The Play

(Survey of Dramatic Literature)

The Coach, about sixty years old, has lived in his nostalgia-filled home nearly all of his life. In a ritual that he has continued for several years, he and four of his “boys,” as he still calls them, celebrate the twentieth anniversary of their victory in the 1952 Pennsylvania state high school basketball championship. Prominently displayed in the parlor, which provides the sole setting for the play, is the large silver trophy award with the players’ names engraved in it.

George, the current mayor of the town and a none-too-bright former insurance salesman, is facing a reelection battle against a popular reform candidate, Norman Sharmen, who is Jewish. Since George won four years earlier with a mere thirty-two votes—thanks to the Coach’s spirited support—the mayor expects a difficult campaign. Thus, the get-together is also an occasion to map out campaign strategy and solidify the group’s backing. The latter includes the expected financial contribution of Phil, a shady but successful businessman engaged in the toxic practice of open-coal strip mining, a business facilitated by George, who, as mayor, has permitted Phil to have access to lucrative land tracts. Phil seeks release from personal stress by driving his sports car at breakneck speed on the highway and by philandering with various girls and matrons in town, including Marion, George’s wife.

The Coach continues to treat his thirty-eight-year-old “boys” as he has done since the championship season, trying to keep alive the old basketball-court spirit. In fact, even though forced into early retirement for hitting an offensive student, the Coach’s still uses maxims about striving for excellence, enduring pain, building teamwork, and accepting nothing less than success. Initially the group relives the final ten seconds of the championship game, when, one point behind, the absent fifth player, Martin Roads, scored the winning basket. Martin left town soon after, apparently feeling ashamed and guilty for following the single-minded Coach’s order to foul the star black player on the opposing team: Martin was unable to persuade the Coach to return the trophy.

However, soon the magic of the evening is broken as Phil starts to inventory George’s blunders as mayor: higher taxes, more unemployment, an unpleasant...

(The entire section is 949 words.)