Anybody want to buy a 45-year grudge thats been well-nursed?
Im trying to get rid of one, now that Ive actually met Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and talked to him.
You see, after the way Abdul-Jabbar abused Rusty Clark, the starting center for the UNC Tar Heels, in 1968 and UCLA easily beat the Heels for the NCAA championship, I have rooted against just about every team Abdul-Jabbar played on. (Back in 1968, he was known as Lewis Ferdinand Alcindor is that a great handle or what?)
I talked to Abdul-Jabbar this week about his new book, a book I opened with this irrational plea: Please, Lord. Let it bad.
It wasnt. Sasquatch in the Paint is terrific. Its ostensibly a childrens book about middle-school-age children in a culturally diverse world trying to find their identity, but its hard to imagine any literate adult who used to be a kid not loving it, too. Basketball, Abdul-Jabbar said, is just the backdrop.
Help from Sasquatch
A lot of sports books for kids, he said, emphasize the sports. While theres a lot of basketball in this book, this is also the story of a young boy trying to find his identity. ... This age is the most awkward and confusing time in our lives. Sasquatch is about kids trying to figure out their lives as they enter their teenage years. Im hoping this book will help kids navigate those rough waters a little better.
Hear, hear. Breathes there a soul among us who can look back on being 13 years old without wincing, who couldnt have used some help navigating those rough waters?
Also, is there one among us who hasnt had a conversation like this one the main character, Theo Rollins, has with his best friend, Brian:
Brian: Man, 13 sucks. No wonder its an unlucky number.
Theo: I know. Suddenly everyones piling on all this new responsibility, but without any respect. When you want to do something new, they say Youre only 13. But when they want you to do more work, they say Youre 13 now, not a kid.
Ring a bell?
Abdul-Jabbar will be signing Sasquatch in the Paint Thursday at Quail Ridge Books & Music from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
The washed-up jock me loved the book for the basketball scenes and for the fact that Theo obviously based on Kareem couldnt play a lick of basketball when he started. It was with sadistic glee that I, with my usual class, asked the all-time leading scorer in pro basketball history Did you stink at basketball when you first started playing?
Oh, very much so, he laughed. The only reason I was on my grade-school team basically was because I was tall. I had no skills, but they figured that would come along. ... I didnt like the game. I loved baseball, but my athletic talents lent themselves more to basketball.
A really good read
The adult me kept wishing as I devoured Sasquatch over two days that thered been books like this when I was a kid. The book and the powerful anti-acne medicine now available are the only two reasons Im jealous of todays kids.
Heres how you know youre reading a really good book: when you get to the last page but keep turning, looking for more. Honestly thats what I did.
Fret not, though. Abdul-Jabbar said Sasquatch the unflattering name fans of an opposing team call Theo is the first in a trilogy. That means well be able to follow Theo through high school and college.
I just hope he leaves out the part where Theos team beats the Tar Heels.
Saunders: 919-836-2811 or firstname.lastname@example.org