June 14, 2016

More than Rivals

Finally, a glorious day out here on the deck...or in my treehouse, as I refer to it. See for yourself.

Thanks to the lovely Toby tree growing beside the deck the whole thing is in the shade except during the late afternoon and early evening hours when the table is in the sun.  I can fix that with a tilt of the umbrella, though, so it's all good.

So, I'm able to sit out here to "work" today, which makes it a lot more enjoyable...and there's a good mystery book waiting for me on the swing when I am done.  But to get to that point, I need to tell you about another book I just finished reading.

More than Rivals by Ken Abraham tells the story of two young boys growing up in Gallatin, Tennessee during the turbulent and racially charged 1960s.  Eddie Sherlin was white, Bill Ligon was black.  Both boys came from poor families. Both loved the game of basketball.

Ken Abraham weaves an instantly gripping and readable tale about the boys, their town and the times they lived in.  Even the abundance of basketball was not off-putting to someone who is not interested in the sport.  Abraham has a way with words that leaves the reader knowing just what it was like to be Eddie Sherlin walking down the halls of Gallatin High or Bill Ligon holding court at the Oakes Drive-In.

Eddie and Bill meet by chance when Eddie, who is obsessed with basketball at the young age of 11, hears the familiar sound of a basketball bouncing off a backboard and goes to check it out.  The problem is that he had been cutting through the "colored" neighborhood.  He finds Bill Ligon and some of his friends playing.  Eddie watches and when one of the boys has to leave, Eddie asks to play.  This is unheard of in Gallatin in the 1960s.  Gallatin is the kind of town where whites and blacks walk on opposite sides of the street, don't shop in the same stores, go to the same schools, or drink from the same water fountain.

The friendship Eddie and Bill form continues and remains a secret until Bill's family moves to another house on the other side of town.  They don't see each other, but as they grow and become standout athletes in their respective schools, they are aware of each other and follow each other's basketball careers.

Then in 1970, when both boys are seniors in high school, and integration is looming over Gallatin despite fear and opposition from the locals, an amazing, once-in-a-lifetime event takes place.  Both of Gallatin's high school basketball teams are in the final for the district championship.  That's right, the white school and the black school are playing each other for the title!  In tiny Gallatin, tension is high and bad blood is welling up everywhere.  What happens at that championship game is the stuff of legend and that's exactly what it's become.

I can't recommend this book enough.  As a true story it is a rare jewel and an inspiration.  In our own troubled times it gives rise to a lingering hope for humanity.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks for taking the time to visit and leave me a comment. I do try to respond to all comments....unless you're a spammer. If you're a spammer....GO AWAY!