there too, in London, and with some help, he’s planning a coming-out befitting the international pop rock stars they are.
That is to say, sudden, romantic, dramatic, awe-inspiring and complete with on-point singing.
Louis Tomlinson does have a flair for drama. Harry doesn’t really mind.
Why Liked It: Imagine Larry coming out in the biggest way possible. Yeah, that.
Content Warning: N/A
Xoxo – Rosann. Happy Birthday, Harry!
Happy reading and thanks for checking out my recommendations. I’d love to hear from you and what you think of my suggestions! Let me know if you have any thoughts for future themes!