Wednesday, February 15, 2012


A few years back, my brother Andy gave me a book titled The White Boy Shuffle. It is an incredibly poetic, imaginative, and perceptive work that makes me both laugh and cry. Now upon my second read, I realize this may be one of my favorite novels of all time.

Thought I would share one of the more lighthearted and fun excerpts from chapter four:

That first day Nick [Scoby] and I went to the park, about fifty players were standing in the hot sun, waiting their turn to play. When the game in progress ended, Scoby walked onto the court, touched his toes, alternately lifted his feet by the insteps until his heels touched his butt, and waited for whoever had winners to tell him who else was on his team. There was some unspoken protocol at work, and Nicholas apparently had diplomatic status. Soon a huge crowd gathered around the sidelines. Right from the start there was an intensity on the court that hadn't been present in the previous game. Players who usually spent most of their precious court time arguing and disputing every call were silent and stealing glances at Scoby whenever they made a shot or did something particularly impressive. Scoby's pregame announcement - "Niggers who come here for the attention best to leave now" - seemed to have had some effect.

I watched Nicholas play a few games and tried to figure what the big deal was. His team always won, but it wasn't like he was out there performing superhuman feats. He didn't sprout wings and fly, he didn't seem to have eyes in the back of his head. There was always someone who jumped higher than he could, handled the ball better. Nick would make five or six baskets and that was it.


We played until nightfall. During what was shaping up to be the last game of the evening, it became impossible to see the basket farthest away from the streetlight. It was as if we were playing at the lunar surface during the half-moon. One side of the court was in complete darkness and the other fairly well lit. The score was tied at ten-ten and someone suggested we call the game a draw on account of darkness before someone got hurt. Scoby said, "Next basket wins." My team had the ball and we were shooting at the visible basket. The high schooler in the gray shirt took a short shot that circled around the rim and fell out, right into Nick's hands. Scoby took two spped dribbles, losing the man who was guarding him, and headed upcourt. When he crossed half-court he disappeared into the darkness, then quickly reappeared in the light without the ball. A second later you heard the crashing of the chain net as the ball arced through it.


Skipping the ball through my legs, imitating the moves I'd seen during the course of the day, I rounded the corner onto Sherbourne Drive and realized what Scoby's rep was for: he never missed. I mean never.

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