Thursday, April 11, 2013

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

from The Breaks of the Game by David Halberstam:

The new salaries had made it all more difficult. It had heightened natural tensions between teammates as it had increased the differences in status that always existed. Nor did the pressure come from the players alone. Much of it came from wives and girlfriends. Even when the players were reasonably casual about the differences, wives and girlfriends often were not. Their status was derivative and usually had no actual achievement to support it. In their own minds, they were stars as well, celebrities to their neighbors by virtue of their relationships with these heroes. It was, Pat Washington thought, as if the wives thought that they shot the fouls and got the rebounds and made the key baskets. They conceived their own pecking order: the wife of the superstar was the queen bee, and she set the tone; then there were the wives of the starters and, lower down, the wives of the substitutes. This was true on all teams. All general managers were made nervous by the wives, by the tensions they could create, knowing that they could easily hound their husbands to ask for more money, to push for greater statistics. Even on the Boston Celtics, the classic team in terms of sharing, it was believed by connoisseurs that some of the tensions which began to sap the strength of the team came not from the players but from the wives, most particularly because national television always seemed to fix its camera on Beth Havlicek, the wife of John, pert blonde, the cheerleader incarnate, with the kind of face that sports cameras loved (they would have picked her out of the crowd even if she had not been his wife), and there would be the voice of Brent Musburger, just as John was about to shoot a foul, saying “There’s his lovely wife, Beth.” That would provoke a groan from the other wives, mostly black. “She’s on television again,” one would say to the other.

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