by Andrew Forbes
A recruiter for a Division I college basketball team travels to a town in hopes of finally convincing the year's prize high school prospect to play for his team. Over several days, he reflects on his love of the sport, his respect for the kids, and a job that forces him to sweep sentiment aside in order to get results.
“Andrew Forbes' The Gamechanger is a powerful work from a point-of-view — that of the scout, the talent evaluator — which is not often seen or done convincingly, as it is here. A story about fathers and sons, about fate, and about the implicit savageries that lurk at the heart of the sports we love and the teams we cheer for. This is wonderful, raw writing.”
— Craig Davidson, author of Rust and Bone and Cataract City
“A fascinating look at the relationships a recruiter has to manage, from the sacrifices of being away from their family, to dealing with rival recruiters, prospects and their friends and family ... a very nuanced and layered approach that goes beyond just a man with a job to do at a gym.”
— Alex Wong, stevenlebron.com
I’M ALL ABOUT Robert Grainge right now. His mother, Claudette, tells me on the phone it’s pronounced “Ro-bare.” She says, “Like the French.”
“We’ll put that in the media guide,” I tell her, “so that everybody knows it’s Ro-bare, not Robert.” She likes that.
Ro-bare Grainge is my whole life right now. Me and every other major Division I basketball recruiter. He’s the top scorer in the nation, a rangy guard with great handling and plus defense. He’s six-five, and he loves the paint. Always knows where to find his teammates. A gamechanger. We watch tape of him while we eat our Corn Flakes. We read his stat sheet while lying in bed. He consumes us.
I want to put him with Dallas Carmody, a smooth shooting guard, a real perimeter guy from Indiana who the Hoosiers loved until I swooped in and poached him. I don’t even know how I did it, to be honest. But I did, and he wears orange for us and he finished his freshman year the fourth highest scorer in the country.
Carmody and Grainge is a combination of names that sweetens my dreams at night. I see Grainge in a backcourt with Carmody in two years’ time. I see Grainge handling and slashing into the key. I see him drawing bodies over — because everybody fears Grainge — and I see him kicking the ball out to Carmody. I see Carmody burying a long jumper, or a three from the wing. I see this over and over and over. I see KU falling. I see Duke falling. I see a tournament run. I see a title.
MY OFFICE IS A thousand high school gyms. My office is the airport at six AM. My office is a housing development in Youngstown, Ohio. My office is the IHOP on Route 16. My office is the dome packed with thirty thousand people when Georgetown visits. My office is the goaty-meaty-vinegary smell of young men exerting themselves and the clatter of a dozen dribbled balls in the practice gym. My office is wherever they need it to be.
My wife, Pam, will call me on my phone and say, “Where are you, Eddie?” I’ll say, “Pine Bluff.” I’ll say, “Chicago.” I’ll say, “In the driveway, Pammy.” She’ll ask how it went and I’ll say, “I think we’ve got this one,” or “Hard to tell,” or “His brother went to Michigan and he’s pretty set on going there too.”
Sometimes I land these young men and sometimes I don’t, but if I don’t there likely isn’t anyone else who could have. Believe that. Petey, or Dont’e, or Ellis, or LaShawn, or David, had his mind made up before I landed on his doorstep, because his brother went somewhere else, or because the Jayhawks just won a title and they have a spot at power forward where he might get actual freshman minutes, or because his friends always wore Carolina gear and now he wants to wear the uniform, or whatever.
Sometimes they say no but I don’t believe them, so I make one more trip. What the hell; between the Athletic Director and the alumni our budget is virtually bottomless. I’ve never been told no, and my card has never been refused.
On too many occasions to count, such last-ditch trips have yielded fruit. No, they said, but I said, Hold on, let’s talk about this a bit more. I said, Why don’t I fly out there and we can have dinner, me and you and your dad, and we’ll just be sure you’re making the right choice.
And come Signing Day in April, what was the address on those Letters of Intent?
about the author
ANDREW FORBES was born in Ottawa, Ontario and attended Carleton University. He has written film and music criticism, liner notes, sports columns, and short fiction. His work has been nominated for the Journey Prize, and has appeared in publications including VICE Sports, The Classical, The New Quarterly, and This Magazine. What You Need, his debut collection of fiction, was published by Invisible Publishing in 2015 and was nominated for the 2015 Danuta Gleed Literary Award and the 2016 Trillium Book Award. He lives in Peterborough, Ontario. www.andrewgforbes.com
by this author
In a suburb that is nowhere and everywhere, Jorgen deals with the feelings of alienation and frustration from his collapsing relationship by getting into his car, putting on Patti Smith, and searching for meaning and belonging anywhere he can — regardless of whether he is welcome or wanted.
Saxophonist Metche Hufu and his band are the talk of Addis Ababa, filling nightclubs and packing dance floors. But the precarious existence of this golden age of culture depends on an emperor’s benevolence - and when his power begins to wane, Metche Hufu's music threatens to be silenced by the sounds of a country torn apart.
