Bobby Framingham’s life is not easy. He is the star quarterback at Durango High School, but he is also gay. Bill Konigsberg’s novel Out of the Pocket delves into Bobby's life and his struggle to believe in himself. At first, he isn’t able to muster the confidence to come out as gay, for fear that the almost-certain backlash will prevent him from making it to the NFL. A pro career has always been Bobby’s dream, and after realizing that (at this point in time) there has never been an openly gay athlete in any of the four major U.S. sports, he realizes that coming out will have lasting consequences and will thrust him reluctantly into the spotlight. I personally can relate to Bobby having to keep something to himself for fear of what others might think. I thought that Out of the Pocket masterfully dealt with a realistic issue that people around the world could be experiencing. I admired Konigsberg’s description of the steps of admitting something as life-changing as what Bobby had to admit. I was relieved that I could gain so much information about this tough topic while not experiencing it myself, but instead being able to find solace in this wonderfully wound-together story, which clearly depicted how hard it is to be a gay athlete and to come out as gay.
One of Bobby’s biggest issues is breaking up with his girlfriend, since he can't work up the courage to tell her that he's gay. He's fearful of the consequences, since this would shatter their relationship and throw one more problem into Bobby's life; however, he feels that not telling her would be dishonest, since he’s hiding the truth. I can certainly identify with what Bobby is feeling, but not on as large of a scale. Konigsberg’s use of man vs man conflict to explore the idea of friendship revealed that it’s not what we tell others, but how we tell them. This is important because broadcasting major news should be taken with caution and should come from the source of this news and the person who is entitled to tell others it, instead of another source. This was shown in Out of the Pocket when Finch leaked the news that Bobby was gay, leading to many hurt feelings (from Bobby) and a whole plague of hatred directed toward him, just as he feared. I believe that the person who is breaking the news to someone i just as important as the news itself. Hearing news from a person you expected to hear it from instead of someone whom you don’t trust as much leads to you not only having a stronger belief in this new person, but also knowing that you can confide in this person as well.
The contrast between Bobby’s life at home and his life at Durango was one of my favorite parts of the book because it showed how Bobby tried to hide his big secret. Home was a much safer place for him, because if he spilled the beans there, then it wouldn’t immediately be broadcast to everyone in his school, as it would be if he told someone at school. He acted differently around different people he knew, which was evident in his attitude when he was hanging out with his best friend, Austin, as opposed to how he acted when he spent time with Finch Gozman, a younger kid who kept pestering Bobby for interviews. Bobby was able to befriend Finch, though reluctantly, and the result of this atypical friendship is that the underclassman becomes a refuge for Bobby while he deals with the repercussions of coming out as gay. Finch’s guidance and compassion are crucial to Out of the Pocket, at least until he makes a terrible mistake.
This man vs man conflict causes a lot of pain for Bobby at first, but helps shape him as a character as well. The Big Idea of "suffering yields reward" is discussed here. Bobby goes through trials and hardships in order to reap a larger reward; the reward of not having to lie to everyone about his sexuality and feel pressured into having a girlfriend. Konigsberg reveals that this is not just a book about football, but far more than that, it is about the way in which we as people choose to share with others. This illuminates the big picture because Bobby’s method of sharing the information that he's gay causes anger and fear among those whom he once counted friends. The Big Idea of trust is also explored after Finch Gozman leaks the info that Bobby is gay without him knowing. This makes all the hate that is hurled at Bobby seem very undeserved, and it is indeed. In the eyes of society, he has committed a terrible crime, but in reality, this is not really the case. Bobby’s secret is exposed and his innocence is shattered with a few simple words by Finch, which turn Bobby’s life upside down.
Bobby was a multidimensional character, since he changed both his attitude and his perspective on life over the course of the novel. At first, he soaks up his fame and popularity as the captain of the football team, the most popular guy in school and someone that everyone looks up to. As he realizes that it's necessary for him to come out, Bobby changes his behavior. He gains confidence in a different sort of way, which I think gives the reader a nice understanding of the kind of person that Bobby is. He deals with adversity by refusing to let it drag him down, and instead using it as a springboard to become not only a better player but also a better person. This addresses the theme of overcoming adversity in order to better yourself.
What makes Out of the Pocket so unique is that on the surface, it appears to be solely about football and this big secret that Bobby has and how he can't tell anyone about it or else his football career will be in ruins. However, it's much more than that. It's hardly about football at all; in fact, it focuses primarily on Bobby’s relationships - with his best friend, Austin; with his girlfriend, Cassie; with his mentee, Finch; with his parents; and with his coach, a kind, compassionate man who only wants the best for Bobby. Out of the Pocket helped me understand what friendship truly is, how you can't keep secrets from a friend and how it really can destroy a friendship if there is not a mutual bond of trust. This mutual bond is something that Bobby searches for throughout Out of the Pocket. He is desperate to have this bond of trust with everyone in his life at once, which proves to be impossible. Different people reacted differently to learning that Bobby was gay, and he was able to find those people who really understood him and were willing to help him in any way possible.
Konigsberg’s point of view, tone, and structure all help the reader understand the novel. The fact that this story was written from the point of view of a gay high school senior helped me gain a larger understanding of the novel. I discovered how hard it is to have a massive secret like Bobby’s weighing you down and how it's tough to try to lead two lives at once, a life as a football player and a life as a person who's gay. Bobby dealt with adversity after coming out, and he made himself into a better person because of it. The positive influences in his life were tolerant of him, making it easier for Bobby to continue going about his business while still experiencing the aftereffects of coming out. I learned a great deal about how difficult it is to hide a secret from an entire school and how brutal it is when this entire school knows the secret as well. I know that it would be really hard for me to deal with the repercussions that would come with unleashing a huge secret like Bobby's. Would it be hard for you? How would you deal with this adversity? Do you think you could deal with it as well as Bobby did and become a better person from this experience? I know that I wouldn't be able to ignore what people were saying about me. I feel that Bobby's story gives inspiration to anyone who is having trouble telling others something that they don't like about themselves.