Themes

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Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 262

On the surface level, Tigerland is a sports story. It celebrates the teamwork, perseverance, and dedication that enabled two high-school teams to become state champions in the same year. As the team members and coaches and most of the other characters are male, it is a boys' coming-of-age story for...

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On the surface level, Tigerland is a sports story. It celebrates the teamwork, perseverance, and dedication that enabled two high-school teams to become state champions in the same year. As the team members and coaches and most of the other characters are male, it is a boys' coming-of-age story for the individual participants. On another level, it has a place in U.S. civil rights literature, as it chronicles the challenges that poor, predominantly African-American schools face in the competitive world of sports, especially at a time when equality of education was extremely controversial.

Important themes are the role of individuals in combating social problems, which can only be achieved when people from different backgrounds work together. Parents, administrators, teachers, as well as coaches joined forces—even as they disagreed about goals and methods—to shape the environment in which the teams succeeded, if only for that season.

The impact of larger social environments on specific settings is also significant here. The season in which the boys won their title began a few months after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. and its terrible aftermath. The author presents the anger and dismay of black Americans as felt and experienced on a daily basis, not just as a backdrop for the events narrated in the book.

Another issue that shapes Haygood's intent and achievement is the impact of racism in sports. Historical and contemporary information about segregation and discrimination in baseball and basketball, and the halting efforts of white school administrators, school boards, and professional team owners all figure into his discussion.

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