Upon Further Review: Sports in American Literature

By Michael Cocchiarale; Scott D. Emmert | Go to book overview

“The Mob of Carefree Men and Boys”:
Vanity of Duluoz and Kerouac’s
Panoramic Consciousness

Matthew Kelley

In a short manuscript called Football Novella written when he was sixteen years old, Jack Kerouac tells the story of one Bill Clancy, a “football-herohobo“—a gifted college athlete who spends his time away from the football field reading novels and wandering the local railroad tracks. In the climactic seventh chapter of this short work, Kerouac shows Clancy on the stadium field, running through the pregame warmup in front of a packed crowd. Even though Clancy’s team is on this day playing a school called Blaine, during the warmup the players are anticipating the next big game—a Thanksgiving Day showdown with “State College”:

Nesmith Stadium was a scene of excitement. Just before game time, with the gridiron
all spick and span, white lines and goal posts intact, the bands began to blare and
crowds began to arrive. When the brilliant blue and white colors came out on the field,
worn by two dozen husky football players, the roar went up from the stands. The
cavernous maw which had enveloped the players in practice now seemed to be turbulent
with life. “Wassamatter, Bill? Excited, nervous?” said the rangy tackle. “I dunno,”
muttered Bill, running his stubby hand through his brown hair. “It sure is a big crowd.”
“Wait till the rest of it arrives. As a matter of fact, wait till the big game of the year on
Thanksgiving Day!” replied Martin. (Kerouac Atop 12–13)

Until the end of this chapter, Kerouac’s narrative perspective shifts as through the lens of a camera opening with an establishing shot of the town itself, its streets filling with eager spectators, focusing finally on the stadium and then zooming in to capture the blues and whites of the gathering crowd in the stands. Within a few short sentences this universal panorama becomes so localized, so focused that the reader-spectator now hears the conversation of the players looking from field level up at the crowd and even beyond, predicting the next crowd for whom they will perform.

-179-

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