When Boobie Miles returns to the football field, no one calls out his name with the bellowing chants of the Watermelon Feed. In the space of five weeks, he has become an afterthought. The only thing that heralds his return is the shame and ignominy of having to wear a white shirt, given only to the second team, those low on the totem pole. In his absence, Chris Comer has come to own the black shirt since he has rushed for 100 yards or more in each of Permian’s five games. Boobie is livid, but the coaches wonder why he’s there at all when he needs knee surgery. Trapper has been surprised at how hard Boobie has worked at his rehabilitation, but he has little faith in him. Fortunately, during practice that next week when it becomes clear that he will get to play, Boobie’s mood alters.
He suits up on Friday night against the Abilene High Eagles with all his familiar paraphernalia including the Terminator X towel, but he watches from the sidelines as Comer scores the first two touchdowns. Then, he gets in during the second quarter and gains four yards on his first carry. He has to take the role of blocker after that to allow Comer to score his third touchdown, making the score 28-0. He carries the ball eight more times in the second half, but it’s obvious that he is tentative; the knee is exposed for everyone to take a shot at it. Later, the old fire returns when he cuts up the middle past several tacklers to gain eight yards and a first down. But the truth is, he is not the same player. Against the same team the year before, he had had the night of his life, gaining 232 yards on 8 carries. Now he is ecstatic to gain eight yards and a first down on one carry. For L.V., his uncle, this night is harrowing. He wonders if he is doing the right thing by letting Boobie play at all. He believes in his heart that the recruiters won’t run away from him because of his injury. With time to heal, the boy will be as good as new. But the coaches aren’t so sure, believing Boobie is selfish, undisciplined, and undedicated to the great cause of Mojo. They don’t believe he has the stuff to overcome and injury as great as his. L.V. understands the needs of his nephew and decides to let him play. He plays sparingly in the win over Dallas-Jesuit and scores his first touchdown of the year against the Cooper Cougars on a one yard run. But Comer is the glory boy with a 64 yard run in the same game. Later, Boobie scores again, his last carry of the night, giving him 49 yards on 12 carries. There are times when the crowd can see his old brilliance, but more often they see his inability to cut up field, only falling helplessly on the ground.
Mike Winchell continues with his doubts. The Abilene Cooper game proves to him that he can throw the ball with a special gift. Through the first eight games of the season, he has thrown for seventeen touchdowns. One of his teachers, Deborah Hargis, however, recognizes his lack of belief in himself. She desperately wants him to succeed. Whereas Boobie’s season is becoming a sad and sour struggle, Mike’s only continues to rise. Nonetheless, he still broods, and he still wonders. They are rapidly moving toward a showdown with Midland Lee, one with a knee that keeps letting him down and the other with an internal struggle to overcome.
This chapter is very poignant by the way it shows how the beauty and excitement of Permian football can sometimes be cruel. Boobie had been the Golden Boy the year before. Now he is the has-been who just can’t cut it. And Mike is one of the team’s hero’s, but he doesn’t know how to accept his gift and allow it to work for him without doubts.