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Spoiler Alert! Pop Culture, Locations, and Other References in Northern Knights

Northern Knights' References
Clockwise, Sunset in Weirton, WV (photo by: Todd Matthews), Cleveland Browns 2015 uniform unveil (photo by Eric Drost), Crossing the Veteran’s Memorial Bridge from Steubenville into Weirton, WV (photo by Eric Wagg), Riding along Main Street, Wintersville, Ohio.

Northern Knights might be an urban fantasy that takes place in a fictionalized version of our world, but don’t think for a single second I haven’t made some pop culture and mainstream references in Northern Knights, the Lord of Columbia Series’ first episode.

From Chapter One, the reader will find entertainment and comic relief from the darker overtones of the plot when they stumble across such references.




Chapters One Through Five

The reader is introduced to the element bending trait that our main characters hold, reminding readers of Avatar, the Last Airbender which served as an inspiration of mine in the creation of the work.

One of the main unseen but EXTREMELY relevant antagonist’s name is King Rooney from the House of Pitt, a reference to the Rooney Family who owns the Pittsburgh Steelers, and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Spreading upon the Pittsburgh references, the Southpoint Empire gets its name from Southpointe, one of the business districts in Pittsburgh’s South Hills.

Cain and Micah make reference to Florida-Georgia Line’s 2016 single ‘May We All.’ While the book wasn’t released until 2018, much of my first draft was written between 2015 and 2017, where the bulk of my references take place.

At the Kent International Airport, an agency called the TSAS conducts bag checks and searches travelers’ apparel for contraband. The TSAS is a reference to America’s TSA.

I mention a few towns in the first three chapters, namely Winters, Ironton, Richfield, and Kent. Winters takes its name from Wintersville, Ohio.

Richfield is a nod to Richfield, Ohio, where the Cleveland Cavaliers played their home basketball games until the Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse opened up, previously known as Gund Arena in Downtown Cleveland.

Kent references Kent, Ohio, home of Kent State University.

And Ironton is a reference to Ironton, Ohio, a small city located near Ohio’s southern tip.

Finally, Columbia itself recalls the original personification of the United States of America, whose caricature was Columbia.


Chapters Six Through Ten

Baker Mayfield (6) provided much inspiration behind Cain Riscattare. Photo by Eric Drost

The main setting in Northern Knights, Summit University, contains a campus based on Kent State University while Summit itself is named after Summit County, Ohio, where Richfield, Ohio resides.

There’s a scene when I introduce the game of shotball featuring Cain crotch-grabbing and mouthing profanity to a rival player, reminiscing on a similar act conducted by Browns’ quarterback Baker Mayfield during his playing days at Oklahoma.

In a later shotball scene, Cain plants a Santos Knights flag on an opposing team’s logo, another reference to Mayfield after his Oklahoma Sooners upset the Ohio State Buckeyes in 2017,

Continuing the shotball references, the Santos Knights’ fight song, Knights Battle Cry, is a parody to Buckeye Battle Cry, one of the Ohio State Buckeyes’ fight songs.

The Leistung Monarchs’ fight song, Victors, is named similar to that of the Michigan Wolverine’s fight song.

One of my characters, Randelo Jefferson, typically called ‘Rand,’ is a reference to Kentucky Senator Rand Paul and Thomas Jefferson.

Cain mentions Santos’ abysmal 6-34 record against their shotball team’s rival, Leistung, referencing the Cleveland Browns’ now-6-34-1 record against the Pittsburgh Steelers since returning to the NFL in 1999. Note: The record was initially 6-31 upon finishing the first draft in January 2017.

Jefferson mentions representatives and leaders from different regions such as Hancock, Wetzel, and others, a nod to a few counties in West Virginia’s northern panhandle.

When one views the location of Richfield, North Columbia, they’re getting a true visual of Wintersville, Ohio’s landscape.

Cross Creek High School, and their nickname, the Redhawks, is the fictionalized version of Indian Creek High School. Also, Kettlewell Stadium is named directly after Indian Creek’s football stadium.

I also mention Tesla and Stanton High School, both of which play on Edison High School in Richmond, Ohio, where Yours Truly stalked the hallways and graduated from back in 2009.


Chapters Eleven Through Fifteen

A mass shooting scene (yes, this book does contain some dark references, too), was inspired by the Ohio National Guard’s shooting upon Kent State students on May 4th, 1970, which killed four students.

In a rather comedic action, Lira argues that she was next in line while Cain knocks the accuser out while a hospital receptionist has her back turned, where an identical scene was created in an airport during the 2001 movie ‘Rat Race.

Cain states in a later chapter his dismal idea for the Santos Knights to wear an all-orange uniform combo, which references widespread fear among Browns fans that the team would someday wear an all-orange uniform combo in real life.

