Identity is arguably the most important theme in Radio Golf. More specifically, African-American identity lies at the center of this play, and Wilson presents five distinct variations of that identity. For Sterling, identity has a clear moral code, and despite his past brushes with the law, he defines both himself and others in terms of what is right and wrong. For three of the other characters, identity is closely linked to the notion of time. Mame’s identity is tied to the future: how to build toward goals not yet reached. For Roosevelt, identity is rooted firmly in the present: what he can get out of life right now. Old Joe’s identity is intertwined with the past: he rarely speaks of himself or his life in the present. Finally, Harmond’s identity is an intersection of all of the other four. Unsurprisingly, he is the character who changes the most over the course of the play.
The theme of masculinity is also notably linked to the notion of identity. Both Roosevelt and Sterling talk about their genitals in very frank language. For both of them, being “a man” is defined largely in sexual and biological terms. Harmond, in describing his attraction to Mame, notes that she could be hard and soft at the same time. In essence, he sees both traditionally masculine and feminine qualities in her, and he praises her for possessing the right balance of the two. Since Mame is the only female character in the play and has a relatively minor role, Wilson is clearly placing his question about African-American identity in a male context.
Money is also an important theme in Radio Golf. Throughout the play, money not only dictates the characters’ actions but often defines the characters themselves. In their final standoff, both Roosevelt and Sterling brag about the amount of money they have. The central plot of the play revolves around monetary transactions: Old Joe’s back taxes, the money needed from various sources to fund the development project, and the illegal sale of Aunt Ester’s house. One of the principal characters even works for a bank. As a result, the difference in class between the characters of Old Joe, Sterling, Mame, Roosevelt, and Harmond is keenly felt throughout.
A subtler motif in the play is the idea of ghosts. Many of the characters are haunted by people dead or absent. Old Joe feels the presence of his mother, Aunt Ester, and a friend he lost in the war. Most of all, Harmond is frequently reminded of his absent father and brother. The former was a stern businessman, while the latter was an independent soul who lost his life in the Vietnam War. These ghosts only further entrench the play in the notion of history.