Hey faithful readers. Just a note here to mention and explain my method here for the last few and next few days. I’ve a got a new novel up for sale on Amazon. ( It’s dirt cheap – $3.50 – and a great read and you should buy it, but that’s beside the point right now.) What I have been doing here – and will continue to do until we’re all the way through – is post one whole chapter from the book each day.
Judging from “likes” I’ve gotten, there are a few folks out there who are reading these installments daily and also a few people who pick one up all by itself and read through it.
Thanks, folks, for taking the time to read my chapters and thanks for clicking the “like” button.
Please keep on reading – it gets better – and tell all your friends.
Here is Chapter Eleven:
OUTSIDE OF BASKETBALL, THE WORLD WEIGHS HEAVY ON ALL OF US. Life consists of a list of things that we have to do that we more or less do not want to do. There are dozens of masters to answer to – teachers, bosses, women, children, policemen, judges, doctors, accountants. The days are often a schedule of boring and suffocating duties and the years, if we can bear to reflect on them at all, show diminishing returns. Almost every harvest is disappointing; almost every bill too high, almost every paycheck too small. Even the most enthusiastic praise misses the mark. It is no wonder to me that men drink and no wonder that twenty-year-olds use drugs.
But the world inside of basketball is not so constituted. There are confining laws and rules, yes. There are the universal laws of nature – the law of averages and the law of gravity, for example – and there are the moral proscriptions against violence – echoed in the rules of basketball. But in basketball the victory goes to the man who comes the closest to breaking each of those laws. And the standard moral proscriptions against deceit and in favor of moderation and modesty have no applicability at all; no trace or footprint in the rules of the game.
The best players – the players who can understand what I say and what I think – all have something about them that tends to get them into trouble almost everywhere else in life. For these, the moral law is not something that is intuitively understood as right and good and accordingly internalized and conscientiously followed. For these, the moral law is a foreign and unnatural thing; something that is unjustly in the way of satisfaction, an obstacle to desire. These boys are frustrated Vikings looking for some means of expression and when they come to realize that the game can give it to them, right at the moment that they are at the peak of their powers, they are the slate on which I can write my masterpiece. They are the means by which I can express my understanding of life and my frustration with the limitations of life as it is presently ordered. They become my means of victory and escape from the mundane world of small and compromised men.
I don’t remember how conscious I was of it at the time, but I knew very well that Danny Kelso was not such a kid. I convinced myself that I had to cut him because of the unfounded hatred of the rest of the team that would have disrupted the flow of practice and team development and turned my first season into a lesson in morality costing probably a dozen conference losses and diminishing, rather than raising, the prestige and reputation of my program. But I had my own reasons and I would not have kept him on even if the fiasco about the stolen gym trunks had never happened. I knew he would have played wholeheartedly, but he would never unlearn what he already knew. He would never really have been mine.
THREE OF THE FIVE NAMES KELSO GAVE ME MEAN nothing at all to me. Despite the years between and my deliberate attempt to erase my memories I still am surprised that these names don’t even ring the faintest bell. I think for a moment that Kelso must have been mistaken but finally settle it that he is speaking from present tense and I am farther away, and perhaps farther gone, than I want to admit. I remember two of the names; one pretty well and the other more vaguely and, knowing nothing else to do, I repeat them to myself as Sparks and Murphy appear. I roll the names over slowly, then more quickly, as I look for something in Sparks’ shooting or Murphy’s passing that might suggest some similarity and wake some connection, some image of what these two contemporaries of Kelso were like some 35 years ago. I have no reason to believe that such a process will be effective, but it is all I can think of to do, and as I repeat the names, my only talismans, a door of memory opens, but not into the room I expected to see.