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BLEACHERS STUDY GUIDE / SUMMARY / NOTES BY JOHN GRISHAM
The town of Messina, probably in the state of Mississippi in the present
day, with flashbacks of football seasons in the sixties, seventies, and
Coach Eddie Rake
Although he never appears in the flesh in the story, he is definitely
the main character. He is a legend in Messina, having coached the high
school football team for 34 years and piling up tremendous statistics.
He also was fired for inadvertently causing the death of a player because
of his strict conditioning practices. He is in the process of dying of
cancer, and his former players begin to return to Messina to reminisce
about their coach and the glory days of Messina football.
He is the main character, and the author tells the story from
his point of view. He had been the great football hero in the 1980’s and
had a great future perhaps in professional football. Then, he received
a career-ending knee injury as a sophomore in college and his great future
disappeared. He has not returned to his hometown in 15 years because of
his hatred for Coach Rake.
Now a banker in Messina, Paul was also a great football hero
with Neely. He had been Neely’s favorite receiver and best friend. They
were also co-captains of the ’87 team.
He is the local owner of a body shop behind which he runs a chop
shop for illegal parts. So far, he hasn’t been caught, but it seems only
a matter of time. When he played football with Neely and Paul, he had
been the most dominant player in Messina history. He was as wide as he
was tall, and according to Neely, he owned the field. He was the player
most cursed by Rake, but Mooney loved his coach nonetheless.
The only gay player Rake had ever coached, he had returned to
Messina to open a coffee shop/book shop. Coach was his first and most
regular customer, which made the rest of the town accept his gayness and
patronize his shop. He’s the one who brings the tape of the ’87 championship
game to the bleachers for the other ex-players to hear.
Sheriff Mal Brown
He played on Rake’s team during The Streak and his jersey was
the first to be retired. He warns Silo that he’s eventually going to bust
him for his chop shop. He’s the one to relay the news of Rake’s death
to all his ex-players. He also takes Neely and Paul to see Jesse Trapp
to ask him to come to Rake’s funeral.
A tall gangly man who had been hired as a teacher at Messina
High School even though he had never gone beyond the ninth grade. Rake
had saved him from losing his job by having him assigned as the assistant
athletic director. He did all the maintenance work for the team and helped
Rake, including providing the coach with all the gossip around the school.
He turned on the field lights every night as a vigil for the coach as
he was dying and would turn them off when he was dead.
He is the player who holds the record for the number of laps
completed in the Spartan Marathon - 83.
He is the young man who collapsed and died in Rake’s arms while
running the Spartan Marathon. His death led to Rake losing his job. Rake
will later be buried beside him.
The girl whom Neely had loved and whose heart he broke in order
to have an easy sexual relationship with Screamer. He has never forgotten
her and visits her at her mother’s home to apologize for what he had done
to her. He is able to get his guilt off his chest, but he leaves with
her coldness following him. She will not forgive him as easily as he would
Mike Hilliard and Collis Suggs
Two of the three players chosen by Coach Rake to give eulogies
at his funeral, they speak highly of him and ask the town to bury the
hatchet over his mistakes.
The young girl who had sex with every boy she could while in
high school and aspired to be an actress. She also used her body to get
noticed in Hollywood, but found herself working as a scantily clad waitress,
looking ten years older than she was and completely worn out. She never
actually appears in the story, but her presence is very much felt by Neely.
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