PAT CONROY-AMERICA'S MOST BELOVED STORYTELLER -- IS BACK!"I was born to be a point guard, but not a very good one. . . .There was a time in my life when I walked through the world known to myself and others as an athlete. It was part of my own definition of who I was and certainly the part I most respected. When I was a young man, I was well-built and agile and ready for the rough and tumble of games, and athletics provided the single outlet for a repressed and preternaturally shy boy to express himself in public....I lost myself in the beauty of sport and made my family proud while passing through the silent eye of the storm that was my childhood."
The best-selling novelist, who loves sports but claims to be an indifferent athlete, here recounts a seminal season playing basketball at the Citadel. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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December 31, 2001
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Excerpt from My Losing Season by Pat Conroy
Before First Practice
It was on the morning of October 15, 1966, that the final sea-son officially began. For a month and a half, my teammates and I had gathered in the field house to lift weights, do isometric exercises, and scrimmage with each other. Right off, I could tell our sophomores were special and were going to make our team faster, scrappier, and better than the year before. In the heat of September, there was a swiftness and feistiness to the flow of these pickup games that was missing in last year's club. My optimism about the coming season lifted perceptibly as I observed my team beat up on each other in the vagrancy of our uncoached and unmonitored scrimmages.
I could feel the adrenaline rush of excitement begin as I donned my cadet uniform in the dark, and it stayed with me as I marched to mess with R Company. I could barely concentrate on the professors' voices in my classes in Coward Hall as I faced the reality of the new season and stared at the clock with impatience. It was my fourth year at The Citadel and the fourth time October 15 had marked the beginning of basketball practice. Mel Thompson was famous for working his team hard on the first day and traditionally ran us so much that the first practice was topped off by one of us vomiting on the hardwood floor.
I made my way to the locker room early that afternoon because I wanted some time to myself to shoot around and think about what I wanted to accomplish this season. Four of my teammates were already dressed when I entered the dressing room door. The room carried the acrid fragrance of the past three seasons for me, an elixir of pure maleness with the stale smell of sweat predominant yet blended with the sharp, stinging unguents we spread on sore knees and shoulders, Right Guard deodorant spray, vats of foot powder to ward off athlete's foot, and deodorant cakes in the urinals. It was the powerful eau de cologne of the locker room. I realized that my life as a college athlete was coming to its inevitable end, but I did not know that you had to leave the fabulous odors of youth behind when you hurried out into open fields to begin life as an adult.
As I entered the room, I waved to Al Beiner, the equipment manager. He and his assistant Joe "Rat" Eubanks were making sure that the basketballs were all inflated properly. Carl Peterson, another assistant, had just returned with a cartful of freshly laundered towels, still warm to the touch.
"The Big Day," Al said. He was reserved and serious and considered the players juvenile and frivolous. Al's presence was priestlike, efficient.
"Senior year," Rat said. "It all comes together for the big guy this year, right, Pat?"
Joe Eubanks was the only man on campus who called me "the big guy." Five feet five inches tall, he was built with the frail bones of a tree sparrow. His size humiliated him but his solicitousness to the players made him beloved in the locker room. Joe hero-worshiped the players, a rarity at The Citadel. His wide-eyed appreciation of me reminded me of the looks my younger brothers gave me. My brothers thought I was the best basketball player in the world, and I did nothing to discourage this flagrant misconception.