Study Guide for Bleachers by John Grisham - BookNotes|
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BLEACHERS BY JOHN Grisham - FREE STUDY GUIDE/SUMMARY
At that moment, coming up the bleachers is the aforementioned Spartan - Randy Jaeger. He is wearing his green game jersey and quickly recognizes Neely. His family owns a shopping center north of town. He establishes with Neely that he had been a senior the year Rake was fired, an event about which Neely had heard only brief details. Neely asks Jaeger what Rake had said when he completed the 83 laps. Jaeger laughs and says that in front of the team, he told Jaeger he should have done a hundred, but in the locker-room, he very quietly told him that it was a gutsy performance. Other players appear in the bleachers as well, some from the sixties like Blanchard Teague and Jon Couch. They were on the ’68 team which was never scored upon.
All the men eventually congregate together when Silo returns with cases of beer. They talk quietly again until Neely notices Rabbit, a former teacher who had taught for eleven years at Messina High before anyone realized he’d never finished the 9th grade. Rake had intervened in the scandal and had Rabbit reassigned as the assistant athletic director. He drove the team bus, cleaned uniforms, maintained equipment, and supplied Rake with gossip. Now he turns on the field lights, which prompts Paul to note that he’s been turning them on every night for a week. It’s his version of a vigil, and when Rake dies, the lights will go out. Another memory they chuckle over concerns how Rabbit became crippled. During a game in 1981, for reasons no one would ever know, Rabbit had sprinted on the field to stop an opposing player named Lightning Lloyd from scoring. He tackled the guy and went airborne. He was taken off in an ambulance, and the officials awarded Lloyd a touchdown. As Rabbit was taken away, 10,000 fans stood and applauded him with respect. Rake then used the event to fire up his team, and they scored three touchdowns in the fourth quarter to win the game. At the annual football banquet ever after, Rake awarded a Rabbit Trophy for the Hit-of-the-Year.
Neely is asked when he last saw Rake, and he responds that Rake had come to visit him after his last surgery. They mention that they thought what had happened between Rake and Neely had been another cheap shot, but the truth about what had happened at the ’87 title game had been buried for 15 years, and none of them seem to want to break the silence about it. The discussion then turns to Rake’s jealousy of the stars of the team, his favorites, of which Neely was never a part, and when they had erected the bronze statue. Jaeger mentions how Rake and Miss Lila, after he was fired, would drive up on Karr’s Hill, sit and watch the game from there while listening to the play-by-play on the radio. He was making sure the town knew he was still watching. At the end of every halftime, the band would face the hill, play the fight song, and all 10,000 fans would wave at Rake. Jaeger further mentions that Rake took up golf, but was still bitter about what had happened. The rumor was that he would be buried beside Scotty.
The next former player to arrive is Mal Brown, the county sheriff. His was the first number - 31 - to be retired. He had played during The Streak and had even played on a broken ankle, something Rake loved about players - the willingness to play hurt. After the requisite handshakes, the Sheriff observes that Neely should have come back long before this, that it “ain’t right to run away.” When the Sheriff then turns the conversation to Neely’s injury, Neely quickly ends it by asking which was Rake’s worst team. Mal Brown answers his question with a comment about how he went into voluntary solitary confinement after losing four games in ’76. The men chalk up so many losses to the lack of talent. The loggers quit when the price of timber shot up, the quarterback broke his arm, and there was no backup. It was the only time in 41 years that Harrisburg had beaten Messina. The Harrisburg players had rubbed it in big, and ran up the score. Rake wrote it down in his soul and went looking for loggers. The next year, they beat Harrisburg 94 to nothing.
Silo then rises to leave and tells them all he’ll see them tomorrow. He tells
Mal Brown that he’s laying off stealing cars for a few days in honor of
Coach Rake. As he walks away, the Sheriff predicts Silo will be in prison
within 12 months and that Paul had better have his bank records in order.
Neely isn’t in the mood for such a discussion and gets up to leave as
well. As he walks down the bleachers, he uses everything he has in him
to walk without a limp. He has learned over time to keep walking as if
everything is normal.
This opening day of the vigil for Coach Rake introduces the readers to Neely and his “fraternity brothers.” These are the heroes of the glory teams Rake coached, and they are here to sit and reminisce about him, as he lies dying. There are many subtle references to the ’87 championship team which Neely led and the confrontation between him and Coach Rake. The reader quickly becomes aware in this chapter that Neely is here not just to sit a vigil for Coach Rake, but also to resolve the ambivalence he feels towards the man.
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Clapsaddle, Diane. "TheBestNotes on Bleachers".
. 09 May 2017