I am currently in Canada—on assignment, as we like to say self-importantly. One nice thing about being in Canada, aside from the comforting knowledge that Generalissimo Stephen Harper’s socialized health-care death panels are on the job day and night: the hotel drops The Globe and Mail at your door in the morning. I’m sure many Canadians nurse various grudges and resentments against the national newspaper, but to an American print nerd, the Globe strikes a cool, trim, modernist pose that some smart American rag should copy. ANYWAY, today’s G & M carried a small obituary for Jim Carroll, punk-poet author of The Basketball Diaries, along with the surpassingly weird and disturbing photo of the deceased we see here.
No one really thinks of Diaries as a sports book, but for my money the opening lines are some of the most perfect lines ever written on the subject of youth sports. Regard:
Today was my first Biddy League game and my first day in any organized basketball league. I’m enthused about life due to this exciting event. The Biddy League is a league for anyone 12 yrs. old or younger. I’m actually 13 but my coach Lefty gave me a fake birth certificate.
And there you have it! In three sentences, Carroll incorporates boyish charm, the visceral affirmation of sport, cynicism, cheating and a young man’s first introduction to the machinations of the adult world, in the form of a coach. Named Lefty. Next time your local jock columnist unleashes some blather about the character-building joys of under-age sport, consider Jim Carroll your tonic dose of reality.