What is the theme of the poem "Ex-Basketball Player"?

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ms-mcgregor | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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The theme of the poem is the idea that one must move on, not simply cling to one important memory in one's life. In the poem, the main character was a high school basketball star. He obviously thought that his popularity would last forever and never really prepared himself for his future beyond high school. But popularity is fickle and people forget others' past glories. So the boy who had been one of the most popular students in school, became a gas station attendant, still living on his memories of being a high school basketball player. He never moved on and now is stuck in a boring, mediocre life with few chances to advance.

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worldscope | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) eNoter

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There are 3 major themes in this poem.

Theme 1. You cannot take away the joy and glory of somebody’s past achievement despite his or her current social status. The memories of past excellent achievement are a treasure that will always be part of history and is a reason to feel proud and re-live the days gone by in the form of memories. Flick Webb was a great basketballer in school and he still holds the record of his county. That is a reason for Flick to feel proud although his current status as a gas attendant is both uninteresting and without public recognition. Yet he can be happy re-living his days as a great basketballer as bounces the tubes like a basket ball.


Theme 2 – Success and associated fame are momentary. Situations and circumstances change with time and life is dynamic. In a new situation, you may not become a star with outstanding performance. Flick Webb was a great record-setting basketballer while in school. After school, however, his vocation was a lowly paid gas attendant presumably without prospects for fame and outstanding achievement.


Theme 3 – When life turns dull, uninteresting, or unprofitable, the only thing that can bring happiness and sense of achievement is re-living the memories of past achievement. Flick Webb has an uninteresting vocation as a gas attendant. However, he can still re-live his past as a successful basketballer and be happy about it. This theme poses an important question to the reader. If you do not have a moment in life when you excelled and achieved outstanding performance, what will you relive and be happy about should life deal you a dull hand with nothing worth writing home about?  

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