John Updike’s “Ex-Basketball Player” tells the story of Flick Webb, a former high school basketball star

who ingloriously and anti-climactically works as a gas station attendant after high school. The theme of faded glory and peaking while in high school are apparent throughout the poem. “Ex-Basketball Player” is written predominantly in iambic pentameter, with some variation. It is made up of five stanzas that are six lines each. The title, “Ex-Basketball Player” economically outlines not so much who the poem is about, but what the poem is about. It is about a high school graduate who used to play basketball. We can assume from the title that the player played very well and must have had a great degree of talent since he is called “Basketball Player”, indicating a level of professionalism greater than that of a typical nonprofessional. “Ex-Basketball Player” opens with a description of the street where Berth’s Garage is. Pearl Avenue runs past the high-school lot, Bends with the trolley tracks, and tops, cut off Before it had a chance to go two blocks, At Colonel McComsky Plaza. (1-4) The street that Berth’s Garage is on is called Pearl Street and “runs past the highschool lot” (Line 1). The name Pearl Street alludes to wealth, and the fact that it runs past the high school creates an image of a fanciful yellow brick road, which if followed after diligently studying in high school, will lead to riches. However, the road “Bends…and stops, cut off” (Line 2), mirroring Flick Webb’s life after high school which was in a way cut off once he stopped playing basketball. The next three lines introduce Flick Webb and Berth’s Garage. “Berth’s Garage/Is on the corner facing west, and there/Most days, you’ll find Flick Webb, who helps Berth out.” The fact that Berth’s Garage is facing west is significant. The sun rises in east, and sets in the west. From Berth’s Garage, you have a clear view of the setting sun, heralding the end of the day, and likewise the end of Flick’s stint as a basketball player. The name Flick Webb is significant as well. The name Flick sounds like the action of shooting the ball, or flicking it towards the basket. Flick “helps Berth out.” (Line 6). Flick is not a manager or in any sort of senior position, he is just helping Berth out. The description of Flick helping is reminiscent of a child helping out his father work on the car, or helping his mother bake a cake. There is no responsibility associated with Flick’s job. The second stanza opens with a description of Flick and the gas station. “Flick stands tall among the idiot pumps—/Five on a side, the old bubble-head style,/Their rubber elbows hanging loose and low.” Flick sticks out when he stands around the

Flick has traded his real live teammates in high school for a squad of inanimate gas pumps who’s “rubber elbows [are] hanging loose and low.” (Line 8) the same number as players on a basketball team. There are “Five on a side. not sluggishly relaxed.” (line 9) This slackness is again juxtaposed against Flick’s old basketball squad who no doubt was primed and ready to win. Because he played basketball. but the pumps are “idiot pumps”. (Line 7) in contrast to Flick. . who is not. one can reasonably assume that he was of above average height. The number of pumps is significant as well. Not only does he physically stand out however.gas pumps.

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