Balls [NOOK Book]

Overview

ADVANCE PRAISE

"Balls is sad, funny, honest--and one of the best novels ever written about college football. But this sumptuous roman a clef is about more than that: love, marriage, sex, race, corruption, all set in a vivid milieu where Saturday is the holy day." -- Willie Morris, author of The Courting of Marcus Dupree

"Nanci Kincaid's exuberant female characters...seduce with bouncy charm and then--thwack--come at you from left field with gritty insights about life and ...

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Balls

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Overview

ADVANCE PRAISE

"Balls is sad, funny, honest--and one of the best novels ever written about college football. But this sumptuous roman a clef is about more than that: love, marriage, sex, race, corruption, all set in a vivid milieu where Saturday is the holy day." -- Willie Morris, author of The Courting of Marcus Dupree

"Nanci Kincaid's exuberant female characters...seduce with bouncy charm and then--thwack--come at you from left field with gritty insights about life and love."--Elle

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Editorial Reviews

Erica Sanders
. . .[D]espite its drolly macho title, Balls is about women and marriage as much as . . .a college football recruiting scandal. . . .Kincaid cleverly mines the small moments. . . .[However, though] painstakingly developed, the characters do not have enough to except watch and talk.
New York Times Book Review
Phoebe-Lou Adams
. . .The tale eventually becomes monotonous, because the ball game always wins.
The Atlantic Monthly
Elle
Nanci Kincaid's exuberant female characters...seduce with bouncy charm and then -- thwack -- come at you from left field with gritty insights about life and love.
Rhonda Johnson
. . .[T]he real interest here is in the coach's complex (and often corrupt) relationships with his players and with the team boosters. . .
Entertainment Weekly
Library Journal
Kincaid (Pretending the Bed Is a Raft, LJ 9/1/97) scores another touchdown with this funny, entertaining novel about college football coaches and the women who love them. Set in Alabama, a fanatical football state where the late legendary Paul "Bear" Bryant is still worshipped, the plot focuses on the marriage of Dixie Carraway, an ex-homecoming queen, to Mac Gibbs, a former college quarterback. Narrated alternately by Dixie; her mother, Rose; Dixie's best friend, Frances Delmar; and a range of other vividly drawn female characters, the novel traces Dixie's transformation from young, adoring wife of a high-school football coach into a mature, independent woman disillusioned by the "win-at-any-cost" attitude of big-time college sports. Twice married to coaches, Kincaid knows her Southern football culture thoroughly. ("Alabama likes old coaches better than young ones. If a coach has at least one brother sent to prison, that really helps.") Despite some fumbles (a few minor narrators could have been cut), the novel's warm humor and eccentric characters, so reminiscent of Lee Smith, kicks this into the winning end zone.--Wilda Williams, "Library Journal"
Cynthia Sanz
. . .Sixteen characters take turns as narrator. . .[making] for a choppy read. But thanks to great Southern details . . .and characters so believable you cna hear them drawl, Kincaid finds daylight. -- People Magazine
Rhonda Johnson
. . .[T]he real interest here is in the coach's complex (and often corrupt) relationships with his players and with the team boosters. . . -- Entertainment Weekly
Phoebe-Lou Adams
. . .[T]he tale eventually becomes monotonous, because the ball game always wins. -- The Atlantic Monthly
Kirkus Reviews
Kincaid's relaxed and folksy second novel (after Crossing Blood, and a story collection, Pretending the Bed Is a Raft) chronicles in their own words the variously impoverished lives of women who love men who love football. In brief chapters narrated by a dozen or more such women, Kincaid explores the gradually raised consciousness of Dixie Carraway, a virginal Alabama innocent who marries football star Mac Gibbs, lives through his embattled coaching tenure at fictional Birmingham University ('Ham U.'), and, to her own surprise, matures into an independent woman who can live without her handsome hero or her inherited ladylike behavior. Dixie's 'testimony' is primary, though there are significant contributions from her mother Rose, placid mother-in-law Millie, feisty girlfriend Frances, and her family's black hired woman Lilly Brown (whose son Jett earns the pro career denied the modestly gifted Mac). Other narrators—mothers, wives, children, or sweethearts of marketable athletes or befuddled coaching personnel—add their own perspectives to the (alas, trite) story of Mac's stand against racism (he starts a black quarterback, arousing the local KKK), his submission to the virtually universal practice of recruiting violations, and the loss of his prestigious career and treasured marriage. Kincaid handles this rather pulpy material more-or-less evenhandedly. Mac is anything but an insensitive macho male (in fact, he's too good to be true); and Dixie's nervous soul-searching gets on your nerves (especially when her efforts to understand Mac's preoccupation lead her to such insights as 'Football is testosterone-driven art. Football makes me rethink beauty.' Fortunately,Kincaid's forte—gritty, down-to-earth dialogue—dominates the novel, saving it from its worst miscalculations. She's equally convincing with bored housewives and dirty-minded good ole boys. Nothing new here, then, but another engaging demonstration of Kincaid's high-spirited affection for her agreeable characters.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781565127067
  • Publisher: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
  • Publication date: 10/1/1998
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 396
  • Sales rank: 1,154,171
  • File size: 3 MB

