White Shadow memories: #6, 5, 4March 24, 2016
6. Goldstein undergoes primal scream therapy.
The guys attend a late-’70s party in L.A., and while wandering around there the team’s benchwarmer, Goldstein, somehow gets involved with people practicing primal scream therapy. I cried with laughter when Goldstein whole-heartedly puts the practice to use.
5. Thorpe’s crushed dreams
This one always haunted me. I think it was because at the time The White Shadow was on, I revered the older basketball players in my town, the high school stars, far beyond anything I felt for NBA players. I enjoyed thinking that my school’s star players would keep rising all the way to the NBA. This episode put that dream into Thorpe’s head as one he held for himself, and throughout the episode facts mounted up that killed that dream. Beautifully, Thorpe’s skills as an artist surfaced, giving him alternative, more tangible path into a good future. Even better, the episode climaxed with Thorpe winning a game with a Gerald Henderson-esque steal and score. Kevin Hooks was always brilliant as Thorpe. Like Vince Van Patten (and Thomas Carter, who played Hayward), he went on to become a successful director. I think this speaks well of the culture of the show—it seems to speak of an empowerment similar to that seen with the 1960s Celtics, who saw an inordinate number of players go on to become championship and/or award-winning coaches (Bill Russell, Bill Sharman, Tom Heinsohn, Don Nelson, K.C. Jones, John Thompson).
4. Coolidge gets an agent/Coolidge becomes a TV star.
Coolidge was my favorite. He was funny, cool, and human. I can’t distinguish in my memory between these two episodes, but I think the basic gist was the same: Coolidge’s abundant talents push him outside the circle of the team. He gets fancy clothes, a fancy car, and begins addressing his peers as if from an Olympian remove. Have I ever been as satisfied by a show as when Coolidge, abashed, returns to the team? Doubtful.