Friday, April 12, 2013

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

from The Breaks of the Game by David Halberstam:

That year, in the midst of the basketball madness known as Blazermania that had not just come to Portland, but seemed to settle there, Geoff Petrie, Portland’s first basketball hero, went into a profound depression. He had tried to rehabilitate his leg, an arduous and excruciatingly painful experience, and in the end he failed. His career, as Dr. Nicholas had said, was over. Basketball had been his entire life since he was twelve years old and he found that he had an instinct for the game. Petrie’s father died two years earlier and he had immersed himself even more deeply in the game; he found that if offered, in an otherwise difficult life, security and confidence. It was the one thing he was good at. Even in his student days at Princeton, basketball had been there, comforting for him; he might stay up until 2 a.m. drinking with his buddies, but at 8 a.m. the next morning, every day of the week, he would be up working at the gym, shooting baskets, feeling minute by minute happier and freer. Sometimes in his best college and professional games, there were moments when he felt immortal, sure even before he took them that his shots would go in; it was as if he were simply floating above everyone else. That was what being an athlete meant, he was sure. Now that was gone. He became a different person. He was difficult for his wife to live with. His confidence seemed to evaporate. He avoided seeing old friends. He did not go to basketball games. It was particularly difficult to see teammates like Bill Walton who were still connected to the game, still alive when he was dead. Every athlete, he later realized, has to deal with the end of his career, with its promise of early death, but he felt cheated, they had taken him in the prime of his career. It had taken a long time for him to be able to watch games again, to associate with old friends. But for the past few months he had been able to manage it. Though he worked in real estate, he helped an old teammate coach at a nearby junior college, and he discovered he could again find pleasure instead of pain in the game he had once loved and then hated.

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