Meet the Author

Nanci Kincaid
Nanci Kincaid is the author of two previous novels, Crossing Blood and Balls, and a collection of short stories, Pretending the Bed Is a Raft. She lives in Hawaii with her husband. They have four grown children.
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Read an Excerpt

It was not by accident that God created the world in the shape of a ball. I came to understand that early. All the men in my life imitated God in this way by making small worlds of their own out of balls. I never knew boys who dreamed of building skyscrapers, or campaigning for justice, or making music, or scalpeling into human flesh to repair hearts. Nothing like that. The boys I knew dreamed of one thing--balls. Getting them across the goal line, pitching them over the plate, sinking them in the hoop, putting them into the hole.

As a girl, when I watched men pass the pigskin, pitch the curveball, perfect the jump shot, I understood that they were playing war. What I didn't understand was that it wasn't just a stupid ball they held in their hands, but the whole world being tossed about from man to man--like a game of keep away.

From me.

--Dixie Gibbs, 1998

Dixie

The first time Mac opened one button on my blouse and touched my breast I thought it was a moment of genius. I think it must have been the way America felt when Columbus discovered it.

Even now, even though we're officially engaged, we still park up by the Vulcan on that road Mac knows, because of that time Rose caught Mac in my room and went crazy--and we weren't even doing anything but lying there talking--I mean crazy like a lunatic who belonged in an insane asylum, which I don't know if I will ever forgive her for or not, and she had on that see-through nightgown too, her nipples bouncing like two polka dots under there. Since then, we don't have any place much to go where we can be alone together. Except Mac's car, which sort of automatically veers up toward the Vulcan now.

"You are so sweet, Dixie Carraway, I could just eat you up," Mac says. It's not an original thing to say. It's whet people say to babies, but he sincerely means it. In the last couple of years Mac has named his top lip Lewis and his bottom lip Clark because he says they are such a hell of a pair of explorers. They are too. He's like a man lip-led. Our mouths have taken over all other aspects of our love, like we are two infants in the world of passion--tasting, biting. I love that word, passion. It makes me think of a vine-ripened tomato on the hottest day of the year that last second before the skin splits open and the pulp oozes out. That fleshy red. All those little seeds.

Mac goes crazy if I suck his finger. You wouldn't think a little thing like sucking a finger could do to a guy what it does to Mac. But I don't just suck it, I really make it interesting, you know. I've developed what you might call technique. I just love what mouths can do--that the place that makes the words is also the place that makes the kisses. I watch him watch me while I suck his finger. For those few minutes it's like I rule the world. I mean if I said, "Mac, go run into that burning building," I think he'd actually consider it.

Before Mac, Daddy was mean to boys who came around me. He was rude. Rose was never rude and it really irritated her for Daddy to be--but too bad. Daddy was always telling boys it was time for them to go home, and no, I could not drive down to the shopping center with them. No, I couldn't go to the late movie. No, I couldn't go to the drive-in. No. No. No. Maybe that's where I developed my appreciation for the power of the word no.

But as soon as Mac came along, Daddy just sort of changed his tune. Sure, Mac could take me to the drive-in. Sure I could drive over to Tuscaloosa with Mac to see a basketball game. If it had to do with Mac, Daddy was in favor of it. I love Daddy and all, but the truth is this has never set right with me.

Since Daddy abandoned his fatherly patrol it has become my job to patrol things. I think I do it as well as any girl I can name who is fully human. Saying no is hard work. It can wear you out. As young as I am I'm already practically exhausted. No. No. No. God, how Mac loves hearing me say that word. Just the word itself seems to transform me into an angel and send me flying around in some heavenly sphere in his mind. Lucky for me no is Mac's favorite word. That's the kind of boy he is.

