Monday, April 8, 2013

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

from The Breaks of the Game by David Halberstam:

His career before the fight had been difficult enough, and he had fashioned himself into a high-level professional athlete against the odds, mostly by personal determination. There was a particular irony about the stigma of the fight, for Kermit Washington seemed by his very game and his attitude to want social acceptance more than almost any other player. His face reflected his emotions: if he had made a mistake the pain and guilt always showed on his face and as he ran upcourt past his coach his expression at once showed apology and responsibility; he would, his face seemed to promise, not repeat the error. But the fight had made him an outcast. The film clip showing Washington smashing Rudy Tomjanovich in the face as Tomjanovich ran at Washington, a double force of collision because both principals—Washington black, Tomjanovich white—were moving, had been featured mercilessly on television sports shows, whose newscasters had piously attacked the violence of the moment, and whose executive producers had relentlessly rerun it because it was such rare footage, such good television. Washington had hated that time, the fear of what he had done to Tomjanovich, the knowledge that he had almost killed a man, and he had hated as well the fact that an entire (white) nation, a jury of millions and millions of people, had judged him and found him guilty, not of being in a fight during a heated moment in a game, but rather of premeditated assault on another player. That moment, which was alien to the rest of his career, had stamped him indelibly in the eyes of most American sports fans. He was not the player from the ghetto who had pushed himself to become a scholastic all-American, or the player who, having failed pitifully in his early years with the Los Angeles Lakers, forced himself by special coaching tutorial to become a quality basketball player. He had instead become the villain. Without any hearing, he had been immediately suspended from basketball; he had been fined $10,000 and the suspension cost him another $50,000.

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