Losing Season by Jack Ridl

losing-season1Cindy: Every April I lament the end of March Madness and my college basketball tv habit. It gives me more time to read again, but I miss the game. Do I have a treat for those of you in my hightop shoes! Losing Season (CavanKerry Press, 2009) is a collection of basketball poems by poet and professor Jack Ridl. Ridl grew up in the basketball world of his Hall of Fame coach father, C. G. “Buzz” Ridl, and he brings to life everyone involved in high school sports in this fine collection. There’s the coach, of course, struggling through a losing season being second-guessed by one and all in the small town:

At Harry’s Coffee Shop

Dan Perkins says, “They
would’ve won if Coach
had taken out Frank. He
was three for fifteen. What
the hell was he thinking?
He’d suddenly catch fire?”
Kenny Antonelli’s sure
a zone would have forced
them out. ” “They killed us
underneath.” Harry shakes
his head. “Use a press. He
never uses a press. Not
once all year.” Tom Smith
rolls his eyes. “You guys
are as dumb as he is. He
shouldn’t have cut Ted’s
kid. That kid can hit.”
The steam from their coffee
clings to the air. Outside,
the snow keeps coming down.

Coach knows exactly what
they’re saying. Sometimes
he sees himself standing
behind the counter, wiping
it clean as they come in,
saying, “Coffee, boys?”
asking after their families,
how their own work’s going.
He pours the coffees, tosses
them packets of sugar, hands
them the cream, says he’s
heard they have the answers.
He then invites them all
to sit beside him on the bench,
tell him what to do, and when.

We hear from the star players and Scrub, the guy who never gets in, but works hard in practice (I relate to Scrub as I sat a mean bench on varsity myself), the cheerleaders, the disgruntled parents, the ref, the timer, the former great in the stands, the teacher assigned to ticket sales….it takes a village to build a high school sports team. Think Spoon River Anthology (but no one’s dead). While not specifically published for teens, these poems will have great appeal in high school collections and in literature and writing classes.

People say to Jack, “You’re a poet, what would YOU know about sports?” But according to a newspaper account of the book’s release, he’s been hearing lots from the sports world, including an interview by Jim Nantz of CBS and phone calls from Digger Phelps and Dick Vitale who coached against Ridl’s father. Ridl told Vitale “I’m now a PTP’er, baby, a Prime Time Poet.” Celebrate the last week of National Poetry Month with a poet that should be in everyone’s starting line-up.

Overtime: If you visit Jack’s blog today, you’ll find out that a number of poets in Naomi Shihab Nye’s new collection, Time You Let Me In: 25 Poets Under 25 are past student’s of Jack’s!

nonfiction-mondayThanks to Check it Out blog for hosting this week’s Nonfiction Monday roundup!

About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

3 Comments on "Losing Season by Jack Ridl"

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  1. edspicer@mac.com' Ed Spicer says:

    Jack Ridl was Billy Collins long before Billy Collins was Billy Collins. And, in Jack’s own words, “I kicked Billy Collins’ butt!” (Both are great poets)

  2. vivian.dickenson@gmail.com' J. Dickenson says:

    @Ed We must have been at the same reading! Of course, he was was joking. Ridl is awed by Collins’ success. He (Ridl) just read in Montague, Michigan, at the Book Nook there. Another book coming out next year? Damn.

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