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Table of Contents

PREGAME 1
KICKOFF 7
FIRST DOWN 61
SECOND DOWN 155
THIRD DOWN 217
PUNT 355
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First Chapter

Chapter One

DIXIE

          Mac runs onto the field. He's beautiful. The band plays the national anthem, the flag wilts in the heat, I mouth the words "bombs bursting in air." The first scream goes up, the coin is tossed, and somebody runs and kicks the ball into the sky. This is America, land of the free, home of the brave. My heart swells to nearly bursting with "Oh, say can you see."

    One hundred college boys roar, run on the field, and butt helmets like a fistful of dropped marbles. The pep band plays "Black Bear Boogie" and the team charges through two rows of cartwheeling cheerleaders who glisten in the sun.

    Like any decent girl, I'd once set out to be a cheerleader, but I got the flu the week of tryouts and missed my chance. I was afraid my life was ruined. But that same fall I was elected Shades Valley homecoming princess. A homecoming princess who was not a cheerleader? It was like if you got to be commander in chief without having ever been a soldier.

    Daddy has expensive binoculars the better to watch Mac with. And Jett too. He passes them to me so I can see Mac's face, which I study, trying to imagine what he's thinking.

    All other eyes are on Jett. People pick him out first thing--it isn't hard--the only colored boy on the field. They wait for him to make a mistake, to miss a pass or drop a ball or take a hangman's hit--anything that might give them permission to rip a paper cup to shreds and rage against a nigger on the field.

    Lilly doesn't come to the games at all. She prefers to lie in bed at home, the lights off, the electric fan going, and listen to the game on the radio and nobody blames her at all. Jett's uncles come and friends I recognize from pickup games Mac takes me to in their neighborhood. They sit in a cluster, the colored people, and make me think of a dark freckle on a big pink face.

    It's 1968 and the world's changing. It scares everybody. People say the rules are changing and it doesn't seem fair, to change now when people have finally gotten the hang of things with the rules they already know. I personally think rules are meant to be broken, even if I'm too chicken to break them myself. But not in football, of course, which is one good thing about it. It's something people can count on. In football the rules are the rules are the rules. So everybody can go crazy and relax all at the same time.

    Heat bears down on the stadium. "Too hot for football," the man behind me says to his buddy.

    "Never too hot for football," his buddy answers. "If hell put together a decent team I'd buy me a ticket and go down there to watch it. And so would you."

    "I guess so," the man behind me says.

               Mac's playing quarterback but the offense is sputtering. People are restless, waiting for the spectacular. I pray for the spectacular too.

    Mac's sacked for what seems like the hundredth time by the Ole Miss defense in the second half. He lands shoulder first. I swear I can hear the crunch of bones. Afterwards he can't get up. Coach Bomar sends Vet, the trainer, to see about him. With the help of the managers Mac makes his way off the field, his arm dangling.

    "If you can't take a hit, get off the field," a man yells.

    "Get somebody who can throw the damn ball," somebody says.

    "Ignore them," Rose tells me.

    "There's no shortage of jackasses in this world," Daddy says with the binoculars pressed to his face.

    The second-string quarterback runs in and the crowd cheers. I look two rows back at Mac's parents. Mr. Gibbs is going colorless, like a blank space where a man should be. Mrs. Gibbs is looking straight ahead, stiff as a board, tears rolling down her powdered face. She fumbles through her pocketbook for a tissue. Bobby's new wife, Lisa, is beside Mrs. Gibbs, patting her arm.

    With Mac out of the game Coach Bomar takes Jett out too. The crowd loves this. "Sit your butt on the bench, black boy!" a man several rows ahead yells. Rose takes a handful of ice out of her lemonade thermos and throws it, hitting him in the back of the neck, which shocks me because it's not good manners and next to God, Rose mostly believes in good manners even at sporting events, which don't necessarily lend themselves much to courtesy. The man slaps at his neck like he's been stung by a bee. "Down in front," Rose says and then smiles.

    Midway into the third quarter Mac comes back onto the sideline with Vet right behind him. Mac's still in uniform and has an adhesive-tape-looking contraption on his shoulder. Birmingham University is struggling to get a first down. Mac breathes down Coach Bomar's neck like a shadow. Jett stands apart from the other players, holding his helmet in his hand, sipping water from a paper cup.

