A few years ago, my younger sister and I decided take a road trip to see my two younger brothers at a big, Jesuit University where one was an undergraduate student and the other was getting his Master’s Degree. We left our hometown of St. Paul, Minnesota and headed south arriving late on Friday night. The boys had procured four tickets to see the Saturday afternoon basketball home opener in what would become an epic season for this college. On my high school teacher’s sleep schedule, I woke up hours before my siblings, who were sleeping off the alcohol they had copiously consumed the night before. Eventually, they groggily joined me one by one on the dirty, bachelor couch I slept on. After easing into the day with bad television and a few youtube clips, we started to stir.
“Well, I guess we should start looking alive. The game starts soon,” yawned my brother.
We showered and got Mexican take out before boarding a shuttle to the stadium. The bus was packed with face painted, intoxicated guys with light beer stashed in their cargo shorts and young women with Uggs, Mardi Grau beads, yoga pants and eye makeup that wouldn’t quit. The guys swore loudly and the ladies giggled forcefully. I felt old and sober.
My brothers led my sister and me into a row of seats close to, but not consumed by the sea of student fans. I sat down as the players were just finishing their shoot around, and took it all in. The Catholic high school I taught at had recently been accused of being a “plantation,” insinuating that the only students of color at the school were brought in for their physical strength to play sports and entertain the white people. It was an exaggeration, but the only student of color in my seventh period classroom was front page National news for being the number one college football recruit in the country. With these lens on, I looked around. With few exceptions, I saw a sea of white faces in the stands. A white band. A white cheerleading squad. A white coaching and managerial staff. The officials were white. Then, my eyes scanned the bench. The strong, powerful athletes drank water and wiped sweat from their faces waiting to be announced. Black players, intent on the win.