Themes and Meanings
That Championship Season is about middle America, its cult of mediocrity, and the way in which it views success. Jason Miller emphasizes that the American Dream has become a nightmare by focusing on the emptiness of the lives of men, who try to preserve their friendships and their egos despite the compromises they have made. The play dramatizes a whole sweep of contemporary life. As the celebratory evening progresses along with the drinking, the players’ masks and inhibitions become transparent. Their exposed lives are a metaphor for an America in decay, a point which the Coach continues to emphasize.
Despite the bombastic chatter about the glorious championship game and the desperate efforts, urged by the Coach, to recover the team spirit, it becomes clear that these men are insecure and bewildered, each seeking his own redemption but finding none. Only the alcoholic Tom and the absent Martin seem to understand that the prize was not worth the hateful competition. When the Coach’s rallying speech tells them that “lose” is not in their vocabulary because he made them all winners, the audience understands that the opposite is true: They have lost the game of life, which neither their rasping revelations nor their boozy camaraderie can conceal. They cling to the past as the celebration degenerates into a series of brutal confrontations and recriminations over race, ethnicity, religion, and women, as the narrowness and the shabbiness of their empty lives is revealed. In fact, it is their beloved, slogan-slinging Coach who put these bigoted and McCarthyite ideas into their heads, including the belief that winning in sports and life is everything.