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Written by Timothy Sexton
The teller of the tale is the star halfback at Logos College, a small institution for higher learning in Texas. In his early 20s, Gary is a bit older than many of his colleagues and is only at Logos because he self-destructively ended his rising star in collegiate sports at Syracuse, Miami and the state universities of both Penn and Michigan. A talented player, Gary is handicapped by a quality not often found among football players: he is approaching a metaphysical crisis over which lingers obsessions with nuclear annihilation. The world is too much unstructured for the likes of Gary Harkness which is why seems to excel at on the rigidly constructed proving ground of the gridiron. A deep-rooted nihilism eventually proves his psychological undoing as he demonstrates an incapacity to find meaning following the anticlimactic emotional disillusionment that sets in after the Big Game.
One of the important figures that holds Gary’s life together before nihilism turns to despair is the commander of the school’s ROTC and a professor who teaches a course in modern warfare that Gary audits. So moved by Staley’s command of his subject is Gary that he seeks him out on his time and enjoys long conversations with the Major that delve into more metaphysical realms of the potential for survival in the face of nuclear attack.
The very first black player on the Logo football team—the novel takes place in the early 70s—Robinson is transfer from a more impressive university like Gary Harkness. His recruitment from Columbia by the football team’s head coach proves the catalyst that transform Logos into a conference power matched only by West Centrex Biotechnical Institute. Although his rooming facilities are segregated from every other player, he becomes one of Gary’s closest friends. Like Gary, Taft is experiencing an existential crisis himself as he deals with football being both a boon and a bane.
Myrna is Gary’s best friend, partner in nihilism and classmate in their Mexican geography class. At 165 pounds, Myrna is hardly the sexy cheerleader type that most star halfbacks go on picnics with, but then not every cheerleader type is worth half a million dollars. Myrna also has blotchy skin which she proudly refuses to attend to just as vigorously as her refusal to lose weight. Her philosophical outlook is that not looking like a pretty cheerleader type effectively unburdens her any and all commitments to trying to look beautiful.
Head football coach at Logos College and the man who masterminds the strategy behind turning the school into a west Texas college powerhouse. Like most football coaches, Creed is the very epitome of masculinity and it doesn’t hurt that he flew a bomber in WWII and played pro ball with the Chicago Bears. His philosophy is that football may only be a game, but it is the only game that really matters. As such, Creed also sports a bit of metaphysical and existential bent like Gary and Taft.
Weighing slightly more than two Myrna Corbetts put together, Anatole is the prototypical offensive tackle whose sole purpose in life is to protect those football players behind with “back” as part of the name of their position. As is often the case, there is a closeness between the tailback and the big guy who opens holes in the defensive line for him to run through. Anatole is also a third member of the triumvirate of the disaffected that forms a triangle connecting him to Gary and Taft. Anatole’s existential crisis is less metaphysical than spiritual: he is suffering from a deep case of Jewish self-hate. It doesn’t help that Anatole is also a habitual bed-wetter.
Esther and Vera Chalk
Friends of Myrna, the Chalk sisters often tag along on her picnics with Gary. A couple of odd ducks, Ester and Vera are obsessed with numerological occultism and concentrate on the number 17 whenever they eat their carrots.
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