“How do you give voice to a sax player silenced by the politics of his country? If you’re a jazz singer like Kurt Elling, you take Dexter Gordon’s solo on ‘Body and Soul’ from his Homecoming album and you turn it into vocalese. If your name is Andrew Forbes and your tenor sax player is Ethiopian and it is Addis Ababa 1973 and his musical idol is King Curtis, you write The Expansiveness of My Sound and what you write is wider, more straight-ahead, stronger with political fervour, sadder than Elling but every bit as smart. Forbes is doing it solo and you have to imagine the quartet behind him. Read it with your fingers tapping and you’ll catch the beat. Read it with your ears open and you’ll hear Metche Hufu’s body and soul. Dig it!”
— T. F. Rigelhof, author of Hooked on Canadian Books: The Good, the Better, and the Best Canadian Novels Since 1984
from the library
After twenty years of running, Betty quietly returns to her hometown of Arbford, thinking it a solid place to finally put down some roots. But the adage 'you can't go home again' proves true, as Betty finds that her mere presence is more than enough to disrupt the stagnant lives of everyone around her.
“In this cautionary suburban fairy tale, a big-city refugee searching for home finds herself in a nest of multiple Mikes and Pyrex-wielding vipers. With enchanting style and snort-causing wit, Grace O’Connell does casserole-studded claustrophobia like nobody’s business.”
— Jessica Westhead, author of And Also Sharks and Pulpy & Midge
After undergoing a cosmetic treatment to recover her lost youth, a middle-aged woman finds herself reconnected to her alienated daughter - a young woman still searching for her own path in life - in an unexpected and incredible way. A modern-day fable from two-time Scotiabank Giller Prize nominee Pauline Holdstock.
“Hers is the kind of prose you get lost in.”
— National Post on The Hunter and the Wild Girl
“Holdstock’s writing manages to be both heartbreakingly poetic and densely detailed ... sad passages, ghostlike recollections, written almost from the vantage point of the present, establish the book as a great work of fiction.”
— The Globe and Mail on Into the Heart of the Country, longlisted for the 2011 Scotiabank Giller Prize
“Holdstock, with a few deft strokes, pulls the reader into the tumultuous life of an alluring rabble of characters: painters, sculptors, patrons, fools, and slaves . . . In Beyond Measure, she proves herself a master of pacing. Her lively, macabre plot trips lightly along in spite of its dark elements.”
— The Globe and Mail on Beyond Measure, finalist for the 2004 Giller Prize and the 2004 Commonwealth Writers' Prize
A woman wakes up in bed beside her ex-boyfriend and is at loss to explain how she got there. Inexplicably drawn to stay, she scours every square inch of the apartment they used to share, noting the traces of her presence that linger on, as well as the empty spots that conspicuously mark her absence. The deeper she digs, the more she understands how imperfect her relationship was – and the less willing she is to come up for air.
June's mother is getting married and there's nothing June can do about it. Counting down the days to the wedding while trapped with a sort-of friend and unwanted family-to-be at their lakeside cottage in the Kawarthas, June searches desperately for a way to make the world - and her life - stand still.
A man in the throes of a breakup is selling all of his possessions on Kijiji and Craigslist. Greg’s couch, his VHS tapes, obsolete desktop computer, and cow-shaped clock – it all must go. Between pot smoking, pizza eating, and watching Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope, he meets with would-be buyers, taking his old life apart piece by discount piece in order to figure out what went wrong.
In the rugged Nepisiguit River region of northern New Brunswick, two hunters face off. One is local sports lodge employee Danny Knockwood, a Mi’gmaw guide with a withered hand. The other is Mui’n, a one-eared black bear battling his inexorable hunger. When Danny is charged by the lodge owner to hunt down the bear that is frightening guests at the salmon pools, his personal values come into sharp conflict with his commitment to the task. The resulting confrontation tests both his physical strength and his beliefs, as Danny begins to recognize a kindred spirit within the fiercely determined bear.
Portraits of people marooned within themselves, trapped by their past experiences, by uncertainty and anxiety — individuals for whom each new situation is a grueling journey towards the present, a place where action and choice are possible. In Second World, Matt Cahill illustrates, with honesty and empathy, how the most important breakthroughs are not the life-altering revelations, but rather the minor miracles that get us through each day.
Steve has his own comic book store, a limitless supply of comic books, and all the time in the world to collect them. That should be enough. But eventually, everyone - even Steve - gets lonely. And when his time comes, he too has to learn that (eternal) life isn’t about what you spend it on - it’s about who you spend it with.
“Every time I read something by Kirsty, I think, ‘Damn her, I wish I’d written that.’ She is the kind of writer that you can’t help but read with teeth-crunching envy, broken-hearted admiration, and a realization that your own work is not half as good as you’d hoped it might be. Be forewarned writers and readers: you will never be the same.”
— Shanna Germain, finalist for the 2010 John Preston Short Fiction Award and nominee for the 2008 Pushcart Prize