There’s a scene referencing ‘Bottlegate,’ which happened back in 2001 when a bad call cost the Cleveland Browns the playoffs. Enraged Browns fans retaliated in a way never seen before or since, resorting to showering the playing area with plastic beer bottles and other debris.

A brawl takes place toward the end of a tense shotball game between Santos and Leistung, reminiscent of the infamous 2004 incident known as The Malice at the Palace, where the Detroit Pistons and Indiana Pacers engaged in one of the most violent bench-clearing brawls in sports history. This scene also references the intense rivalry seen between the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers, most notably during their 2012 playoff series.

When confronted by the story’s comic relief character, Cain asks his cousin Micah why he always falls over laughing, referencing Sal Vulcano from Tru TV’s Impractical Jokers.

In an ‘inside family’ joke, Cain (some of whose mannerisms I’ve based on my own) is seen eating jelly from a jelly pack, something I used to do when going out to breakfast with my family when I was young.


Chapters Sixteen Through Twenty

Obranca, the Complex friendly to Santos, is said to possess baby blue and red as its colors, a nod to the NFL’s former team, the Houston Oilers.

At the climax, I need to be vague here, the reader will find inspiration from similar scenes in Star Wars and the Fast and Furious Series. If you’re a fan of either, you might like my climax!



I’m sure I provided more than just the handful listed above, but not only will my reader be taken on a journey to a fictional world with an epic plot and message, but there’s a lot of meaning behind Northern Knights in virtually every chapter.

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Published inNorthern Knights


  1. Gomer Gomer

    The youth can sometimes be fickle-minded just like Cain Riscattare. Just like you, the author of this series, sometimes you’re a fickle-minded person (*kidding*). But I really like the way events are turning out in your series, I am just confused as my imagination brings me to the possibility that the Southpoint Empire resembles the slave-hunting south during your civil war era. 

    Oh my God, it’s just my imagination that’s so playful here that there are so many things evolving from reading your awesome fictions. Your work is a must-read for anyone with brains that are well-fed with nutrients. 

    • Todd Matthews Todd Matthews

      Hi, Gomer, I can definitely be fickle-minded, just ask my parents and they’ll tell you everything! But since I’m a Browns fan, I can attest I can display loyalty when called upon! 

      I can definitely see a correlation between Southpoint and those slave hunters that plagued the South once upon a time, but I’ve often thought of Southpoint as a sort of Oceania from Orwell’s 1984, with its superstate status plus constant surveillance and violent enforcement of laws on its populace. 

  2. Jon Jon

    This seems very interesting because I always love real life stories of sports and other events that occurred that have affected our history. Do you think that this book is very interesting and do you think  that basing it on real life events makes it more relatable? What is your favorite chapter in this book?

    • Todd Matthews Todd Matthews

      Hi, Jon, since it’s my book, I’d like to leave whether it’s interesting or not up to my readers. Some will love it if they liked Harry Potter, The Last Airbender, and other similar works. There is a huge sports subplot in Northern Knights, so you won’t be disappointed. 

      Oh boy, my favorite chapter in this book has to be Lira’s Tale, which features a brawl scene toward the end of the chapter and leaves a nice little clue as to who’s good and who’s evil. If the reader reads the end of this chapter critically, I basically tell them who the mole is. 

  3. Nuttanee Nuttanee

    I have to say that your references and your story line is genius. You are an amazing writer that merge the fictional world into a pop culture, makes me want to see your draft when you wrote the series. Are you going to incorporate more events in the series? Like the notre dame church?

    • Todd Matthews Todd Matthews

      As long as my readers love the references I’ll be happy to incorporate more in. I don’t know about Notre Dame, though, since Columbia parodies the United States and it’s been the main setting. However, I won’t rule out a trip to the land that parodies Europe, which I call Eura and Eurea, much like some refer to Europe as Europa, later on in the series. With the riots going on this year in France, it might make for a compelling plot and reference. 

  4. Michelle Michelle

    What a brilliant way to captivate your readers!  I love how you are taking real life incidences and referencing those.  I am not much of a fiction reader but would be interested in reading this as it correlates to real life events.  Kudos to you and I am wondering if you have any other books that you would recommend?



    • Todd Matthews Todd Matthews

      Hi, Michelle, taking real-life elements just came naturally to me and I’ve since never looked back. It just goes to show that my work (and other works) of fiction stem from real-life, which I believe gives more meaning to the work. You can always look at Swords of Destiny and Missing in Columbia, which are sequels to Northern Knights if you’re looking to dig into a new series. 

