One Story is a non-profit literary publisher that has been around for over a decade. Their accolades include numerous Pushcart Prizes, Best American Mystery, Best American Short Stories, among many others. Every three weeks One Story’s 15,000 + subscribers receive a short story from a new author. One Story only publishes an author once, ensuring readers experience new voices through their subscription. They are true literary heavy hitters and always deliver.
This week we read One Story’s “The Prospects” by Michelle Seaton. “The Prospects” is told from an omniscient perspective, addressing characters by group as opposed to name or any other singular moniker. The story examines football recruiting, particularly by following ‘The Prospects’ and ‘The Recruiters’ through their shared experience in football, while The Prospects are being evaluated, chosen, and plucked from their high school celebrity status into more challenging roles as college athletes. There is a real youthful quality to this story, and a strong sense of hope and ego among The Prospects when we first meet them, and yet a darkness permeates. Seaton, who is a seasoned sports journalist, applies a lens to the micro-environment of college recruiting in a way that is sad, sympathetic, and also raises questions. For anyone who attended high school where football reigned supreme, the way Seaton’s Prospects are hailed as super stars is eerily familiar. However, a transformation occurs when we meet The Recruiters, who treat and manipulate these athletes through the promise of a bright and shiny future. The boys are seen as a commodity and The Recruiters — sad in their own right — maintain a power over them. They are the gate keepers of their future, and yet they’ve been battered and broken by the same athletic careers they are pushing.
Within the story of The Prospects and The Recruiters is a clear stance on the controversies behind football. How recruiting is conducted as well as how injuries are ignored. What I liked most about this story is how a very real topic is conveyed through such a lovely literary telling. With current controversy in baseball, the Penn State scandal last year, and the increased attention on the health of our football players, this story has a relevancy that made “The Prospects” especially fun to read.
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By Kim Winternheimer