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White Shadow memories: #3, 2

March 24, 2016

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In tribute to the late, great Ken Howard, and his fictional counterpart Ken Reeves, I’m spending the day counting down my ten favorite White Shadow memories (previous memories: 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4).

3. Phil the trainer on angel dust
The more commonly circulated White Shadow team picture shows the coach and only the players played by cast members featured in the opening credits: Coolidge, Thorpe, Salami, Hayward, Reese, Jackson, Goldstein, Gomez. I love this photo, but it’s always bothered me that Phil the trainer wasn’t in there. I did find a more representative photo, which shows Phil in the top row, far left. (Also pictured are three players who never had a line, so far as I remember; they’re the two guys to Phil’s left and the guy at Phil’s feet.) Phil rarely had a line on the show, which made the episode when he tried angel dust stand out all the more strikingly. The formerly meek wallflower goes berserk and tries (or perhaps succeeds—I can’t remember) to jump off a roof. I experimented with a pretty wide array of drugs in my day, but I steered clear of angel dust, thanks to Phil.

2. Jackson slain/state champs
Angel dust, VD, crushed dreams: The White Shadow pulled no punches. (Hayward, not featured in any of these memories, deserves a special mention for being not only the most often featured player in episodes set on “the streets” but in bringing to those episodes a believable, appealing mixture of toughness and big-brother warmth.) The hard edge of the show hit its pinnacle with the wrenching twist involving the team’s flashiest player, Jackson. The thing I remember about the episode the most, besides the shock of one of the guys getting murdered in a liquor store, is the dissolve-edit from Coolidge claiming the opening tap of the championship game to a shot of the state champ trophy. Not a second of the championship game was included. It belonged to the guys.

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