what does the hawk say?

athletes are entertainers.

right? no matter what ‘else’ they are – role models, inspirations, symbols of nations, to name a few – what they do is entertain.

within the context of their professions,

athletes do not build, do not teach, do not invent. between the lines, they contribute (wonderfully!) to their communities by providing entertainment; entertainment based between those lines and governed by rules that cease to exist outside the chalk.

the language we use around and about athletes serves my point – athletes play.  we name them ‘players.’

‘my favorite worker is lebron!’

sounds a little odd, i think.

athletes are for show.  for spectacle.  that’s why the games (games! not ‘works!’) are played in stadiums with seats around them, televised for the world to see. i do not curse an inability to get a wifi signal of espn3 at a wedding reception because i intend to be bored.

let’s be real, folks – don’t nobody watch cspan. even our ‘reality’ shows are more scripted than sports.  sports are where we go to watch, to be entertained, to unwind with friends, to celebrate things that don’t really matter because they (sports and our athletes) are a part of our culture, region, but do not dictate things like taxes, fixing the potholes down the block or reenergizing a stagnant economy.

* * *

candidates for political office, men and women who hope to lead in local, state, and national governance of us, the people, insult their competition, down talk those across the aisle, tell half-truths,

but heaven forbid

a player

say something wildly entertaining *moments* after the most important ‘play’ of his career. appalling, isn’t it, a man telling the truth about how he feels in the moment?

richard sherman, standford grad (in three years, phi beta kappa), entertainer, is a thug because he *backed up his talk* and was, i dunno, excited or something.

* * *

the things I’ve said on roller coasters, in games of pickup basketball (i once threatened to break a kid’s nose i’d never met before. now we’re friends. we both know i’d have done it) to my friends while joking, make sherman’s interview with erin andrews play like an acceptance speech in sweden.

i’m really glad people haven’t judged me based only on those moments, the tiniest of windows of me.

or the selfies i take.

* * *

really, i adore russell wilson (i refer to the seahawks as ‘the fighting russell wilsons’), but the viral image comparing his instagram feed to kaepernick’s is eerie and i felt a little icky that it got so much attention. besides the muted potential racism of the selected pictures

(a keyword, here, is ‘selected.’  this was put together by a seahawk fan who, clearly, had a little bias going)

showing wilson with smiling white people and kaepernick with straight-faced black people doing stereotypical ‘black’ or self absorbed things (the club!!!! shirtless!!!!! shoes!!!!), it was just . . . weird.

so, here’s the image, again – created by a seahawks fan, pulled from the huffington post (my mom is thrilled by my use of this source, i’m sure):


‘boy, joel, that looks pretty bad.  kaepernick sure looks like a scary black man who i shouldn’t trust or support in a game of football!’

aha!  well, in the honor of saying we shouldn’t judge people based on snapshots of themselves, much like i think it’s plumb crazy to judge richard sherman for his 12 second sound bite, i provide a second image, also pulled from the huffington post.  this image was put together by a 49ers fan, and, what i think is pretty cool, doesn’t find pictures of wilson that intend to denigrate him.  the new image simply provides better partner photos to the pictures of wilson from the first image.  for your viewing pleasure, please scroll down to see the second image.


see?  smiling white people!  he’s not that bad of a guy!  (it would take way too long to delve into the fact that accepted ‘better’ picture is a bunch of whities.  let’s just say it’s noticed and is evidence that the whole ‘race thing’ isn’t really over, and then let me kind of get back to my point that i’m not really sure i’m making)

* * *

i’m white, i smile a lot, i have a baby girl, i’m married to a half-peruvian white woman who teaches third grade, i’m about to finish (or my wife thinks i am) a master’s degree, i have been a teacher, i write poetry and shamelessly plug myself,

and (not ‘but’ – this is in addition to, not a contradiction of myself.  ‘but’ negates or cheapens whatever came before it in a sentence.  if someone uses that word, he or she didn’t really mean whatever was said before the conjunction)

i take pictures of my shoes when i get new pairs. i take shirtless pics *all the time* and try to send them to my wife when they would embarrass her. i don’t have pictures of me visiting a cancer ward because i haven’t done it. i once tweeted a picture of a handgun (bad. bad. bad idea, as the raleigh police knocking at my door told me) next to a peanut butter sandwich i made when i thought i heard a noise one late night, didn’t, and got hungry.

