When Jane was in the fourth grade she wanted to play football. What you may or may not know is that within the private schools in Los Angeles there are intramural sports starting in fourth grade. During the fall season the boys play football and the girls play basketball. Three years ago Jane wanted to play football with the boys. I said no.
I love sports. I play a lot of tennis, I’ve coached Jane’s soccer, before I was a soccer mom I was soccer girl. Sports matter for their own sake. I’m the mom that gets it.
Maybe I’m the mom that only sort of gets it.
When Jane wanted to play football with the boys I could see what she wanted. She wanted to prove to them that she was equal, she wanted to show the other girls that she was faster, stronger and smarter than the boys and the girls, everyone really. Jane wanted to physically dominate. I said no. Mr. G. said no to Jane and we didn’t offer her an answer, we just vetoed the whole football notion and sent her off to play a crappy game of basketball. Jane’s fourth grade teacher said I should fight for her to play football. We didn’t reflect on this, as we were pretty sure we did the right thing.
Alexander is in the fifth grade and he is on the football team. This year there is a fourth grade girl on the team. At the dinner table Alexander would talk about how there was a girl and at practice he had to block her. “You’re not allowed to hit her.” I’d say. Mr. G. would roll his eyes and ask why there’s a girl on the team. I’d be unable to answer, Alexander would be unable to answer, and Jane would just glare at us and say, “I wanted to play football but you wouldn’t let me.” I’d smile and say, “You’re not allowed to block a girl, tell your coach your mom won’t let you.” and then we’d move on to another topic.
Alexander would occasionally revisit how awful it is to practice football with a girl on the team. He’d moan about how it sucks when you can’t block the person you’re practicing with. I’d nod, Mr. G. would remind him to be nice to her.
They played a game today. It was a good game and the team dominated but I felt conflicted about it. I liked the little girl being there and I felt like her very presence was a victory for little girls everywhere. At the same moment I felt like her very presence ruined the experience for the boys.
I understand wanting the world to be equal. I understand wanting all the same opportunities. I also understand wanting boys to play boy games.
I’m taking a lot of flack for thinking that a teenage boy shouldn’t paint his face black for a football game.
Servite is a High School in Anaheim, CA. They have a very good football team and (I now find) a less than stellar reputation.
High School Athletics in California are still left to teachers. Teachers in California (as opposed to Coaches in adulthood) are responsible for turning out well rounded young men and women. Ideally a school will also teach kids that they are lucky to be part of a community and they can add great things to it.
Perhaps I wasn’t completely clear in my post last night.
When a High School Football Coach sees a child paint their entire face black (eye black or not I don’t care) that coach has an obligation to the child to take him aside and explain to him what painting one’s face black used to symbolize. The coaches failed the children. The coaches failed the parents, whose money they gladly accept.
If the point of High School is education, then Servite is a failure. If the point of High School is playing football games, Servite has been magnificent.
I realize some NFL players use eye black in an excessive and decorative pattern, but I’ve yet to see an NFL player cover their entire face in eye black. The argument that this child is imitating NFL players is false. There has never been an NFL player that has completely covered his face in eye black.
Chris Hovan is well known for wearing excessive and “menacing” eye black. Does this look like he’s painted his entire face?
The real issue is that this is High School. Ostensibly athletics are there to support academics. I’m curious if a history teacher was on hand, and if they gasped a little when they saw their student?