The Crossover

by

Kwame Alexander

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The Crossover: Fourth Quarter Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The doctor pats Jordan and me on the back and says. The doctor tells JB and Josh that Dad will be fine; they'll be fishing again soon. Josh petulantly says they don't fish, which makes Mom gives Josh a look. Then, the doctor tells Mom that the myocardial infarction has caused complications and Dad is in a coma. Sobbing, JB asks if Dad will be home for Christmas. The doctor says that if they talk to Dad, it might help him come back. Josh says that they're not in a talking mood, and Mom scolds Josh. All Josh can think is that he shouldn't be here. He should be getting ready to play in the semifinals instead of at the hospital, wondering why he has to "push water uphill with a rake" and talk to someone who isn't listening. He's missing the biggest game of his life.
Josh's anger and petulance shows that he's much more like Dad than the novel has thus far given him credit for: despite his struggles with free throws, Josh still prioritizes basketball over health. JB's emotionality, on the other hand, suggests that he's beginning to shift in the opposite direction. It's especially telling that Josh isn't willing to talk to Dad because Dad might not be listening; this shows that Josh is burnt out on trying to talk to people who won't respond to him, as JB has done for the last several weeks.
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my-o-car-di-al in-farc-tion. A myocardial infarction occurs when blood flow to one area of the heart is blocked, which results in that part of the heart muscle suffering damage or dying. JB says that now, he hates basketball because it was the thing that Dad loved the most, and it caused his myocardial infarction. The doctor sees Josh looking up the symptoms, which include sweating, vomiting, and nosebleeds, and points out that they're not sure what causes a myocardial infarction. Josh asks the doctor about doughnuts, fried chicken, and genetics. The doctor leaves without answering. Josh thinks that Dad's in a coma because he had a myocardial infarction. Josh’s grandfather died of this. Josh wonders what this means for him and JB.
Josh's snarky response to the doctor's attempts to comfort him show that he's taken Mom's attempts to control Dad's diet to heart. Even if Josh continues to prioritize basketball over receiving necessary medical treatment in the future, this understanding suggests that Josh at the very least understands that he has this one method of protecting himself. When he wonders what this means for him and JB, it shows that Josh also recognizes that he hasn't just inherited basketball aptitude from Dad: he's likely inherited a predisposition to hypertension.
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Okay, Dad. Josh decides to talk to Dad, even though he's been told that Dad might not be able to hear him. He asks Dad when he decided to jump ship; he thought Dad was “Da Man.” Josh promises that if the team makes it to the finals, he's not going to miss the game for a "small maybe."
The "small maybe" refers to the possibility that Dad can't even hear Josh. Josh's tone here suggests that he's struggling to face the realization that Dad isn't actually a god; he's fallible like anyone else.
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Mom, since you asked, I'll tell you why I'm so angry. Josh is angry because Dad tried to dunk and Josh wants to win a championship, but he can't do it in the hospital. He's angry because Dad promised he'd be here forever. Josh thought that forever was far away, but he knows now forever is close. JB doesn't talk about basketball, cut Josh's hair and didn't care, and is always with Miss Sweet Tea. Josh feels empty without his locks and thinks that CPR doesn't work. He reasons that if his crossover had been better, Dad wouldn't have gotten the ball and ended up in the hospital. He says that their backboard is splintered.
Again, the anger that Josh feels has mostly to do with all the ways that his life is changing before his eyes: JB has a girlfriend, Dad suddenly seems unreliable, and he questions his own skills since he blames Dad's heart attack on his ineptitude. By referring to Dad as the backboard, Josh is able to tell Mom how much he relies on Dad to keep the family together and on the right track.
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Get the entire The Crossover LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Crossover PDF
Text Messages from Vondie. After the game, Vondie sends several texts to Josh. He explains that the game went into double overtime. Coach called a time-out and the team did a special chant on the sideline. It was creepy but it worked--the Wildcats won and dedicated the game ball to Dad. He asks if Josh and JB are coming to practice, if Dad's okay, and if Josh is there.
These texts show Josh that even if he feels alone, he has others who are around to look out for him and care for him. This suggests that if Josh were willing to look outside of JB, he'd find more support than he imagined was there.
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On Christmas Eve. Dad wakes up. He smiles at Mom, gives JB a high five, and then looks Josh in the eye. He says he didn't jump ship.
Dad's insistence that he didn't abandon Josh shows Josh that Dad is still dedicated to being there for his family.
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Santa Claus Stops By. The Bell family celebrates Christmas in Dad's hospital room with relatives from five different states. Mom sings and Dad plays cards with his brothers. Uncle Bob's turkey and pound cake are horrendous, but the Santa at the hospital gets everyone to sing. Josh thinks that all the joy is ruining his mood; he thinks he doesn't remember how to be happy. After two hours, Mom kicks the relatives out and after they leave, Dad calls JB and Josh to the bed.
Uncle Bob's food again shows that a person needs to practice in order to get good at something, while Josh's mood speaks to the feeling he has that nothing is right. For him, all this change is happening so fast and he's unable to properly cope with it. This statement can then be expanded to apply to the entire novel, as Josh's primary struggle is to adapt to change and his challenging emotions.
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Dad reminds the boys of how, when they were seven, JB wanted to swing. All the swings were filled, so Josh pushed a kid out of a swing so JB could take it. He says that Josh's behavior was bad, but his intentions were good. He tells the boys he wants them to always be there for each other. JB starts crying, so Mom takes him for a walk. Josh and Dad stare at each other in silence for ten minutes until finally, Josh says he has nothing to say. Dad says that they're both trying not to say the things they want to say. He suggests that they ask each other questions until they get answers. Josh agrees.