am i a thug?  (don’t answer that, james)

is richard sherman a thug because he owned michael crabtree and let us know? is kaepernick a worse person (how do we even qualify that? i’d imagine the image comparison made wilson uncomfortable once he learned about it) than russell wilson?  why is so much energy spent judging these men in tiny, tiny windows?


these men are entertainers.

they are role models outside the lines, coaches outside the lines, ambassadors outside the lines.

between chalk and chalk, though

they play, i watch, i try not to drop my baby.

so, on the day celebrating a man who challenged racial expectations within our nation, who changed our world by telling the truth, i beg richard sherman (please don’t be lazy and think i’m saying sherman is a parallel to King Jr), an entertainer saturday night (not an activist or candidate for governor – and i’d consider voting for him),

preach on, and also let your play (play!) do the talking.

what are miracles, she asked

‘what are miracles?

 he stopped short, spilling a few drops of milk on the counter.

‘that’s an odd question,’ he said, placing a blue bowl of cheerios – store band, mind you, with a little honey on top – in front of her.

‘what made you think of it?

she was already halfway through her first bite, displaying a hereditary lack of patience-while-hungry, and he let her chew to a finish before answering.  he used this time to wipe the countertop clean with a hand-towel and sit down next to her.

he, too, had a blue bowl of store brand cheerios.

and a healthier dousing of honey, but she wouldn’t notice, he thought.

‘i heard m

 ‘swallow, hun.’

she did, begrudgingly.

‘i heard my teacher say, ‘it was a miracle’ when talking to another teacher.  she was talking to mrs burns.’

‘now, honey, you know it’s rude to listen to adults when they’re not talking to you.’

she finished another bite,

such large bites of cereal she took, no doubt a lesson learned from her father,

and refused to be sidetracked.

‘what are miracles?’  she pressed, again.  ‘i think i know what the word means,’ she jumped in, beating him to the punch of asking, ‘but i don’t know what a miracle . . .‘

she paused, this time chewing over her word choice, ‘ . . . looks like.’

she held her spoon tightly in one hand, her other closed in a tiny fist of distracted curiosity and determination.

she turned to her father, a few blond curls spilling over her ears, and allowed him to finish his bite of store brand cheerios, but held eye contact, blue eyed-contact.

he pushed his bowl forward, an unspoken lowering of house lights, and the ushers pulled the doors, not to be reopened until intermission.  his audience leaned forward.

‘miracles,’ he said, looking at his hands, held open, palms to the ceiling, resting on the breakfast nook table,

‘miracles are the things that happen

when all we can do is hope.

when there is nothing left but hope,

no action, nothing we can do ourselves.

miracles are when the night

seems endless

and we have no light,

but a light shines, anyway.’

he looked over his left shoulder,
back to her blues, smiled,
and toned down his rhetoric.

‘miracles are when the things that scare us in the dark

stop being scary.

when those things leave us joyful,

you’ve seen a miracle.’

she blinked.

he fought off the urge to recite a list, metaphorical and literal, of examples, and chose one.

‘every day, you go to school.  i can’t control what happens when you are gone, no matter how badly i want to.  all i can do is hope you are safe and come home to your mother and me.’

‘daddy, you always pick me up.  i come home with you.’

‘you’re ruining the moment!’

she giggled and crammed a spoonful of now slightly soggy store brand cheerios in her mouth, never taking her eyes from her father’s, making this one of the messier bites of the morning.

‘all i can do is hope you are safe and happy when you are gone.  and every day you come home safe and happy, that is a miracle.  to me, at least,’ he said, reaching for the hand-towel.