After three hours of early-morning basketball practice (watching so much mid-major basketball has led me to put in about 40 new plays, at least two of which have actually worked), I had a rare winter's day off Monday thanks to Martin Luther King Day.
I could have cleaned the house, the car, my clothes, or even possibly myself, but, well, you know. Like billions of others in the world, I got distracted by the Internet.
(Pausing to allow you to get your mind out of the gutter. Thanks.)
I began reading some of MLK's speeches and writings, "Letter From a Birmingham Jail" is a personal favorite of mine.
This quote always sticks with me:
"Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection."
I like to think that my understanding is much better than shallow, but sometimes I wonder. Our basketball program (that was practicing this morning) has 28 girls in it, only one is African-American, and she's adopted. She's also the only African-American in the soccer program.
Progress has been made; we have an African-American president for crying out loud, and our sports -- certainly a window into our society -- are free of the bigotry that was pervasive just a few decades ago, from basketball, to football, to baseball.
But is that last statement just "shallow understanding" of the truth? Unfortunately, if you're looking for answers, you're not going to get them here. I do have questions, though. Less fun, sure, but much more truthful.
·Ryan Olander started for the Stags, but for most of the game, all 10 players were black.
·All three officials were white (in my travels, I have seen African Americans well represented in the referee profession, though)
·Every last person at the scorer's table was white
·Most of the media on other side were white
·Every Fairfield cheerleader (30 in all) was white
·Every Fairfield band member was also white
·Sydney Johnson is the second straight African-American coach Fairfield has had (after Ed Cooley), and he has former Rhode Island star Tyson Wheeler as an assistant. Rider associate head coach Kevin Baggett is also an African American.
·With tonight's game included, four of the 17 head coaches I have covered for the 800 Games Project have been black (Johnson, Yale's James Jones, Marist's Chuck Martin, and VCU's Shaka Smart).
I could keep going with facts, but the real question is how to interpret them. Is it "just the way it is"? Or is in indicative of a systematic "shallow understanding" of the current racial inequality in the United States? I venture to guess (and judging by games I've attended this season, I really don't have to) that Fairfield is not unique or even out-of-the-ordinary. It's just the way it is.
Like I said, I don't have any answers for you.
I can tell you that Fairfield, losers of three straight, led start to finish in a 61-52 win over Rider, which has been playing much better of late. I can tell you that the Stags' defense continues to impress me, and their recent losing streak baffles me. I can say that the stupid black curtain still hangs in Webster Bank Arena. And that Colin Nickerson had two of the easiest points of all-time at the end of the game when he missed a free throw, but no one on the Rider team realized it was a one-and-one, so he just picked it up and dunked it as the entire Broncs' team stood and watched.
But I can't tell you whether we should be concerned about an apparent lack of racial equity in our game (and in the larger sense, in our society, obviously) at times.
King's "Letter" was written to people that sided with him, but were concerned he was moving too fast and being too aggressive. He closed it like this:
"Let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear drenched communities, and in some not too distant tomorrow, the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty."
There is so much "scintillating beauty" out there in our game. And there is also so much "love and brotherhood". You can see it on almost every team in every arena, something you wouldn't have seen a century ago, and probably not a half-century ago in many places. For the last 13 seasons, we've seen a black player hug a white head coach in the NCAA title game (Kentucky's Tubby Smith was the last African-American coach to win a Division I championship in 1998).
But it's far from perfect. Possibly, it never will be. Maybe I'm making an issue out of something that really isn't there.
As I walked out into the snow, and the two African-American workers in the parking garage opened the gate to leave, though, I wondered.
And I still wonder.
at FAIRFIELD 61, RIDER 52 01/16/2012
RIDER 6-13 (3-4) -- J. Thompson 1-5 3-3 5; B. Penn 4-12 2-2 11; D. Stewart 3-9 5-5 11; A. Myles 0-4 3-4 3; J. Jones 2-5 2-7 8; N. Gadson 1-4 0-0 2; E. Mitchell 2-5 0-0 4; J. Fortunat 2-5 2-4 6; D. Nd-Ezuma 1-1 0-1 2. Totals 16-50 17-26 52. FAIRFIELD 9-9 (4-3) -- D. Needham 5-10 2-4 15; D. Wade 2-7 4-4 10; R. Sanders 6-9 0-0 13; M. Barrow 2-5 3-4 7; C. Nickerson 4-6 4-5 12; R. Olander 1-1 0-0 2; J. Fields 0-3 2-2 2; A. Jones 0-0 0-0 0; K. Matthews 0-2 0-0 0; S. Crawford 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 20-44 15-19 61.
Three-point goals: RID 3-13 (J. Jones 2-4; B. Penn 1-4; N. Gadson 0-1; J. Thompson 0-2; A. Myles 0-1; E. Mitchell 0-1), FAIR 6-18 (R. Sanders 1-3; D. Wade 2-4; S. Crawford 0-1; D. Needham 3-7; C. Nickerson 0-2; J. Fields 0-1); Rebounds: RID 31 (B. Penn 7), FAIR 28 (R. Sanders 10); Assists: RID 8 (J. Thompson 4), FAIR 16 (D. Needham 6); Total Fouls -- RID 14, FAIR 21; Fouled Out: RID-None; FAIR-R. Olander.