Late Night Jazz Station, Coach Listening

Jack might just livestream today’s poem at 9am, ET,  on his Facebook Page here,  where the video will will be saved for later viewing.  Buuuuuuttttt, he might not. He had lower back surgery yesterday, and though, at this writing, he is doing great, he might decide to sleep in…  Meanwhile, you can find all of his past Livestream videos here. 

Black lives always mattered to my father. Here is how he taught us…
(I apologize to those of you who have heard these stories…)

My father was the Captain of a black company in WWII. In boot camp he drank from a different fountain, showered, slept, ate in different tents. One day he noticed that his men’s equipment was not equal to the white companies’ equipment. He confronted the General, and his men were given equal equipment. But still the separate quarters, separate eating spaces. Later, he would wonder aloud to us why he hadn’t noticed these things then. “It’s just the way it was.”

One night, in 1958 (correction, 1957), before civil rights was in our consciousness, my father, now the basketball coach at a small college in western Pennsylvania, started three black players.

The next morning he was called into the president’s office. When Dad came home for lunch, we asked, “What was that about?”

My father said, “The president looked me in the eye and said two words, ‘Next game,’ and then he held up two fingers.”

My mother, sister, and I sat stunned, frightened. We assumed our father’s job was on the line. One obeys the president. We tried to just go ahead and eat our lunch. But after a few swallows, I couldn’t take it, and I stammered, “What’re you gonna do?”

My father finished his sandwich, wiped his fingers, paused, took a breath, and firmly but quietly said, “Next game,” and he held up four fingers.

And that’s what he did.

Titans 1957

Late Night Jazz Station, Coach Listening

Coach lets those good notes
float, swing their good way
into his late night. He smiles,
and his eyelids lower, and his
young dream comes sauntering
down the aisle of his mind.
He plays the sax.

“Here, Coach, take it,”
and he blows the meanest
wail, so mean that Bix
looks up, drops his chops,
Diz’s cheeks collapse,
and Duke and Lionel both turn
to Miles who laughs and says,
“Man, Count, we’ve all been had.”

Coach is hot. The whole joint
is swinging as he leans down,
blowing his whole damn life out
his horn. Everyone’s clapping,
stomping, shouting, “Yeah!”

Even Bird is flattened, floored,
turns to Mingus, says, “That’s
it. We got a sax.” Coach
can’t believe his ears, hits
a last long, loving note,
letting it hang in the air, feeling
the reed go limp against his tongue.
No one says a word.

Coach looks up,
gives them all a nod,
and takes his leave, the
whole place wondering
where the hell he’s been
and where the hell he’s going.

for Paul Zimmer

–Jack Ridl

Published in Between (Dawn Valley Press.)
Subsequently published in a slightly different form in Losing Season (CavanKerry Press)


On June 21 at 2pm I will give an online reading with Charles Baxter and Laurel Blossom as part of M. L. Liebler’s Living Room Online Literary Series on ZOOM. You can find the zoom link here.  I hope you can join us.

Where are the books? Visit Reader’s World or Hope-Geneva Bookstore in Holland, The Bookman in Grand Haven, the Michigan News Agency in Kalamazoo, and The Book Nook & Java Shop in Montague to find Jack’s books in West Michigan.

See all of Jack’s Facebook Livestream Videos Here.

Jack’s page on Amazon.

Click here to subscribe to receive Jack’s poems and news in your inbox.

Click here for Jack’s entire collection, In Time — poems for the current administration.

Jack on And Then Suddenly podcast by Angela Santillo.

Click here to watch Jack’s TedX talk.

Jack at Fetzer Institute on Kindness.

Jack at Fetzer Institute on Everyday Forgiveness.

Jack at Fetzer Institute on Empathy.

Jack Ridl at Fetzer Institute on Suffering and Love.

Beyond Meaning with Jack Ridl, C3: West Michigan’s Spiritual Connection

18 thoughts on “Late Night Jazz Station, Coach Listening

  1. THAT story is one of my all-star favorites. Don’t ever stop telling it.

    Hoping you feel better. Take your time healing; don’t ruin the progress. You’re needed and we can patiently wait. Sending love and healing prayers your way.

    • do know what this means. It IS a story that can e anyone’s.

      How did you know that I am so good ruining the progress and driving Julie out of her loving mind!


  2. I never tire of your stories or your poems, and this morning was a special delight…I new of all the musicians!🤗♥️♥️♥️

    Sent from my Sprint Samsung Galaxy S7.

  3. Hugs to post-surgery Jack!!!! Betsy and I were just recently recounting Buzz’s Army experiences. love to you both!

  4. Jack –

    What a great story about your father – – I hadn’t heard it.

    Keep it up – – – don’t back out of it.


    • I attended Westminster in 1958. I recall only two black basketball players on the team — Charlie “Chuckie” Davis and Ron Minnie, and the photo on the Westminster sports “history” web site shows only those two. Who were the others? BTW — in my sophomore year I lived beside you — in Mrs. Welker’s house on the corner of W. Vine and New Castle.

      • There were five black players on the 1957 team. I mis-remembered the date. See the photo above. I paid $10 to find that photo. You owe me. I never lived near W. Vine & New Castle.

      • Many thanks! I watched Westminster basketball beginning in 1954 when my sister first enrolled. I seem to remember Nick Johnson (big, rawboned guy who played underneath???) but didn’t remember he was there in ’58. Willie Davis I don’t remember. I loved “showtime” with Chuckie and I seem to remember that Minnie had a real “flat” shot.

      • I finally scrolled up enough to see the photo. Ahhhh….Harold Davis also. Football quarterback par excellence. Lots of other names there that I remember. Shoot me your email and I’ll send the $10 via PayPal. Many thanks!
        Could’ve sworn that I lived near you 59-60. You had an older sister, brunette, and you were a younger brother, redhead?

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