: : : Bleachers

About the Book

Even football coaches get old and die. Eddie Rake arrived in Messina as an "unknown and untested twenty-eight-year old coach...his influence on the town was great." By the age of thirty-nine, he was a legend, though he could carry a grudge for years and had developed a mean streak over the years. When he was fifty, he was given a two-story house located a block behind the Methodist church, unseen from the bleachers.

Now, he is seventy and at the end of his fight with cancer. Some of the old players return to attend the funeral. In the thirty-four years as coach, the Field is named after him, and a bronze bust of his head is on a monument for all to see; the players grew to hate their hero because of his huge demands on them. He out-lived his use to the school and was fired some years before his demise. At UT-K we have such a vain-glorious head coach who doesn't know when it is time to step down; he fires the others coaches and blames them for a bad season. Winning is all that matters, no matter who gets hurt in the process. The glory days were long gone.

His impending death is what brings Neely Crenshaw back to Messina from Orlando, Florida, after fifteen years. He visits the school during the day, "Had it really been fifteen years? For a moment he felt eighteen again, just a kid who hated algebra and English and needed nothing those classrooms had to offer because he would make his fortune on the football field." He was #19, "a high school all-American, a highly recruited quarterback with a golden arm...maybe the greatest [Spartan] ever produced." He'd been the star quarterback for three seasons with over a hundred touchdowns. "He'd never lost on this field." His best friend, Paul Curry, had caught forty-seven of the sixty-three touchdown passes Neely threw to him. "They had been co-captains. They were close friends who'd drifted apart over the years" but kept in touch.

As the players converge on the Field of their Dreams, Blanchard Teague playes tapes of the radio coverage of the games and they re-live those golden days of past glory. Gossip reached them as the church chimes sound the death peal. The bleachers were silent now, waiting for the memorial service where Neely would deliver the eulogy. Folks were remembering how the great quarterback received his career-ending injury when three players from A&M kicked his left knee, completely rupturing the ligaments and busted the kneecap." After the funeral there on the Rake Field, Neely makes amends (or tries to) with the girl he had left behind, Cameron Lane. But that's another story.
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