Saturday, April 13, 2013

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

from The Breaks of the Game by David Halberstam:

What Embry considered to be the real tragedy was the way the colleges, which were supposed to be centers of learning, were giving kids a value system entirely different from the old values instilled in the home. “They’re so smooth, so friendly when they recruit, there’s not a question that these men don’t know the answer to.” The only hope the young blacks had was education, some kind of education, and these recruiters were teaching them how to bypass education, how to take pointless courses that would permit them to spend their lives in gyms. “These recruiters, if a kid has a question for them,” Embry said, “then the answer is always Yes, Yes, we can take care of that. Yes, we can fix that.” He himself had been lucky. He had been a poor farm boy from Ohio and was recruited by many schools, two in particular, Ohio State and Miami of Ohio. He had loved the idea of Ohio State. The Buckeyes were big stuff in Ohio and he had been brought to Columbus feeling the shadow of a great university upon him, feeling that he was small and that there was something magic there right at his touch, books with so many secrets, wise professors who knew so much and who would make him into a bigger man. He had almost felt giddy. The giddiness ended that night when he had dined with a high state official who said that Ohio State needed Wayne Embry and that Embry could study three times a week in this official’s office and make $90 a week. That was in 1955 and $90 a week seemed like a lot of money. He had known the moment he heard the official’s words that something was terribly wrong with Ohio State, that those books and professors were not what they should be, there was a terrible lie out there somewhere. Miami of Ohio by contrast had offered him tuition and room but demanded that he work in the dining hall to help pay for it. His parents, as poor as they were, had been outraged by what had happened in Columbus and told him he better expect to work for anything he got. That had been true before college and it was damn well going to be true after it, his father had said. He chose Miami and it had been a happy choice. But now, for the other poor black kids, the inducements were worse than ever. What they seemed to be saying was that you can cheat on life, so long as your jump shot goes in. “And that, my friends, is not always as long as we think,” said Embry.

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