We Got Next

The SEVEN
23 January 2014

During this period in between the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday and Black History Month, I often consider it a most appropriate time for a special edition of The SEVEN, in the form of an excerpt from my first book, “Sportin’ Life: Essays On Sport And Life.” As such, here is “We Got Next.”

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One of my memories of the old sitcom “Good Times” is of the family’s patriarch, James Evans, resorting to pulling out his pool sticks – much to the consternation of his wife, Florida – when the money got short. I guess it was during these years that “Good Times” was in its’ first-run period that I realized how much I, too, enjoyed the game of pool.

My enjoyment, however, was and is on a purely recreational basis; never have I approached anywhere near a level of proficiency to attempt to win the rent or food money at the table. That notwithstanding, I enjoy the game and can watch virtually any two players compete, whether they are at the neighborhood pool joint or running the table for thousands on ESPN.

Still I found it somewhat unusual this week when – without having played or watched any pool for a number of months – I wound up thinking about the game, and people and places I’ve played. I began to also think about another player that I know of that I never had the opportunity to play, though on the other hand, I would undoubtedly have wanted to do much more with him than that. And he would certainly have described himself as being more than just a pool player.

But pool it was for this young man – who was a very good player, by the way – on this one particular Saturday evening, because the word needed to be immediately spread about what was to happen, or not happen, on the following Monday. As many of the people in need of the information would not be in church on Sunday to receive it, it was thought that a different approach might be in order – something along today’s lines, if you will, of “Shackles” or “We Fall Down” or “Stomp” as opposed to “Onward Christian Soldiers.”

So the young man went into the pool halls and bars, and I can picture him placing his money on the table and/or calling “Next,” indicating that he wanted to play the winner of the current game. And after getting to play and take part in the pool table banter, he’d share with those present that yet another sister had not only been disrespected but arrested on the Jim Crow buses of Montgomery – and as a result, the Black community was to take a stand against segregation by remaining off the buses on Monday.

Then the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. – truly one of the great writers and orators and thinkers of this century, or any other, for that matter – would head back out into the street in search of another game at another table for another opportunity to spread the word.

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