Dad's advice to his sons makes it seem as though he doesn't expect to be around much longer to hold them to what he's telling them, while JB's tears suggests that he picks up on this. By leveling with Josh and suggesting questioning each other, Dad again shows Josh that he respects his growing maturity and understands that he needs to be treated like more of an adult in order to get through these challenges.
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Questions. Dad asks if Josh has been practicing his free throws, but Josh responds by asking why Dad didn't go to the doctor. Dad asks when the big game is, and Josh asks why he never took him and JB fishing. Dad asks if JB still has a girlfriend. Josh wants to know if Dad is going to die and why he couldn't save him, reminding Dad that he kept performing CPR. Dad points out that Josh did save him; he's alive.
Notice that while Josh's questions speak to the bigger questions he's trying to answer over the course of the novel (such as health, Dad's role in the family, and Josh's ability to do useful things), Dad's questions fixate on basketball. Even in such poor health, Dad shows his son that basketball is still where his heart is.
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Dad jokes about how horrible Uncle Bob's turkey was, but Josh doesn't think it's funny. Josh asks if the family is falling apart, but Dad puzzlingly replies by asking if he should still write a book. Josh isn't sure how this applies and asks again if Dad's going to die. Dad just tells Josh that he loves him. When Josh points out that the big game is tomorrow, Dad wants to know if he and JB will play. Josh points out that JB won't play as long as Dad is in the hospital and asks Dad to come home. Dad explains that he had a heart attack and he needs to stay in the hospital so they can fix him. He calls Josh "Filthy," and Josh asks who's going to fix his heart.
By asking if Josh and JB will play in the championship game, Dad implicitly gives Josh permission to decide for himself whether or not to play. In doing so, he treats Josh like an independent adult and tells him that he'll support him in his decisions, whatever they may be. Further, Dad's insistence that he needs to stay in the hospital suggests that he may finally understand the importance of caring for his health, or at least accept that he's no longer capable of refusing help.
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Tanka for Language Arts Class. Josh writes that his Christmas wasn't merry, and he's not happy in the new year either. Dad's still in the hospital and has been for nineteen days.
Now, Josh experiments with a different style of poetry to express his anger, showing again that he's willing to draw from anything to express himself.
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I don't think I'll ever get used to. Josh thinks he'll never get used to all the things he has to do alone. He walks home from school alone, listens to Lil Wayne and goes to the library alone, shoots free throws and eats donuts alone. He's alone because JB is in love and Dad is in the hospital.
Despite Josh's worry that he'll never get used to this, his lessening anger and the small steps he's made with JB suggest that he is actually starting to adjust to JB's changes.
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Basketball Rule #9. If the game is close and on the line, a player shouldn't be afraid. Instead, a player should get the ball and "take it to the hoop."
For Josh, this rule will help him decide to play in the championship game. He knows his team needs him, and he knows Dad would prioritize basketball.
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As we're about to leave for the final game. Mom's phone rings and she shrieks. She runs past the boys' room and when JB asks, she explains that Dad had another heart attack. She's going to the hospital and promises to see the boys at the game before getting in her car. Josh asks JB what they should do, but JB just cries. He gets his bike and rides away to follow Mom to the hospital. Josh hears the clock ticking and hears Dad's voice in his head, telling him to play in the game. Josh gets into the car with Vondie and they drive to the championship game.
Again, the decisions that Josh and JB make in this moment align Josh with Dad and JB with Mom in fundamental ways: Josh continues to prioritize the game and takes Dad at his word, while JB prioritizes Dad's health and the health of the family. Then, when Josh gets in the car with Vondie, it shows him expanding his support network to include someone other than JB.
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During warm-ups. Josh plays poorly during warm-ups. Coach assures Josh that if he wants to be at the hospital with his family, he should go. Josh cuts Coach off, assures him that Dad is going to be okay, and says that Dad wants him to play. He asks if a deaf person can write music. Coach shakes his head and tells Josh to sit down. Instead, Josh goes to the locker room to check his texts from Mom.
By bringing up one of Dad's favorite lines, Josh is able to comfort himself and remind himself that he's capable of playing in the game. When Coach tries to give Josh a choice in whether or not to play, it shows that he recognizes the magnitude of Josh's decision to play.
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Text Messages from Mom, Part Two. Mom texts Josh and says that Dad is having complications, but he'll pull through and sends his love. She sends Josh luck and says that she made JB go to the game to support the team. She reminds Josh to not get lazy on his crossover.
Though it's unclear if Mom is telling the truth or not, insisting that Dad will pull through allows Josh to focus on the game and follow in Dad's footsteps, just like Dad wants him to do.
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For Dad. Josh's free throw rolls around the rim, but finally goes through the net. The Wildcats are up by one with eleven seconds to go. The other team scores another point and Josh feels as though things start moving in slow motion. Coach calls time-out with five seconds left, and Josh wishes the ref could stop the clock on his life. He wants to play one more game and is afraid that Dad is dying. Suddenly, Josh sees JB and Miss Sweet Tea behind the Wildcats' bench. JB is crying. The whistle blows and Josh has the ball. He starts crying too.
The fact that JB comes to the game and is so upset tells Josh that there's no longer a reason for JB to be with Dad--Dad is gone. When Josh starts crying after seeing JB and Miss Sweet Tea, it again shows that even though they haven't made up completely yet, they're still connected to each other and can communicate nonverbally, as Josh's tears suggests he knows Dad died.
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The Last Shot. Josh feels like he has lightning on his shoes as he dribbles the ball down the court. The crowd roars for Josh to "take it to the hoop." Josh performs his crossover, evades the other team, and makes a basket, just as the game ends.
When Josh helps the team win with his crossover, it shows him finally living up to Dad's expectations and perfecting Dad's signature move--with Dad gone, Josh has to carry on for him.
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