Press Maravich, In Exile More Or Less, Boone, North Carolina

It is three, perhaps four, in the morning,
And he is, as is his custom, fully awake
(Slumber not being a restful place,
A habitat of undesirable outcomes, on and off court
Rife with pasts he can neither change nor comprehend)
He is not replaying the evening’s blowout loss
(Thirty-eight points, to be exact;
He always knows the final margin)
A tragicomedy staged for the benefit of a few dozen disinterested spectators
Who had taken the time to mill about the school’s tiny gym
(Player friends and family, mostly,
Punctuated with a few students stopping to warm up
As they were coming or going from some off-campus gin mill,
Or the odd five-and-six –year old running unencumbered through the bleachers.)
He is scheming, devising, alchemizing some offensive formula,
The salt shakers double-screening for the wine glass
As he seeks some methodology, some incantation
That will transform his charges,
Cursed with what he considers an unholy trinity
(Look at those sonsofbitches, he half-snarls, half-sighs,
Too short, too damn slow, too little savvy)
Into something which can implement his vision
There had been such a player once,
An extension of that vision, indeed its living embodiment,
Whose feel for the game went beyond mere understanding,
But was something inherent, genetic, wired into his very being
(But something else as well, something which could not be contained
By offensive sets, not subject to the whims of how many fingers
Some point guard flashed as he walked the ball over half court.
Like Geppetto’s afflicted creation, he didn’t need any damn strings,
And eventually told the old puppet master
That he could shove the rods up his ass.)
They had, in ways no less painful for their inevitability, failed each other,
So the old man ended up here, and as he moved coins and condiments
In picks and curls and back-door cuts,
He thinks about how a young assistant told him after one loss,
Well, if you’re going to get your ass kicked, at least it’s a pretty spot to do it.
He’d almost let the kid have it both barrels, but he let it go,
Figuring the kid would find out the deal soon enough,
That the woods around this place were nothing but dark,
And the only thing they would do is fucking close in on you.

(AUTHOR’S NOTE: This piece rests heavily–indeed, you can almost hear it groan from the strain–on Mark Kriegel’s Pistol: the life of Pete Maravich which is not only a first-rate biography of Pistol Pete Maravich, but an even better book about his father Press.)


5 thoughts on “Press Maravich, In Exile More Or Less, Boone, North Carolina

  1. Now you’ve done it, made me want to go out and buy yet another book. Well, what else is money for anyway, I suppose?
    Pistol Pete’s dad must have been one obsessed dude. I suppose most sons end up toiling in their dad’s shadow one way or another.
    Nicely done,

  2. They asked Pete for some words, ya know, to tell kids, who hoped to one day be like him and play in the NBA. Pete was maybe thinking about his dad or maybe not?…. when he said, ”well, i didn’t get here by hoping,”

  3. Good poem. Your last two poems have been about basketball, one about Maravich, the other about Bill Robenzine. When are we getting back to Menomenee Falls and all that? WK, you have a great and very dry sense of humor, judging from your comments over the years. I like your stuff, but why don’t you write something humorous? By the way, Pete was from Coreapolis, originally, right near Ambridge, where my mom is from. It’s amazing about how many professional athletes come from Beaver County. Mike Ditka, Joe Namath (Beaver Falls), Tony Dorsett (Aliquippa), and many, many, many others. Mostly football players, of course. Beaver County is like a miniature Texas in that football is such a big thing there. On Friday nights, if you wanted to break in to a house in Ambridge, it would have been pretty easy, because everyone was at the Ambridge Bridgers football game. My uncle Ralph, though, was a boxer. He used to play hookie and hitch hike to Pittsburgh and box in a gym. Boy, was my grandfather delighted when he found out about THAT! (He WASN’T.) It’s incredible how we have so many boxers on both sides of my family.

    NIce job, WK, but please get your poems back to Menomenee Falls soon.


    1. Kreigel also wrote a bigoraphy of Joe Namath, so I’m guessing he must have some strong connection to Western PA, if not Beaver County its ownself. I’d been trying to write a Press Maravich piece for a very long time, and when I finally had a way to pull it together (well, more or less, anyway) I wanted to get it down before I lost it, and the Robinzine piece was occasioned by Daryl Dawkins’ death (although I’d wanted to write a piece about Z for a long time as well), so I’m not veering off into the Basketball Diaries or anything like that.

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