Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 984
That Championship Season’s moral center, Coach, is an older man who coached the other four characters to a high school state basketball championship twenty years earlier. He considers that championship the crowning achievement of his career, if not his life. The victory made him and the other characters local legends. He still receives special treatment in the town because of this long ago victory.
In many ways, Coach lives in the past. He proudly proclaims that he has not changed in sixty years. His living room is nearly a museum to past decades, and he dresses in a suit with a 1940s cut. Coach’s values are also out of the 1950s. He is anti- Semitic and pro-Joseph McCarthy and Father Coughlin, a controversial conservative Catholic radio preacher. Victory is to be had at any cost for Coach.
Coach dislikes dissension, especially among his boys. He wants them to succeed in life as they did in the game, and he uses their loyalty to him to influence their decisions.
James is one of the players on the 1952 championship team, and the elder brother of Tom Daley. He is married to Helen and has five children. James has remained in his hometown and is currently the principal of the local junior high school. He was also George’s campaign manager in the last election, and, at the beginning of the play, holds the position in this election as well. He hopes to run for school superintendent the following year, but when Phil hints that he might not back George for mayor, James offers himself up as an alternative. Phil does not take him up on the offer.
James is resentful of his life and feels betrayed by it. He took care of his alcoholic, dying father and contributes to the support of his alcoholic brother, Tom. James deals with unmanageable students every day of his life. Now he wants his share of the spoils and believes George is the way to get it. By the end of the play, Phil forces George to fire James as campaign manager in favor of outside professionals. Though the group makes up, and James remains on George’s staff, James’s needs are again regarded as lesser than the whole group’s.
Tom is one of the players on the 1952 championship team, and the younger brother of James Daley. Tom is an alcoholic and drinks heavily throughout the play. He has not attended the past three reunions, and he plans to leave town soon after this one. He is unemployed and has lived in and been kicked out of many places. Tom spends much of the play pointing out the absurdities of the other character’s positions on both life and the issues at hand. He irritates everyone, especially Coach, at some point. James is especially resentful of Tom’s life because James is forced to help support him. Tom believes James only acts out of obedience, not love. Tom tells them all why Martin, the fifth player on the team, is not present, though they do not want to believe him. Coach tries to bully Tom into improving his life, but he will not submit. At the end of the play, Tom remains part of the group but still dissenting. Only he can see that they are living in a mythical world.
Phil is one of the players on the 1952 championship team. He has remained in his hometown, running the successful business he inherited from his father. Phil is very rich and very bored. He finds pleasure in owning material possessions and in sexual relationships. Though he is married to Claire and has two children, Phil and his wife agree to have other relationships, and they both have had numerous affairs. Phil had a liaison with George’s wife, Marion, which becomes a point of contention in the play.
With his money, Phil essentially bought George the mayorship in the last election. Phil received a favorable lease on local land in return for his support. Phil has his doubts about George’s ability to win this election, and he does not want to put his money behind him again. After deciding to support George’s opponent, Norman Sharmen, then being rebuffed by him, Phil decides to fund George’s reelection only if he can bring in professional people from outside their group. Phil agrees to support George with Coach’s influence. Phil is a team player, but one with more influence than the others in the group.
George is one of the players on the 1952 championship team. He has remained in his hometown and is currently serving as mayor. George ran for this position because Coach convinced him to. Though in his mind, he has been an ideal mayor, the other characters have pointed out his many shortcomings as a public official.
In many ways, George is the focal point of the reunion. He is running for reelection and is counting on Phil’s financial support to help him win again. But George feels betrayed by those around him. His wife recently had an affair with Phil, which wounded him deeply. George accepts her explanation that she did it for his campaign, though this is not exactly true. He is also still upset that he and his wife had a child with Down’s syndrome, whom they institutionalized under advisement from Coach.
Like Coach, George believes that winning the championship was the high point of his life. He also adheres to Coach’s philosophy of victory at any cost and shares many of his prejudices. Because George wants Phil’s money, he is willing to fire his loyal friend and campaign manager James, at Phil’s behest, to get it. George does what he is told; he is a follower, not a leader as he believes himself to be.
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