Saturday, April 6, 2013

the last book I ever read (David Halberstam's The Breaks of the Game, excerpt one)

from The Breaks of the Game by David Halberstam:

At the fall training camp Gilliam returned in the best shape of his career. It turned out almost immediately that the main competition was for the job of fourth guard between Gilliam and a rookie from Alabama named T. R. Dunn, whom Portland had chosen on its second pick. Dunn had the strongest body of any guard in the camp and probably in the league; he seemed to be sculpted out of black marble and his physique was the first thing that coaches looked at. To some of the other blacks on the team it was frustrating to see Gilliam and Dunn pitted against each other; they did not think the coaches were being racist, but they also felt that black players were always more vulnerable, their jobs less secure, particularly those of bench players. (On many teams the lower bench positions were often filled by marginal white players, kept aboard principally as a bone to the fans. The blacks resented this and they had a word for it, when a white was kept instead of black. He’s stealin’, they would say, just stealin’ it.) Some of the blacks were bothered by the fact that the competition was restricted to Gilliam and Dunn, and that David Twardzik and Larry Steele, both white, were excluded. To the coaches that was not an issue. Twardzik, they felt, could run the offense as Gilliam could not (no one, thought Stu Inman, the head of player personnel, used other players as intelligently as Twardzik), and Steele, once a guard, had now been switched to the job of back up small forward. The blacks were aware of that, but they also wondered at it—Gross, Walker, Steele, three small forwards, all of them white . . . .

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