Coach in Effigy

Well, it’s time for The Final Four.

What does this have to do with this post-election project, you ask. I hope it will come clear.

My sister and I, living as a basketball coach’s kids, have never gotten past the impact of abusive fans. To this day, no matter what the team, after any game we’ve watched or read about be it college/university or high school, now likely even junior high, elementary school we immediately think about the family of the coach of the losing team. My father said to a writer from Sports Illustrated who was writing about him, “I love this game. But I don’t understand most fans.”

I think it was 1957 or ’58. My father started three black players. The next morning he was asked to report to the president’s office. When he came back for lunch, we asked him, “So, what was that about?” He said, “Well, the president said that he’d gotten phone calls. Then he leaned across his desk and said, ‘Next game,’ and he held up just two fingers.”  We–my mother, sister, and I–sat silent. Then I ventured, “Next game? What are you gonna do?” My father, who was quite a modest and soft-spoken man, replied, “Next game–”  And he held up four fingers.

Coach in Effigy

His daughter saw him first,
hanging from the maple
that draped its old arms
over the house, his head
blooming from the rope
that strangled his neck.
In the morning’s moonlight,
she read their name
scrawled like a scar
across his chest.  She
remembered the way
his hands had held her
years ago when, bloodied
from a fall, she’d let
the scream we all carry
go to him.  He seemed
to hold it in his hands.
Now, within this losing
season, she wants to take
this anonymous lynching
in her arms, ask the hands
that made it and the fists
that rose against it
to join, stand around her
as she sings the only song,
lets the head rest, lets
the heart give out.

–Jack Ridl

First published in Westminster Review

Anthologized in 9MM, edited by Ryan G. Van Cleve and Virgil Suarez

Published in the collection Losing Season (CavanKerry Press)

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22 thoughts on “Coach in Effigy

    • Donna, my father would be so touched by what you wrote. And he would say thank you and kinda shrug because he would add that he was just doing what anyone would do.
      Thank you sooooo much!

  1. Ah Jack–A long childhood for an introverted seer to live it would seem, even with a humble and ethical father. Thank you for another fine poem.

    • Meg, What a remarkable and deeply moving insight. But of course it is–that’s who you are.
      Yep, it was a very complex childhood, with me often thinking I was the wrong son for a coach,
      feeling for him over this.
      Love always,

    • Hi Graham,
      Yeah, that was one frightening experience. And to think that it was done by two guys who Dad supported as managers of the team.
      You might get a kick out of how much David Orr loves the story of the Three/Two/Four guys starting!

  2. Thanks again.Thinking of you & Julie . . . miss you.The  . . . whatever-the-name-of-your houseboat . . . must miss you. As we do too.

    From: RIDL.COM To: Sent: Thursday, March 30, 2017 7:33 AM Subject: [New post] Coach in Effigy #yiv5700693816 a:hover {color:red;}#yiv5700693816 a {text-decoration:none;color:#0088cc;}#yiv5700693816 a.yiv5700693816primaryactionlink:link, #yiv5700693816 a.yiv5700693816primaryactionlink:visited {background-color:#2585B2;color:#fff;}#yiv5700693816 a.yiv5700693816primaryactionlink:hover, #yiv5700693816 a.yiv5700693816primaryactionlink:active {background-color:#11729E;color:#fff;}#yiv5700693816 | jujuridl posted: “Well, it’s time for The Final Four.What does this have to do with this post-election project, you ask. I hope it will come clear.My sister and I, living as a basketball coach’s kids, have never gotten past the impact of abusive fans. To this day,” | |

  3. Gosh I just realized when I said thanks I meant that as good thing—hope you didn’t think otherwise. ❤️

    Sent from my iPhone


  4. Jack –

    What a great story about your Dad. I don’t need to tell you that he was an amazing man, well ahead of his time in a lot of ways and always gracious, sincere and gentlemanly. A lot of people learned a lot of good things from your Dad…myself included.

    And your weekly writings also bring perspective to all of your readers. Thanks.

    Warm best wishes,


    Christopher J. Shinkman, PhD

    5607 Wood Way

    Bethesda, MD 20816

    301-229-4427 (phone and FAX)

    240-383-8357 (cell)

    • Chris! What a joy to hear from ya! I know how much what you say here would mean to Dad. And he would thank you and just
      kinda say that he’s just being who he is, no big deal. He has certainly stayed with us through great good souls such as you.
      Thank you for your kind words about the Thursday Project. It helps me keep it going. I sure hope that the days are
      being good to you.
      With care

  5. Wow, Jack, your stories are as good as your poems! I love learning this background and will share it, along with the poem, when I see David later today. By the way, I picked NC to go all the way. Who knows!?

    • That was a wise pick. I, of course, had Kentucky what with Coach Calipari being
      a long long time family friend. I am very glad that you appreciate the preface/stories.
      That helps me along!

  6. Hi Jack, long time admirer of both you and your father (not to forget your mother)…Really appreciate your poetry, and not sure if you set a time limit on your Thursday postings…I look forward to them each week…And would like you to consider, if you haven’t already, the continuation of these as long as time permits…Bill H

    • This means a lot, Bill. My father has stayed around because of good souls such as you.
      I wrote in the preface to this project right after the election that I plan to continue
      until this political nightmare ends. Alas, I have enough poems for that to go on for
      a long time–he said with a rueful laugh.

  7. Jack, remembering Buzz, I’m not surprised at his response. He was one of the strongest people I have ever met. Tom

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