  5. Babsie Wagner Babsie Wagner

    I think you’re brilliant to use real-life references to create your fictional world, because people like things they can relate to.  Right?  I know I do.  I love when I’m watching TV or reading a book, and something familiar comes up.  A place I live or a place I’ve visited.  It just makes it more fun and interesting!  What a great idea to reference those in this article.  ~ Babs

    • Todd Matthews Todd Matthews

      Thanks, Babsie! I feel the same, since it allows the audience to relate more to the work at hand. It almost feels as if they’re part of the work, or they can exclaim, “Hey, I know where they got that from!” While many of my references are geared toward the Steubenville/Wintersville/Weirton area, there are many others that stem from mainstream culture, which continues in both Swords of Destiny and Missing in Columbia. 

  6. Daniel Daniel

    Hi Todd, I must say that this article is very helpful and inspirational. You really have a talent for this and it is my pleasure to read your stories. Just asking, how long you need to create this, I mean research and all those little staffs? Can I share Northern Knights on my Pinterest profile? I am sure a lot of people would enjoy reading this.

    • Todd Matthews Todd Matthews

      Hi, Daniel. Northern Knights took me over three years, since it was my initial work and laden with mistakes early on. And yeah, feel free to share on Pinterest and anywhere! 

  7. joseph webster joseph webster

    Interesting little blog post. I am from Ireland so the references are a bit lost with me. But I started watching American football couple of years back so I know who the Cleveland Browns are. And the Pittsburgh Steelers and the owners The Rooney’s they are of Irish heritage. Pretty good read all the same. I hope you all the best in your future writhing endeavours. More power too you. 

    • Todd Matthews Todd Matthews

      I forgot that the Rooneys were Irish! I’m hoping to see the rivalry return some this season; Pittsburgh has used my Browns as fodder for the past twenty seasons but with the arrival of Baker Mayfield, Jarvis Landry, OBJ and others, it might actually become a Dawg fight once more! 

  8. Marlinda Davis Marlinda Davis

    Hey Todd! It’s pretty cool that you’ve incorporated so much culture into your book with your own interpretations added. I like your Rat Race reference. That’s one of my favorite movies and that scene cracks me up. My question is, as the author, do you expect that your reader should pick up on all or some of these references?

    • Todd Matthews Todd Matthews

      Hi, Marlinda! I love that scene and to this day, I still laugh like none other! I think it depends on the reader. A lot of my references stem from the Steubenville, Ohio-Weirton, West Virginia area, and for those familiar with the area would get a lot of it, as well as fans of the Cleveland Browns, who can also consider themselves a target audience. For those I’m specifically targeting will definitely get a lot of the inside references, except the one where my main character is eating jelly from containers! 

  9. Phil Phil

    Hey Todd,

    It’s been a month and here I am crawling back to your website! 

    What a fascinating string of references you weave, you’re like a modern Thomas Pynchon! 

    I very much agree with the other commenters. Your stories are gripping and I’m eager for more. 

    I appreciate that you give commentaries on your novels, it helps the reader with getting the insider’s story and a fuller perspective. 

    So that’s my encouragements here from a big fan of yours…

    • Todd Matthews Todd Matthews

      Thank you, Phil, always great to hear from you! Keep tuning into the blog, as there’s even more to come in the very near future! 

  10. James James

    This seems like a very interesting series, thank you for sharing!

    Recently (as in the past too) I have taken a great interest to the series of Avatar (The Last Airbender) and its lore. So, I really liked that there is a reference to that. The idea of the protagonist having elemental bending powers sound awesome!

    Because of this I decided to look into your other posts on this series, and I must say the idea of a rebellion on such a scale, based in a fiction-based variety of our own world does sound pretty interesting!

    I’ll be sure to look into this more!

    • Todd Matthews Todd Matthews

      Hi, James, I love Avatar: the Last Airbender and its lore captivated me since the show’s inception in 2004. And thanks for your interest! I hope you enjoy the ride as much as I enjoyed writing it! 

  11. Clarissa Clarissa

    Hi Todd, you have such an great imagination, and are very attention to detail when it comes to merging today’s and yesterday’s world on this series. It has everything from suspense, action and a little bit of class😊👌 What inspired you to write such a series? I hope you continue to keep on writing and adding to the series over the years. Have you thought about turning the series into a tv series? 


    • Todd Matthews Todd Matthews

      Thanks for the kind words of imagination, but those at my day job would disagree with my attention to detail. Lol! And yes, I can agree with the suspense, action, and classy part.

      Honestly, the American Revolution inspired the series, along with today’s global issues and especially the divisiveness in American politics (I’m an Anarcho-Capitalist who supported Rand Paul in 2016 and Tulsi Gabbard here in 2020 while voting for Gary Johnson in the 2016 election, so I’m all over the place)! 

      However, I wanted the series to take place in present day and in Trilogy II, in which the first book, Raven’s Flock, will be out in early-2020, a little bit of science fiction. 

      I’ll turn it into a TV series years from now, once the series becomes well-known to some, but I wouldn’t fit in with the mainstream, so I’d say turning it into an independent movie would be a better bet. 

