In Chris Crutcher's The Crazy Horse Electric Game, what were Willie and his life like before the accident? What was Willie's relationship with his family like between the water skiing accident and the moment he ran away?
In Chris Crutcher's book The Crazy Horse Electric Game, prior to the ski accident, protagonist Willie was a fairly typical teenage boy. However, one difference was that his father, nicknamed Big Will, was a college football star who won the Rose Bowl for the University of Washington in the 1960s. Willie has inherited some of his father's gifts for playing sports well but doesn't really feel satisfied with his gifts. Instead, he feels overly pressured to play well. As Willie phrases it to himself early on in the book, "He's supposed... to be a hero" (p. 13). As a result of feeling overly pressured to play well, he also feels overly distressed by his failures. In his eyes, his father "Big Will lived through Willie, [and felt] that Willie's successes were Big Will's too; and likewise his failures" (p. 14).
The novel opens with a flashback of the baseball season that led up to one of his greatest successes and one of his greatest losses. Prior to the accident, Willie had grown quite a bit in both stature and strength, making him a very fast pitcher. He was also an excellent hitter because his father trained him starting at a young age to hit either left- or right-handed. Willie's skills in baseball led to a successful season for him and his baseball league, the Samson Florals, and even a crowning victory against the team Crazy Horse Electric.
Hence, prior to the accident, Willie's life was just like the lives of many typical teenagers: he was good in sports, felt pressured by his father to succeed, and achieved many victories.
After the accident, Willie struggles more with himself than he does with his family. He sees his life as having fallen apart. However, he also sees that the accident is taking a toll on his parents' marriage. At one point, Willie enrages his father by taking acid because, as his therapist Cyril Wheat phrases it, the acid "was there and because [he was] hurting about [his] girl. And [his] life" (p. 71). At that moment, Willie also saw his mother stand in between Willie and his father to protect Willie, and Willie could see a wedge had been driven between his parents since Willie's accident due to how much they were hurting because of the accident, just like after his newborn sister had died.