This Great Society - Writing

 

Illustration: Joel Bentley

Anthony Jones: Oh, So You're an Actor?

Illustration: Joel Bentley

 
 

Listen—
I coach basketball in the South Bronx
that’s what I do
and earlier today
we lost in the city playoffs
our fourth quarter comeback
came up three points short
and after the game
I sat by my favourite player
a little lefty point guard
with a big heart
who doesn’t take shit from anybody
              no matter how big
no matter what the odds
the kid goes all in
just like I used to
except he’s better
and he’s just sitting at the end of the bench
shocked
he can’t even move
and see—
me and him
we’ve been working together all year
on letting go of that anger he’s got raging inside
because it boils over sometimes until he

loses his mind and
self-destructs
just like I used to
              and sometimes still do
and all year I’ve been teaching him
the beautiful game
the style of play that exists
in the eye of the storm
right at the edge
where instinct and emotion blend to form
true passion
              but Jefferson see
he has trouble with the balance
and during crunch time he slips from the edge
falls into the abyss
wrecks himself
              that’s how his season goes
he breaks down
and then we pick up the pieces
go back to practice and try again
we’re always trying even though
it’s hard for him

in the playoffs though
during the most important game of the year
something clicks
all that work
all those practices
it all comes together at the right time and
by God
he’s excellent
              does everything we talked about
              dances all over the court
Mr. Cool
splashing jumpers, fourteen assists
no one can touch him
nothing bothers him
so smooth
so fluid
effortless really
a brilliant performance
today the smallest man on the court
is also the best
              I mean
who doesn’t love that?
it’s not like I’ve ever met anyone who said
gee man
I was really rooting for Goliath in that one
too bad the little guy pulled such an upset—
              unfortunately though
we don’t win
we lose a heartbreaker on the final possession
   and after all that work
the season’s over
just like that
              and here’s where my job really starts
so sitting there next to him I say—

son
I’m so proud of you right now
you did everything I asked
and more
I couldn’t ask for a better guy on my team than you
you played one hell of a basketball game
and that’s when my favourite player
              this pint sized
              steel tough
              take-no-shit sixteen-year-old boy from the Bronx who’d done everything right for once and still come up short
puts his face in his hands and weeps
and see
I love this kid
but I don’t know how—
it’s hard to communicate
I have trouble saying these kinds of things out loud
like this girl I dated a while back
this half-Dominican goofball girl
who was just full of colour
who just loved to laugh
and she made me so happy
I never put it into words
I kept waiting for the right time
which never came
it never does
and then I lost her too
just like that
I still don’t know how it happened
maybe it was her friends—
              a bunch of self-absorbed theatrical motherfuckers like you
              who acted like what I did wasn’t that important
so nah man
to answer your question
I really don’t give a fuck
about what commercial you mighta been in
or what celebrity you sorta know
do me a favour and
keep all that bullshit to yourself
because let’s get something straight before I go—
              when it comes to real drama
show business got nothing
on high school basketball
 

 
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