January 7, 2010

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Losing Season, by Jack Ridl, CavanKerry Press, 2009, 89 pages
Given that Jack Ridl’s father was Hall of Fame college b-ball coach Charles “Buzz” Ridl, it’s no surprise that Losing Season is such a lucid look into the ways amateur sports affect people’s everyday lives. What is surprising is how unsettling the whole thing is in Ridl’s world.

From the cheerleaders to the obsessive parents to the ways in which American culture is saturated with sports metaphors, Ridl has a scary way of looking beyond the sport and into the way it drives pretty much all levels of our collective psyche.

In “Before the Game” a school custodian watches the fans enter and thinks of the cleaning job in front of him even as he reminisces about his own son who played basketball. In “No Game Plan” the coach of a student athlete watches as his star player is pried out from a car after having an accident.

Ridl doesn’t give you the whole story, just moments in a larger one. And sometimes it’s not even directly about sports, but sports is always a looming cloud — rarely present but always responsible.

And in that Ridl’s wonderful new book accomplishes one more thing — it’s a book about basketball that doesn’t require you to know or even care about basketball because in the end Losing Season is about life. A Dan Szczesny