Wednesday, March 23, 2011

This Jalen Rose vs Grant Hill business that surfaced last week, and has lingered into this one, has made me think about my own uncomfortable high school basketball experience.

I played basketball for Winston Churchill High School in Potomac, Maryland. Potomac is mostly white its very rich, and there was a certain stigma attached to living in that area. My parents had money, but as my father told my brother and I all the time, HE had money, MY MOTHER had money, we were kids, which meant we had nothing. Those were his Midwest sensibilities at work. As a result, while other kids in my neighborhood and beyond had parents who hired folks to do landscaping, bought them cars, and spoiled them beyond belief, my brother and I did the landscaping, did not get cars, and were made to feel like we were living well below what we really were. In hindsight, I appreciate that, but at the time, I felt like I was missing out on the true rich experience..whatever the f**k that was..

So my basketball team consisted of 10 white dudes and 2 black guys including me. The other black guy on the team was African, and he always seemed oblivious to any racial tension, but I'll get back to that later. We played ball in Montgomery County, Maryland which is vast and very diverse. On my side of town there were schools that were as white as Churchill, and then in the Wheaton/Silver Spring area, there were schools that might as well of been HBCUs. When those seemingly all black high schools came to Churchill, I was always comfortable, because they were on my home turf in front of fans and students I was used to seeing.

But when we went to go play games at their schools, I was totally uncomfortable and justifiably so. I'd hear black students from the other side calling me sellout, wannabe, white boy, Uncle Tom-ass nigga, etc. My African teammate never seemed to be bothered by this..perhaps he had thicker skin, or maybe those insults didn't really resonate with him, but they sure as hell bothered me. It didn't help that my school didn't see it necessary to buy baggy shorts for our basketball team, so I was getting insulted in nut-huggers, while other team had baggy, Jordan-like shorts. It was humiliating, and I was angry, embarrassed and frustrated before the games, during warm ups, at halftime, and then after the game when we left via the team bus.

During the games, I ignored all that b.s., because I knew I could play and I knew my talent-level was just as good, if not better than the other kids. Their parents may have had a little less money or chosen to live in a different part of the county, but that had nothing to do with how all of us played ball. Still, I just remember looking at the basketball schedule back then, and completely dreading the trips to certain schools, because I knew I'd be ridiculed, and there was no one on the team I could talk to..not my coach, not my teammates, no one...Only when I got home to my parents could I voice my displeasure, but they really couldn't help me when I got out on the front lines. The funny part of this story is that when I ran track in the spring against these same guys in front of those same insulting fans..I never heard a peep. Only one the basketball court..

Anyway, thanks for humoring me. I'll end on a lighter note. It took me 26 years to figure out what Tina Turner was talking about in the song you'll see below, but it hit me (and my wife) this past weekend. Tina Turner was talking about strippers...I am SLOW.

1 comment:

Jazzbrew said...

That Tina Turner song used to confuse the hell out of me till I read this. Now it finally makes sense. Your blog is fun AND educational.