Chasing a Dream: The Carl English Story
Carl English with Blake Murphy
“I had to do a lot of rebounding to get touches and go Coast to Coast or hunt my own shots.”
If that sentence makes any sense to you, then you’re going to enjoy Chasing a Dream: The Carl English Story. However, for people who aren’t basketball fans, Carl English’s biography is going to be a little more difficult to read. That’s not necessarily a problem, but it is a warning. Despite a limited glossary at the back (which I didn’t find until deep into the book), if you’re not familiar with sports terms you’re going to need to bookmark an online dictionary and keep it at your fingertips.
However, once you get over that hurdle, English’s book is a very interesting read. Most Newfoundlanders seem to know his story. He lost his parents in a fire when he was five, casting a shadow across the rest of his life even after he grew up to become a professional basketball player. What people might not know, however, is how often English just couldn’t get a break. Over and over again, just when things seemed to be looking up, something would spoil it. His biggest professional disappointment, of course, was never getting into the NBA despite how good a player he was.
The book was coauthored by Blake Murphy, a sports writer who did a good job capturing English’s voice, and there’s a collection of curious testimonials at the back that fans of English will appreciate.
It would have been nice to hear more about the good things that happened to English, but perhaps that’s not what sells these kinds of memoirs.
Q & A with the Author
Denise Flint: What inspired you to write a book about your life?
Carl English: I’ve been approached about this book since about 2000, when I was at Hawaii and we made it to the finals; and once they found out about my background, NBC came to Newfoundland and met my family and they wanted to write about it, but I wasn’t ready. When I came back to Newfoundland and I saw the impact I was having on our youth, I thought now was the time because if people were dealing with something they could use me as an example. So I wanted to get my story out there.
DF: What do you miss most about playing basketball?
CE: Basketball for me was always such a passion and a way of coping with anything, be it stress or things I coped with in my earlier life. I felt like I was free on the court, and I loved the camaraderie and the competitiveness. My son plays a little and I do a little bit of work with him, and my wife started coaching a Grade 6 class and I’m the assistant.
DF: Basketball is supposed to be a non-contact sport, so I don’t think people realize how badly hurt athletes get. Is the level of injury you reported normal for this sport? For sports in general?
CE: For sports in general, I would say yes, although a lot of guys can go through their career and only sustain one or two major injuries. Ankle injuries are a big thing in basketball. My ankle and elbow were freak accidents from falling the wrong way. The last couple of seasons I had broken ribs and broken bones. Basketball’s got a lot going on there, and once you get to know the game [you see] it’s pretty physical.
DF: Do you consider yourself a role model? Do you feel you have to be careful about how you act and what you say?
CE: One hundred percent. I can’t live my life like most people. If I post something on social media that’s not politically correct, I get attacked. I keep a circle of friends and family that’s very close. I keep to myself, and I think that’s because of the society we live in now. You’re judged by everything you do and say. It’s a different culture than it was 20 years ago.
DF: What have you learned from your career about what’s important in life?
CE: I don’t know if it’s from my career or just my journey, but first and foremost it’s family - not riches and fame - that’s where I’m most grounded. I’ve had a hell of a career, but in the end I want people to know me as a lovely man, good father, a good role model treating people with respect.
DF: What lies ahead?
CE: I am focusing on trying to build a multi mega sportsplex. I’m trying to rally up a bunch of things. We’re lacking the things we need for our youth and our aging population. Sports brings everybody together, and I’d like to build a facility that can be a focal point to help our population train and work and be healthy. We don’t have a huge population, but let’s see how it goes. That’s with my basketball camps and touring with the book. My focal point is with my family. I’ve been fortunate enough to spend a lot of time with them, but I’m spending more now.