Glenn discovered the drama of prep sports in the early 1990’s when Lincoln High School felt the impact of Stephon Marbury, a point guard of considerable talent who guided Lincoln to a state championship and would go on to an All-Star career in the National Basketball Association. Most obviously, Jump Ball draws on the roller coaster emotions of that experience—the Tigers of fictitious Tower High School ride the talents of point guard Garrett James to position themselves for a run at a state title. Among the voices of the Tower players and fans, Glenn juxtaposes broadcast accounts of pivotal games, providing not only a linear thread to the anthology but exploiting as well the pulsing suspense inherent in any championship season. The reader is caught up by the persuasive tension of the unfolding season. Here, voices recur as the season plays out, and characters are given nuance. For instance, readers follow a hopeless crush that a female student manager has for one of the players; one player’s ill-advised decision to play despite a bad heart; a player’s struggle to conceal the depths of his family’s poverty and his own homelessness; and the aching loneliness of a coach’s wife.
Glenn deploys his characters to assess the cult of the jock that arguably has come to challenge academics in high school education. He explores the mental stamina and emotional register of the athletes themselves; the pressure to win despite the clichés that sports is not about the score; the jealousy that star players generate not only among students but also among teammates; the distaste some teachers feel for the glorification of game playing; and the dreams that such success engenders in lesser others who see the single talented star as validation that dreaming is not unrealistic. More dramatically, in stepping inside the heads of...
(The entire section is 753 words.)