What is the poem "Ex-Basketball Player" by John Updike trying to say?

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accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Almost every school has a sports hero, someone who is  natural at the game. Like the glittering stars whose brilliance fades overnight, some of these bright heroes seem to dim after graduation. Flick is such a person. Note how the first three lines act as a symbol of his life:

Pearl Avenue runs past the high-school lot,

Bends with the trolley tracks, and stops, cut off

Before it has a chance to go two blocks.

In the same way, Flick's life has been "cut off" before it has had a chance to go further than High School. Although he was "the best" and "The ball loved Flick," his life now is wasted working in a gas station, because "He never learned a trade." Although his hands "are fine and nervous" this clearly makes no difference whatsoever to his undemanding and demeaning job now. Updike is thus making a sad point about so many students who seem to have such promise but whose future life harshly belies the dreams they may have once had.