The Redshirt

Corey Sobel. Univ. of Kentucky, $29.95 (328p) ISBN 978-0-8131-8021-2
Sobel debuts with an incisive, sweeping portrait of a secretly gay college football player. Miles Furling has known since the eighth grade that he is “indisputably gay and indisputably a football player.” In the early 2000s, he joins the dismal football program at King College in Blenheim, N.C. Because he skipped a grade, his smaller size makes him a nonplaying “redshirt” linebacker, despite the coach’s frustration with second-string linebacker Chase McGerrin, a player who flubbed a scrimmage held to attract sponsors the year before. Miles rooms with star recruit Reshawn McCoy, who shows active disgust with football and the antics of the players, while Miles develops an intense crush on the mercurial Chase until Chase angrily confronts two gay students at a bar and Miles knocks him out. Reshawn, more invested in his studies, including research on the school’s slave-owning founders and a poet enslaved by them, nevertheless lifts the team’s profile after some unexpected victories. As Miles’s first year wraps up, he begins a relationship with dance student Thao and learns a troubling truth about Chase. The density of plotlines can be overwhelming, but the author captures Reshawn’s frustration and Miles’s conflicted desires in sharp prose. Sobel’s fervent, literary treatment of sexuality and masculinity perfectly captures the messy world of college sports. (Oct.)
Reviewed on : 07/24/2020
Release date: 10/01/2020
Genre: Fiction
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