    When the second-string quarterback is helped off the field with an injured ankle people applaud him and boo. Then Coach Bomar puts Mac back in. They'll kill him, I think to myself.

    The crowd's on its feet. Behind me Mrs. Gibbs yells, "Okay, Mac, let's go, Son." I look at her and smile.

    Rose slides her sunglasses into her hair and claps. "All right Jett, let's do something now, honey."

    The Ole Miss defense is in Mac's face, mouthing off with their plastic-coated teeth, lisping cusswords--I can read their lips through the binoculars--just before they grunt and knock the fool out of each other. I look at Mac's face. It's closed. He's refusing to hear them, refusing to see them. They sack him and grind into him, their knees, their fists, their ball-like heads hammering him.

    "Get up, Mac," I whisper to myself. His name is spoken in a God voice over the loudspeaker again and again--"Gibbs stopped on the forty," "Gibbs sacked again," "Gibbs brought down by number thirty-three."

    Mac throws the ball like a man with a double-jointed elbow. It's not pretty. The point is to get the pass off fast--short and fast, short and fast, get it to Jett, to Jett, to Jett--then take his hits. Again. Again. Again. Mac should not be getting up at all. Not anymore. Sometimes he waits for somebody to pull him up. He should be out cold. He should be dead.

    In my mind I run down the stadium steps, jump over the rail, weave my way through the players and onto the field. My feet don't touch the ground as I go to Mac, throw myself over him where he lies trampled on the ground. I'm like Cornelia Wallace, who flung herself over George when the bullets started flying.

              Then, late in the game, like a whisper, something begins to pass over the crowd. It's like a breeze through the stadium, where we're baking in our sweatbox seats, our wet clothes stuck to us. We begin--just barely--to believe. One simple thing.

    Mac Gibbs will get up. No matter how hard he's crushed into the ground, no matter how many times. He will rise again. It's a small, difficult thing to believe. But easier in Birmingham than in lots of other places because we're Bible people. Believing is in our blood.

    A boiled-faced man jumps up, spilling his cold drink. "You can knock him down, but damn if you can keep him down" he yells.

    "Amen!" somebody says.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 25 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 22, 2013

    Rainbow/ purple and white

    Rainbow: oh come on! I have a soccer game to go to! Purple and white: no you promised. Now we will stay. Rainbow: grrrrr!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 22, 2013

    Green with red cardinal feather

    Who Is this for?Just humans?

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 22, 2013

    Purple

    *sits down*

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 21, 2013

    Louis

    YOURE ALL PEASANTS *he huffs a sigh and drags Swag out*

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 22, 2013

    Black

    Comes in with a black suit and tie. Has a rose in his pocket and short brown hair and eyes. Looks for a beautiful girl to dance with.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 21, 2013

    Madea to Ashley

    *Turns into Jordan.* Hel<_>lr. *Grins.*

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 21, 2013

    Spencer to Lex

    Runs in and kisses her. "Love u my gf. I came by to say hi and that i love u. Ps Brad got grounded! Tell Li! And anywy i love u baby!"

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 21, 2013

    Destiny

    Thank you!!!!!!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 21, 2013

    Princess Lilliana

    (Anouncer) Dear Princess arrives!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 22, 2013

    Red and Black

    Waits for someone to ask her to dance

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 21, 2013

    Perri

    Goes to a seperate room and comes out in usual Dauntless Gear. "This isnt as fun as I expected. And with everyone ignoring me, theres no hope for me to pull of a prank. Pooh. Well, bai everyone!" Runs out jumping from high to high places to Dauntless.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 21, 2013

    Jayme

    Goes there

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 21, 2013

    Link

    She sighed and left.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 21, 2013

    Wild mask

    I ish out.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 21, 2013

    Secret

    She leaves.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 21, 2013

    Mark

    Smiles at Ashley. Do you want to dance then?

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 22, 2013

    Red orange black

    Sits out. Waiting to be asked to dance

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 22, 2013

    Hi

    Mouse rp at under the bush they are having a dinner party!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 21, 2013

    Black and blue butterfly mask

    *Smiles walking in*

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 21, 2013

    Ashley to Jordan

    "Which Ashley are you talking about? Where do you know me from? There are like three Ashleys."

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