SBS 301 Cultural Diversity/Prof. Koptiuch         Fall 2014       Personal Memory Ethnographies


One Jersey Color, Different Skin

As we entered the stadium the breeze blew the scent of fresh cut grass into the air. There were two teams walking in but only one would receive the win. Two opponents would battle on that fresh cut grass until the night ends. The battle, however, was not over when the last whistle blew. Coach K was the head coach of a semi-professional football team, the Glendale Bulldogs, in the Copper State Football League of Arizona. Coach K is also my father who has always taught me to treat people the way I want to be treated. He never shows any kind of discrimination towards gender, race, sexuality, class, ethnicity or nationality. Everyone should give respect in order to get it and Coach K was a prime example of this rule towards his football team as well as us kids. The teams ranged from 18-45 year old males with all kinds of different racial and ethnic backgrounds although many came from struggling areas. My siblings and I grew up around these men and knew that discrimination and inequality was still out there.

Being about eight years old when he started the league, I didnít understand why there were so many conflicts about race. Even guys who were on the same team would get into fights or arguments and the first insult would be related to the other personís race. My dad being a strict believer in equality would always try his best to stop a situation before it could escalate and lecture the players about treating other people the way they want to be treated themselves.

The situation that really stands out to me was the championship football game in 2004. The game was close all night and the stands were all full. Although I was only 11 at the time, the team was like my 30+ big brothers and I cheered them on every second of the game. But I noticed someone at the other end of our stands yelling at the other team throughout the game. What started off as good old fashioned trash talking turned into something much bigger. The closer together the scores were, the harder the football helmets would crash together as the players defended the ball. Every positive inch gained on the gridiron was the difference between winning and losing the championship. When the game ended and we won the game, this gentleman continued mouthing off to the other team and at one player in particular. As they were bringing the trophy onto the field, the insulted player jumped into our stands and began to fight with the man who was yelling, this quickly spread to other parts of the stands and soon to the entire football field.

My mom rushed my younger brother and me out of the stands where I saw the fight on the field. My dad and older brother had been accepting the trophy on the 50 yard line and I could not see them through the crowd. When I looked closer I realized that not only were the teams fighting each other but people who were on the same team were also fighting because of the racial slurs being thrown around. Eventually everyone calmed down and the police stepped in to address the more aggressive situations. My dad had an entirely different perspective on the situation.

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As I was focusing on a play strategy I could hear a man behind me shouting at our opponent. At first I thought it was the usual trash talk but it began to escalate. I had yelled once for him to watch what heís saying but he continued his offensive shouts. Adrenaline was pumping through my veins as the end of the fourth quarter was near.

                  I jumped with excitement as we won the game and my players poured ice cold water over my head in celebration. I was thrilled but I had no idea what was to come. My wife and kids were getting ready to come to the field and my oldest son was by my side. I vaguely heard more racial slurs in the background and as I turned there was a player from the other team fighting a man in our stands. All at once everyone rushed the field with helmets flying. When I looked closer, I noticed there were players from our own team fighting each other. They were standing up for the positions taken by the black man from the field and the white man in the stands. As the police arrived and everybody calmed down, I was still in shock. My mixed emotions took over with excitement from the win as well as disappointment towards the players, the fans and the overall community at the game.  I went to bed that night relieved my family had made it home safe. The football team, however, I hope learned a lesson from this and will enter the next season exemplifying better sportsmanship.

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                  Around this time there were more and more actions taken in other leagues to try and create an equal opportunity atmosphere for players and coaches. For example, in 2004 the NFL commissioner, Paul Tagliabue, sent a memo to the teams requiring them to interview at least one black candidate in person and demanding that the owners be personally involved in the process. As more and more sports teams and communities widens their population of minorities, more issues arose. It almost seemed as if the more my dad would push the players to respect each other, they would act out more and more against each other.

At the end of the night, I was hit with the realization, not everyone was raised with the same idea that we are all equal. My dad and brother could have gotten injured over racist remarks and actions. There was no sportsmanship or respect shown by the man in the stands or by those who were involved in the fight on the field. If only everyone could grasp the concept that if we treated others the way we want to be treated, little to none of these situations would arise. Having my dadís shoes to fill, I learned at a young age the most important thing to keep in mind is that we all have beating hearts in our chests and blood running through our veins.

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