Monday, November 12, 2012

Winning the City - Theodore Weesner

Winning the City is the story of Dale Wheeler, a fourteen-year-old basketball player who dreams of winning the Detroit city league basketball tournament. Set in the early 1960's, we first meet Dale when he is already playing for and believes he is about to be named co-captain of his school team.

His dream is to set up a team of his school mates to compete for the city tournament, be co-captain and gain fame and fortune by being the star player. He believes he will be able to lead himself and his alcoholic, melancholy father into a better life after his success. His mother left them when Dale was two years old and his heartbroken father now works the second shift at the local Chevy plant and is never home before midnight. Instead of being home alone every night, for the past three years Dale has worked hard practicing playing ball and making sure he does his homework by himself.

Just as Dale is about to talk to the team about his intentions, a wealthy, ex basketball star (who also happens to be Dale’s fathers boss at the plant), comes along to the school with sponsorship money, uniforms, a coaching schedule and his two sons in tow. He offers to coach the school team to compete in the City tournament. Unfortunately, there is no place for Dale on that team as the sponsor's younger son plays the same position as Dale and although he is not as good, he gets the spot on the team.

The story from then is about what happens to Dale in the following weeks and months and how he deals with the devastation left in the wake of being left off the team.

Theodore Weesner has written a remarkable story of a boy who has his dream snatched from him through no fault of his own and in spite of working long and hard to succeed. He draws a landscape of poverty, desire, neglect, loneliness and longing which is at times heartbreaking, shocking and pitiful. Some of the incidents Dale encounters are cringingly embarrassing, but, I never stopped willing him on, even when I wanted to shake him for acting so stupid. At first I found it really difficult to get into the rhythm of the narration but it is a testament to Theodore Weesner's writing that I immediately cared for Dale and wanted to know the outcome of the story. I am so glad I persevered.

The story of Dale Wheeler is still very clear in my mind and every time I think of some of the events in the tale, my stomach churns for him. I was particularly interested to read the "About the Author" section at the end of the book which talks about Theodore Weesner’s own life story. There are some amazingly close parallels between the story Theodore Weesner has written about Dale Wheeler and his own life, which made the tale even more tragic and haunting.

If you want to read a totally absorbing tale then be sure to pick up this redux version of Winning the City by Theodore Weesner. The book was originally published in 1990 and was republished last month. You can find a copy here:




  1. This sounds really good, you can tell that you enjoyed reading it!

  2. It is good, Dot. Not a fairy story by any means. It is harsh, like looking at something under strong florescent light and stays with you long after the last page has been turned. I will remember it, that's for sure.