Sport in Society was firing on all cylinders this week. Between the Ron Thomas Panel Discussion on Race in Media and the Junior Coach Leadership Convention it’s been busy (and that’s the understatement of the century). Oh wait what? It’s only been a four day long week? It felt like a 90-hour week of back breaking labor.
The Ron Thomas Event was enlightening to say the least. America’s sports media has always been a joke to me. I thought sports journalists were always the misfits who couldn’t write well, so the editor would approach their desk and politely assign them to cover a local sporting event, giving them a basic template to follow. (No offense Matt!). At least that’s how my high school newspaper’s editor did it. Well Ron Thomas, Adrian Walker, and Derrick Jackson quickly changed my pre-conception as soon as they took the mic. From their perspective, sports journalism isn’t an occupation, it’s a movement. Their writing is fueled by the social and racial injustice that beholds America’s sports industry. Until minority players and coaches are fully represented in sports like the NFL, MLB, NBA, and the NCAA, these men and women in the sports writing world will continue their struggle. You’d think that we’ve made significant progress as a society since the Civil Rights Movement and Women’s Rights Movement right? Wrong. This so-called progress is used more as an excuse by those white males in powerful positions when they’re accused of being racially or sexually biased. Don’t let the high number of black athletes in the NCAA blind you. These same athletes are propelled forward into college sports by recruiting coaches who could care less what reading level they are at. They are filled with false hope of making it to the pros when in reality the average college player doesn’t play pro, and the average pro NFL player’s career lasts only three years! When these athletes fail to make it to the show, where do they go then? Most likely to the unemployment line, or their mom’s basement.
There are viable alternatives though. In order to give black coaches a better possibility of being hired by NFL teams, the Rooney Rule was instituted in the NFL in order to require teams hiring managers to interview minority applicants. The Pittsburgh Steelers successfully hired Mike Tomlin due to the Rooney Rule. Tomlin has led the Steelers to the postseason 4 out of his 5 years, and has won a Championship. This is an example of a successful policy that promotes racial equality in sports. It can be done as long as people in power are willing to sacrifice their comfortable position out of the spotlight. I’m sure many people, and journalists would commend an owner or general manager who took the minority’s interests into consideration.
The Junior Coach Leadership Convention (JCLC) was on a totally different note. Yet, not a note of lesser importance. Kids indeed are our future, and their upbringing is essential to how they will stand as adults. I remember when I was a 5th grader, and bullying on the playground was a daily occurrence. My best friend in 4th grade used to be my biggest tormentor in 1st grade. Teaching the kids at JCLC about how to prevent bullying is like walking on a bed of hot coals. How do you tell them which kind of teasing is acceptable and which kind is worth reporting to a teacher? You don’t want the kids to keep their mouths shut when they witness bullying, but you don’t want them to turn into Randel from the T.V. show “Recess”. You want the kids to feel a sense of comfort in their own skin, but you don’t want them to become whiny and arrogant. I was really impressed by their ability to resolve issues on the playground with a simple game of rock-paper-scissors. The beautiful mind of a child can be molded like clay. I hope by the time they’re my age (20) they are healthy, and open-minded to diversity.
I really love this coop though. On Tuesday, I smugly walked into my apartment holding the left over cheese plate from the Ron Thomas Event, my roommates were like “Where the hell did you get that from dude!” I jokingly replied, “This is my paycheck dude. I get paid in cheese at my coop. It’s awesome…” Fortunately, I do get paid at this coop in real money, so I can afford more cheese when I run out, but the real payment comes in my own development as an individual, and gaining a broader perspective on the community I live and work in.
Now that I’m fully woven into Sport in Society’s fabric, this co-op is my oyster. Whatever I want to do with it is up to me to decide. Do I want to focus on building an evaluation survey to analyze how efficient the Y allocates its resources and retains its teen participants, or do I want to organize cool events for the Ys? Either way I want to change the world for the better. I’ve fully embraced my role as a soldier for social justice, but the question of how to fight still remains.
By Charlie Pioli