My sister called me today to inform me that she saw a familiar face on a local street corner. That face belonged to a former Pop Warner football coach of mine. She continued to explain the various examples of his clear addiction to crack. This morbid news significantly dimmed the mood of what had been a very good weekend (considering that I had just watched The Dark Knight, quite possibly the best summer movie of all time).
This former coach introduced me to organized football when I was 10. At that time I was a scared, shy kid who was reluctant to tackle or do anything that involved contact. By the time he was finished with me, he famously (and publicly) stated “...all he’s scared of now is his momma!” (He was only half correct; spiders continue to creep me out. But I digress…).
For those who are foreign to the “hood,” you must understand that positive images of strong black men seen on a day to day basis are few and far between. Sometimes it is the fault of the black men themselves, as Barack Obama recently pointed out. Sometimes it is the fault of the media, both in news reporting and images on sit-coms. Sometimes folks simply have bad luck. But when all of those “sometimes” are combined, you come to the conclusion that black men like my coach (well, what he used to be anyway) are sparse.
So I hope that the distress I feel relating to the news that my coach is now a crackhead is understandable. This man introduced me to a sport that not only provided me with great joy and satisfaction, but also opened academic opportunities to me that may not have been available otherwise.
Additionally, he was one of the few individuals who taught me what being a man really meant (understand that I had a father who was there for me in every way. However, while coach was not my primary example of “black manhood,” he definitely was an influential secondary source). Coach gave me confidence in an arena where “men are men,” so to speak; my young mind did not think that was possible beforehand.
And now that this former representative of manhood ceases to be, I am suddenly (and surprisingly) at a loss for at least a segment of my image of manhood in totality. That leaves me saddened, and a little confused.
I cannot judge my coach for his choices, because I do not know his surrounding circumstances. I can say that I am disappointed, not in the actual man, but in the image that the actual man disposed of and replaced.
My only solace is in the fact that I did not see him myself.