A few quick notes from the start of the high school sports season.
High school football kicked off last Friday. I covered GHS, who were coming off their best season in decades but had to replace a ton of seniors. That showed as they lost 42-19. They got torched by the opposing quarterback. Kid threw the ball 23 times, completing 17 for 373 yards and six touchdowns. First play from scrimmage was a 79 yard TD pass. Four other scores were for 40+ yards. It was a night when I was thankful for the late start and long first half that only allowed me 30 minutes to write. I didn’t have to go talk to the losing coach and ask dumb questions about why his defense couldn’t create any pressure on the QB and why his secondary kept letting guys run right by him.
The highlight of the night was a retired teacher from the host school who sat by me for part of the first half. He admitted early on that he didn’t know much about football. He just loved to come watch the kids play. I’m far from a football expert, but he asked a few dumb questions about basic rules that I did my best to answer kindly. Dude seemed nice enough and who knows if I’ll be able to remember the nuances of a sport I never played when I’m pushing 70.
Anyway, as the teams lined up for the National Anthem, he leaned over and whispered, “So, does GHS have any black boys over there?”
Oh boy, here we go.
I simply said I thought there were a few but it was hard to see all the way across the field as the sun was setting behind them.
“Oh there’s one, number 87. He kind of stands out, doesn’t he?”
SERIOUSLY? IN 2013? DAMMIT.
Fortunately the game started shortly after that and while he kept talking to me a little, he realized I was scribbling down the play-by-play and stats and that topic disappeared. For awhile.
Later in the game, after the first two touchdown passes by the host school, which coincidentally were short passes followed by long runs by black wide receivers, the teacher leaned over again and whispered, “You know, I just don’t think the white kids can keep up with those black fellows, if you know what I mean.”
OH, I KNOW WHAT YOU MEAN, DUDE. JESUS.
He then launched into a story about back in his high school days, in the 1960s, there just weren’t any black kids that played high school football and it was a totally different game.
YEAH, IT WAS A WHOLE DIFFERENT WORLD BACK THEN, BUSTER.
This isn’t the first time this has happened to me. When it does, I take the approach of least resistance: I have a job to do, so focus on that, nod and mumble responses, and hopefully they’ll figure it out and leave me alone. It’s not the time or place for confrontation. Usually that’s exactly what happens: they see me concentrating on work and pipe down.
I was saved from further frustration by the temperature. It was sweltering in the press box. Between quarters he ran out to say hello to someone in the stands and on his return, gathered up his things.
“Well, it’s been nice, but no offense, it’s much cooler outside. I think I’m going to sit out there, if you don’t mind.”
OH, NO OFFENSE TAKEN. AT ALL. NOT ONE IOTA. ENJOY YOUR EVENING, SIR.
I think the thing that really bugs me about guys like him is not their attitudes/prejudices/twisted senses of humor. Some people are just like that, and it’s more common in older people. Rather, it bugs me that guys like him see another white guy and think I’m interested in hearing his comments about race. How does he know I’m not married to a black woman? Or I have in-laws who are black? Or I grew up at a school, or in a neighborhood, that was racially diverse? But he didn’t care. He saw a white guy and decided that I would, at some level, share his views. Or at least tolerate them. Which I guess I did since I stuck to my work and never challenged him on any of his opinions.
It was a bummer on an otherwise nice night for football.
Unfortunately, the schedule keeps me from working either tonight or next week. We have two teams playing each other tonight, which means there are only five games instead of the usual seven. And I drew the short straw this week since none were terribly close to me. Next week we’ll be in Boston for my brother-in-law’s wedding.
I’m hoping for cooler weather, better football, and quieter company in the press box when I’m back at it in two weeks.
I did get to work the virtual sports desk the last two nights. The guy who normally takes calls with scores is on vacation so I got to monitor them. Coaches, and a couple students, would either call, text, or email me the details of their games and then I put them in the proper format before sending them on to that night’s editor. Not terribly exciting or demanding work, but it’s another new thing for me to do.
It’s an extra-long holiday weekend for us. St. P’s has a four-day weekend so M. and C. are off today. C. has a party and then we’re making one, final trip to the pool for the 2013 season. We have guests coming from Michigan for the weekend and will hope it stays dry so we can enjoy the LVS with them.
Happy and safe Labor Day weekends to all of you.