In this finely crafted, Pulitzer and Tony award-winning play, actor/playwright Jason Miller paints a sad picture of a group of former basketball players whose later lives and careers never lived up to their glory days as high school champions. This odd assortment of characters, minus one teammate, attends a 25-year reunion at their old coach’s house to reminisce and relive that shining moment when they captured the championship. In a story told with biting humor and dramatic insight, we see that what lies beneath the bravado and braggadocio of these middle-aged men is a quiet desperation and the realization that although they were the stars of yesteryear, they are nothing more than floundering fish in the proverbial small pond. After all these years, they still look to their coach for guidance, but what they get instead are a bunch of hollow platitudes and racist, bigoted, anti-Semitic rants.
Each character, in his own way, embodies a different type of personal failure and they are thus pathetic creatures, with little to garner audience sympathy. First, there’s George, the current mayor of the small town in Pennsylvania where the story takes place, who is battling current opinion of his political ineptitude and a charismatic Jewish opponent for his seat. Then we have James, a junior high school principal, who is riding on George’s coattails, hopefully to a seat on the local school board, and James’ brother Tom, who never actually made a name for himself anywhere, traveling instead from town to town in an alcoholic haze. Phil is the most financially successful of the group. He became rich through the strip-mining business that he inherited from his father, obtaining permits through backhanded deals and political patronage. And although he supports George financially, he is also having an affair with George’s wife.
The fifth character in this ensemble is the Coach, who still expects his boys to live up to the promise of their youthful championship. He is a racist and a bigot whose personal heroes were Joseph McCarthy and Father Charles Coughlin. He encourages the men to never accept anything less than success, and to do whatever it takes to win, no matter how underhanded, or how dirty the play.