Pat Conroy wrote best sellers like the Prince of Tides, The Lords of Discipline, and The Great Santani. Some were made into popular movies. And then their was My Losing Season, a memoir of his year playing on a losing basketball team, at the Citadel, a military college in Charleston, South Carolina. He will tell you in that book, that winning is easy. Sure enough. That Americans love winners. That losing is hard.... and that it saved his life. That last part got my attention and interest.
This is not a feel good jock book. It is, though, about basketball, which I coached and love. It’s also more about growing up, and a family where the father, an authoritarian, tyrannical Marine colonel, beat his wife and children. And a son, who finds athletics his escape and avenue into adulthood. It’s describes life in a military school and the "plebe system" common to all schools of that type. It was the most demeaning type of "character building" education you could imagine. Pat is front row, second from the left, on the team picture.
There is much in this book that I found truely appalling and ordinarily would not even consider reading. The authors writing style is often over the top, with plenty of seemingly exaggerated adjectives. There is also basketball jargon and "insider" talk. And yet, it was one of those books I couldn’t put down. Perhaps, it was my curiosity as to the bottom line. Where did all the physical and mental abuse at home, in school and on the practice floor lead ? Were there any redeeming qualities in this story? How did a boy with such a background become a world renowned writer? What happened to the men, whose promising team, was broken by another authoritarian and insensitive character, their college coach? That’s why I stuck with it to end. Was it worth it? Yes. Or as Conroy claims, loss is the experience that teaches us the most about dealing with life itself. I believe that...
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