Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1285
That Championship Season opens in Coach’s decaying living room. He is hosting a reunion of the high school basketball team he coached to a championship about twenty years ago. Tom Daley and George Sikowski are in the room, catching up. Tom has come from out of town for the reunion, while George is now the hometown mayor. Tom drinks heavily.
George worries about his upcoming reelection campaign, and derides his opponent, Norman Sharmen. They talk about the Coach, who recently had an operation. George believes that he owes his mayorship to the Coach’s influence. The pair wishes that Martin would have come to the reunion. Martin was the best player among them, but he has never returned.
George tells Tom that Phil Romano, one of their teammates and a rich businessman, will be contributing a big sum to his campaign in return for a favorable land lease. James Daley (Tom’s elder brother), Phil, and Coach finally return with food and drink. Coach is happy to see all of them.
The Coach equates their team effort to get George elected with their winning the championship. The Coach tells all of them how proud he is of their accomplishments. James tells the Coach that he helped them succeed. The conversation turns to the current lack of respect in the country. When Tom leaves to use the bathroom, those who remain discuss his alcoholic state. While the Coach wants to put Tom to work on George’s campaign, James informs them that his brother is leaving town.
Phil tells George that he might not be easily reelected. Among other things, George has raised taxes, and some local plants will be closing soon. James defends George. George cannot see that he has failed in some areas, including the purchase of an elephant for the local zoo that died ten days later, and that he might not be able to win again. George is defensive.
Coach finds it hard to tolerate the dissension in the room. He derides it as well as the dissension that has been growing in the United States. As Coach grows more agitated, he suffers severe pain related to his recent surgery. George helps him upstairs.
When the pair is gone, Phil tells James and Tom that George has no chance to be reelected. James asks Phil if he does not support George because Phil is having an affair with George’s wife, Marion. James threatens to reveal this, reminding Phil that his business will be destroyed if George is not reelected. Phil tells James that he might contribute to the campaign of George’s opponent, Sharmen. Because Phil does not believe George has what it takes to become mayor, James offers himself up as an alternate candidate. James has political aspirations of his own. Phil belittles James’s idea.
James informs George that Phil might not support his campaign. George has an important piece of information on Sharmen. Sharmen’s uncle was a communist in the 1950s. Phil does not believe it will change anything. Phil reminds them that his money got George elected in the first place. James insists that his campaign work was just as important as the money, and he tells George that Phil has been sleeping with his wife. Phil admits that they had a fling. George takes a rifle from the wall and points it at Phil.
Coach gets George to give him the gun and calms him down. He learns about the affair and yells at Phil. When pressed by Coach, Phil tells the story of the incident. Coach is stunned, but tells the men that they must stick together. George does not want anything to do with Phil. He believes that Phil took advantage of his wife when she was vulnerable.
While the Coach admits that he had his liaisons, he believes his boys, these men, are the real trophies from his life. He tries to inspire them to stick together. Phil tells him that he cannot support George.
George exits to use the bathroom. Coach goes on about how Sharmen’s uncle was a communist. Tom questions why he must use the communism aspect at all. Coach believes that one must exploit an opponent’s weakness to win whether it’s a game or an election. Tom leaves to use the bathroom when George returns. James dares Phil to call Sharmen and offer him a campaign contribution now. Phil does, but Sharmen turns him down.
Phil becomes angry with them for using him. As Coach continues to try to convince him to support George, Tom returns, but drunkenly falls down the stairs. He is unhurt. Phil asks Coach to talk outside for a moment. George is worried about their conversation. He becomes upset about his wife’s infidelity and other family matters. James tries to convince George to accept Phil’s money, if Coach can change Phil’s mind. George asks James if he would take the money, if Phil was having an affair with James’s wife. James says yes.
Tom and James begin to argue. George feels sorry for himself. James tries to convince George that Marion might have had the affair for his benefit. James becomes upset about his life, and the sacri- fices he made to support his father, his alcoholic brother, and his family.
Phil comes back in, and tells George that Coach wants to see him on the porch. Phil talks about how bored he is in his life and how his crowning moment was the championship they won. He talks about the affair, telling Tom that George’s wife has been sleeping with other men for several years. Phil also reveals that his wife sleeps around with his consent.
Phil tells them that he wants to hire professional outside people to run George’s campaign. This means James will step down as his manager. James is upset because of his own political aspirations. Phil slugs James, breaking his dentures. James vows revenge—by defaming George—if they dump him. George becomes sick and throws up in their championship trophy.
Coach takes George upstairs to clean up, while James leaves to wipe out the trophy. Phil tells Tom more details about the affair. James returns, still angry about their betrayal. James wants his turn now. Coach comes back. He is still upset by the dissension. James tells him that he wants to be respected, but Coach calls him a whiner.
George returns. He has talked to his wife, and she admitted that she had the affair in return for the campaign money. Coach tells George to go home and beat up his wife for her infidelity. He believes George has no pride. Though the men have talent, Coach believes they are wasting it. James still wants to be campaign manager, but no one will listen.
When Tom speaks up, Coach calls him useless. Tom tells him why Martin has not come back in twenty years. Martin had wanted him to refuse the championship trophy because Coach had told him to seriously hurt the best player on the opposing team during the game. Martin complied, breaking the boy’s ribs. Coach denies the whole matter, though Tom tries to needle him into admitting it. Coach hits Tom. Tom leaves.
Coach talks about his past, his mother and father, and how he made those present winners. He puts on a recording of the last moments of the championship game. Tom returns. The men make up. James agrees to do what George wants, though he will still work on the campaign. They take a picture of the four men and an individual one of the Coach.