Ex–Basketball Player – John Updike
Never put all your eggs in one basket. It is the ever so common tale of a talented kid with broken dreams. Flick was an extremely gifted basketball player in high school with endless talent and lofty expectations but had nothing to fall back on once those dreams where shattered. In the poem, Ex-Basketball player, John Updike uses basketball imagery and puns to relate to the larger themes of broken dreams, and a predictable future.
In the first stanza, John Updike writes about Pearl Avenue. This symbolizes the path that the students from the high-school can take. It is the road that Flick Webb is on as he is a standout basketball player at his school. The adjectives that Updike uses to describe Pearl Avenue; bends, stops, and cut are all terms that are associated with basketball movements. When he says that the road stops, he is foreshadowing the path to stardom stopping for Flick. Next he states that “Berth’s Garage is on the corner facing west.” Here John Updike is hinting at the road ending for Flick. He goes on to say that “Most days, you will find Flick Webb,” referring to the future of Flick being spent here at the garage.
The second stanza continues with the basketball imagery. Updike writes “Flick stands tall among the idiot pumps.” Here he is refereeing to Flick being taller than the opponents he used to play against in basketball. Next he talks about the pumps being five to a side. This is also a connection to basketball because there are five players playing for each team at any given time. He also refers to “rubber elbows hanging loose and low.” This can relate to a number of basketball items from the rubber basketball, to rubber shoes.
John Updike uses the third stanza to illustrate to the reader how talented Flick really was. He gives details and exact numbers of points that Flick was scoring per game, saying, “He bucketed three hundred ninety points,” referring to the total amount of points that Flick had in ’46. By saying that the ball loved flick, he is saying that the game came very easy to Flick. He was a natural and made it look very easy. In the last line of the third stanza, John says “His hands were like wild birds.” At this point the reader may understand the name Flick actually refers to basketball as well. When a player is shooting the ball, his hand will flick, and Updike further illustrates that, meaning that his hands were flicking like wild birds. Also, the last name of Webb refers to the basketball net which is made by tying a thick strong into knots like a spider web.
The fourth stanza is where John Updike ties in the theme of not putting all your eggs in one basket. In this stanza, Updike writes about Flick’s current situation working at the garage. He writes “He never learned a trade, He just sells gas.” Here John is hammering home the point that Flick relied too heavily on his basketball career. He did not take his education seriously and did not learn a trade. In...