Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 293
Athletic Shorts is a collection of six short stories, five of them published for the first time in the collection. The common thread to those five stories is they all contain characters from Crutcher's novels. Petey, Johnny, and Telephone Man reappear from The Crazy Horse Electric Game. Lionel from Stotan! reemerges, as does Louis Banks from Running Loose. All the characters, except Telephone Man, are athletes. The stories about Lion and Louie do not directly involve sports, while the climatic scenes of the stories about Petey and Johnny both take place on the wrestling mat. Only Angus Bethune is a new character, although the story had appeared in a collection of young adult short stories. Crutcher writes an introduction to each story, as well as a foreword. In the foreword, he notes that readers ask him about the fate of his characters after the book ends, writing in the introduction to the volume that "my stories don't stop because I stop writing them, but my participation in them does... I present the characters to you, the reader. What happens next is up to you." Yet, he also admits some characters have lingered with him and the stories give him a chance to check in on them, in some cases providing stories after they have appeared, while in one case "Goin' Fishin'" featuring Lion from Stotan!, the fiction provides the "back story." The plots in each story all lead to a decision by the protagonist: Angus on how to handle a bully, Johnny and Telephone Man on how to confront their fathers, and Lion on how to confront his past. The stories are not about plot, or even characters, they are mostly about delivering Crutcher's message about kids doing their best in tough situations.