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Off the Rim: Basketball and Other Religions in a Carolina Childhood (Sports and American Culture)by Fred Hobson
Synopses & Reviews
“Why should a particular game, played with a round ball by twenty-year-olds in short pants often hundreds of miles away, mean so much to me, since I seem to have so little to gain or lose by its outcome?” Fred Hobson thus begins Off the Rim, his narrative of college basketball and society, of growing up and not growing up. He seeks the answer to this question by delving into the particulars of his own experience.
Growing up in a small town in the hills of North Carolina where basketball was king, he became a rabid UNC basketball fan (like many others) at the tender age of thirteen during the Tar Heels’ “magical” 32–0 national championship season in 1956–1957. He starred as a high school basketball player and lived a dream by “walking on” the highly successful 1961–1962 Carolina freshman team. That was also the year Dean Smith was elevated to head coach of the Heels. Hobson observed firsthand Coach Smith’s difficult early days before he became the winningest coach in college basketball.
Forced to find a substitute for his beloved sport after not making the varsity his sophomore year, Hobson turned to the romance of books, both reading and writing them. Changing his major to English, he discovered the joys of William Faulkner and Richard Wright, Robert Penn Warren, Flannery O'Connor, and H. L. Mencken, and made a career teaching American literature.
This is a book about basketball that is more than a book about basketball. It is, in the beginning, a depiction of a part of the South that departs from the usual idea of Dixie, a look into the culture, religion, and politics of the Carolina hills. It is a portrait of the people who made up the South, including the author’s parents, who both were and were not conventional southerners. Finally, in some respects, it is the story of a boyhood that never ends, relived each year during basketball season in the frantic, tortured life of a fan.
Although Hobson’s story is largely about the Tar Heels—and about other things related to growing up in the South of the 1950s—what he says about basketball, childhood, and adulthood also holds true for those who find themselves in emotional bondage to Hoosiers or Bulldogs or Ducks, to Wolverines, Gophers, Badgers, and various other species of Upper Midwestern low-lying ground fauna, to Blue Devils or Blue Demons, to Tigers, Wildcats, Cougars, and all other breeds of cat.
About the Author
"Basketball and North Carolina go together like a horse and carriage. Fred Hobson knows because he lived it. If you love basketball, you will love this book." —Bill Bradley
“I’ve read most of Fred Hobson’s books and admired his relaxed and seemingly effortless style, but Off the Rim is his best, in my opinion. This is Hobson at the top of his game, using the first-person narrative like an inmate who has sprung his lock and flown free.”—John Egerton
"Off the Rim is a marvelous basketball memoir, sprightly and entertaining, and it will take a place on the shelf alongside great autobiographies of fandom like Tim Parks’s A Season with Verona or Nick Hornby’s ruefully comic Fever Pitch. But Hobson also brings to the task his experience as one of the South’s most distinguished literary critics and commentators, and along the way he provides thoughtful and moving ruminations on race, on family, and on coming of age in piedmont North Carolina in the 1950s and '60s. A delightful account not only of what sports mean to us but of why they matter.”—Michael Griffith
“Fred Hobson has written a lovely, wry account of his lifelong devotion to Tar Heel basketball. He knows that he stands out even among Tar Heel fans for how much Carolina-blue blood he bleeds and how often he bleeds it, and he also knows that readers will find his obsession more amusing than he does. Even if you don’t care who wins the Carolina-Duke game—is that possible?—you’ll enjoy this book.”—John Shelton Reed
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