Zeb Larson reviews Southern Bastards #13…
Coach Boss’s Running Rebs face off against their sworn enemy from Wetumpka in the most important game in Craw County history.
Southern Bastards has reached what everybody has expected to be a major milestone, the Homecoming game against Wetumpka County. Is it a major milestone? Not quite, though it does play out with a fair amount of drama. We see a bit more of Craw County, particularly the character of the mayor and his wife/puppeteer. Still, if this is the major event we’ve been building up to for a while now, it doesn’t come with a lot of groundbreaking revelations. Instead, it says more about Boss, and what his downfall will likely be. It looks like the beginning of a new arc, rather than the end of an old one. I will be discussing spoilers from here on out.
Boss goes to Big’s funeral, where he’s managed to convince himself that Big killed himself because he was getting too old. Meanwhile, the mayor’s wife, who speaks for him as he is far too ill to do anything for himself, mocks Boss for Big’s death and taunts him over the prospect of a Wetumpka victory. Despite his hope that the game would go well without Big, the game is a disaster from start to finish. Wetumpka’s new running back is so large that he simply overwhelms the Rebs, despite an impassioned speech by Boss to his players about not quitting. The fact that he’s humiliated in front of the whole town doesn’t stop Boss, and with whiskey in hand he vows to not be beaten by anybody in the town or elsewhere.
If you were hoping for some sort of climactic issue with Homecoming, this might come as something of a letdown. Boss’s enemies are out there, but they always have been. Boss loses publicly, but that defeat doesn’t change him in any way. He’s just as big a bastard as before, and even seeing his football team get stomped into the ground can’t change him. But this is more complicated than that, because this is the beginning of Boss’ fall.
Coach Boss has never really been beaten, has he? He’s lost plenty of times: lost at football, lost to his old man, lost to a coach who cheated him out of what was rightfully his, but he’s never really been beaten, in his own words. Was that line supposed to be foreshadowing? It’s hard to read it as anything else, especially given that Roberta Tubb is just around the corner. More and more, Boss resembles Macbeth in the latter half of that play: surrounded by enemies, utterly paranoid, utterly unwilling to abandon his course, and inevitably doomed. That’s the irony of his speech to his players about playing or just quitting. He could do the same thing himself and walk away, but he won’t, and it will inevitably get him killed.
Still, I’m ready to spend some more time with a character that isn’t Boss. We’ve had our extended profiles of the town’s players and important characters, and this had been a good arc. But I want to see somebody new, and where this goes from here. The battle lines have been drawn for Boss. Now it’s time to meet Roberta.