  12. Doug Phillips Doug Phillips

    It looks to me like you have a great future ahead of you as an author Todd.  Very creative content here so keep working at it.  I really encourage my daughter to keep writing as some of the things I have seen from her journals are similar to what you have here.  She gets her creative side from her mother as I am the more analytical and practical type. I admire this talent though and wish I had more of it.  Do you do your own graphics or get help with that?   My daughter is an excellent artist as well at least in my opinion.  I think you are doing a fantastic job and will continue with much success! 

    • Todd Matthews Todd Matthews

      Thanks, Doug! And yes, definitely keep encouraging her, as there is a lot of opportunity in this field whether it’s creative or freelance writing. She’ll have so many avenues. I do get help with the graphics; I actually buy the covers from actual graphic artists. But if your daughter can design book covers as well, it’s yet another venue she can enter. Her potential seems limitless. 

  13. Listening -or reading in this case-an author explaining the source of his inspiration and his references is fascinating. If the brain and thoughts of a normal person is a labyrinth, imagine that of a writer! Unfortunately, my knowledge of American football is non-existent and lots of your references are lost with me but I managed to go deeper by studying the Ohio National Guard’s shooting that really shocked me. Thanks, Todd!

    • It’s the one public school shooting the US government wishes we forgot, but we’ll never forget it. It does bring up my view on being pro-gun, however, which may turn a lot of readers off, since my message in the scene inspired by the Kent State shooting was:

      It’s dangerous to put guns in only the hands of the government, which has killed more people worldwide than anyone else in human history.

      Sure, I do realize tighter gun control may have worked in European nations, but size, population, and cultural differences here in the US doesn’t always mean it’ll work for us. In fact, numerous studies have shown mixed results from states that have little gun control to those that have strict control. It was definitely something I had to put in the work, especially one that showed the Libertarian society of North Columbia.

  14. Matt's Mom Matt's Mom

    Sounds like a very interesting book.   I am always looking for something different than the normal genre that I read.  You have done an excellent job of going thru the book chapter by chapter and giving an idea of what your book is about.  How many books are in this series?  Is it possible to get all the books of the series?

    • Todd Matthews Todd Matthews

      So far, I have three out, which makes up the Original Trilogy of the series. Book IV, Raven’s Flock, will be out in 2020; I’m hoping to have it ready by January 2020, but time will tell as I get closer to the date. And yes, it is possible to get a box set in Kindle format. I’m also working on the paperback collection as well.  

  15. Josh Josh

    I think it’s really cool that you’ve incorporated pop culture references into your books, and it definitely makes it more intriguing for people to read in my opinion.

    By introducing references to sports for example with the planting the flag on an opponents logo, and giving a nod to the Rooney Family I’m more inclined to read this book personally.

    Then at the same time my wife would be more inclined to read this book as it’s based in a fictional setting.

    Overall this is a very clever way to captivate a variety of audiences, and I hope you continue to do similar things in any future books you write as well.

    • Todd Matthews Todd Matthews

      Ha, I don’t know much about a ‘nod’ to the Rooney family, considering the name represents my antagonist in the work, but nonetheless, they were still important enough to insert. No offense to them, either, as they really are one of the classier ownership groups in the NFL today; I just happen to like the Browns! 

  16. Henry Henry

    Hi Todd! Cain planting a Santos Knights flag on the opposing team’s logo, immediately brought Baker Mayfield to mind. That was back on September 2017. The Oklahoma Sooners won the game against Ohio State Buckeyes in Columbia. And then all of a sudden Mayfield planted the Sooners’ flag in the middle of the “O” at the Ohio Stadium. This caused a strong negative reaction from the public.

    • Todd Matthews Todd Matthews

      Hi, Henry. Cain is definitely a Baker Mayfield-type of athlete. It wasn’t until the Browns drafted Mayfield during some of my last edits did I insert this reference into the work. The second I saw Mayfield was heading to Cleveland, I just had to. And yes, it was such a strong negative reaction that even when the Browns drafted Mayfield, many at the draft day parties in Cleveland were livid with the pick. I think they’ve since changed their tune after last season. Lol. 

  17. Fahim Shahriar Fahim Shahriar

    Sounds like an exceptionally intriguing book. I believe it’s truly cool that you’ve consolidated pop culture references into your books. I have been looking for something other than what’s expected that the ordinary type that I read. You have worked superbly of going through the book part by section and giving a thought of what your book is about. Thanks for the article.

    • Todd Matthews Todd Matthews

      Hi, Fahim, you’re going to find a lot of references here in Northern Knights, I can definitely reveal this fact to you. I looked to offer something fresh and different from the norm when writing the work, so I’m just hoping that while it’s an urban fantasy set in a fictional world, that the readers still get a kick out of all the references.  

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