Men can always talk sports, so says my husband. Seems especially true when you're talking about North Carolininian men and basketball. There is a deep, innate love of the sport, crossing class lines and racial bias. It runs from Tobacco Road like a veinous system up the Blue Ridge and flows seaward into the Cape Fear. Tired of your Wake boyfriend? Show up at Cameron in a dark blue and white clown wig. Want to fire up your Wolfpack daddy? Put your son in a Carolina Tshirt. (Won't do that again...) If you want to depict social unrest and Southern tradition and generational dynamics, you couldn't ask for a better metaphor than basketball.
So goes "Baptists on the Edge." More than any other story in PARLOUS ANGELS, Ed Southern illustrates the unspoken integrity that is passed from father to son and how little the canyon-like split between the haves and shoulda haves matters. In a contentious basketball game between the Paw Creek Baptists and Providence Road, ('nuff said in the team names), a father reflects on a rough game from his youth between the privileged Reynolds High School and his own underdog, Mineral Springs, that quickly erupted into a brawl.
As time often dictates between one generation and the next, the son easily pushes back the Paw Creek Baptists and leads Providence Road to win. The father's lower class upbringing gives him a vantage point in his seat high in the bleachers of privileged Providence Road. He realizes the focus with which his son plays, despite the catcalls of the opposing team's pastor and the taunting of the losing team by his fellow upper class parents, is the legacy that matters. His superiority is measured not by the car he drove to the gym or even by the skills with which his son plays basketball. It's the integrity he passed on to his son. And the greater gift is his son also knows it.
What lessons did your father/mother/coach teach you?
What lessons do you think, not hope, you'll leave to those you influence?