Ace's View

Dedicated to minority issues, topics and everything in between

On Jackie Robinson West and Breaking The “Rules”

with one comment

Consider this, if you will:

Every year in Illinois, the high school teams that play for the Class A state basketball championship are usually from predominately black schools.

Never really becomes an issue of where the kids live when they win, place or show.

In fact, I can’t think of the last time since I’ve been aware of IHSA championship basketball that there has been a time where two teams have played each other in Class 1A that haven’t been all-black or predominately so.

And it’s a dirty little secret that most of these kids live outside of the school district they attend, in order to attend a school to benefit the athletics program.

So it’s really not a shocker to me that there was at least one player on the Jackie Robinson West team that was considered ineligible by Little League rules, at all.

What is infuriating is knowing that this isn’t just a case of a black team being caught breaking the rules and being punished–

–it’s that this is a common thing across the board, and only becomes an issue when they are crowned champions.

Especially after beating a white team to advance to the championship, while running up the score.

(Edit: the coach who “blew the whistle” on the falsified residential boundary map, Mike Janes of the Evergreen Park Little League, is the guy who coached the team that lost by over 40 points to JRW.)

Therein lies the difference.

Would have been a non-issue if Evergreen had won the game, but since they didn’t, the investigation was launched.

As one of my Facebook friends pointed out as she is apt to do, in the eyes of whites who control and operate the league, we are meant only to be entertainment.  When we become competition is when the trouble starts.

So, this got me thinking about my super brief stint in Little League as a kid.

And before realizing that baseball was not for me, at all, I got to see that there was a great disparity in the fields we played on.  They were unkempt and poor quality.

Our equipment fees barely covered uniforms, and those were of the iron-on number variety, with no names on the back and you took whatever size and number was still available.

Our concession stands were sparse and run by parents who volunteered, pulling double-duty while cheering on their kids playing on the field.  What little they had to sell, at least at the parks we played at, were gotten from the corner store or on at least one occasion, Jewel or some other actual grocery store, probably paid for out of the pockets of one generous person or from funds pooled together from the few adults who could take a night off work to bring their kids to the games.

I remember the one batting helmet we all had to share.  No bullshit.

And it all seemed okay to me at the time because that’s what I was used to, and I had nothing to compare it to.

Until, after I quit (I didn’t make it three games, admittedly), and went to attend the exhibition game that my old team played right down the street from my grandparent’s house, against a team of white kids from Oak Park.

And they showed up in bright green and gold uniforms.  Brand new cleats.  Gloves.  Last names stitched on the back of jerseys.  A coach in a matching team color windbreaker, even though it was unnecessary in 70-degree weather.

Wouldn’t you know they all had their own batting helmets?

And for once, all of the lights at the park seemed to work.

And that’s when I realized that something was very, very wrong here.

The disparity didn’t get any better when I reached high school and was able to travel to places like Glenbard North and Hinsdale, hell, any place outside of District 209–where I was in awe of the facilities that student-athletes had access to.

While we barely had a pool, they had a practice pool and a full competition pool.  When we had to roll up our wrestling mats and bring them into our main gyms before meets ourselves and lay them out, they had a crew to do that.  Weight room too small?  Unheard of.  Theirs were the size of our drill court (which was huge.)

I say all that to say this:

I realize that in spite of these disparities, we still produced some of the best athletes AND students in the area, who have gone on to do great things in Illinois and in the country.  This has more to do with our sheer determination to make do with what we were given, instead of having things handed to us.

The adage of having to be twice as good to get half as far is true, and even moreso in this case, because having a group of kids overcome the odds during one of the most violent summers in city and national history to win a national title, only to have it stripped from them on a technicality, is sickening.

But I’d be lying to myself and to you all if I was to say I was surprised.

And here is the thing I want folks to take away from this: collectively, black people who are aware of this disparity between areas in which we live versus areas that are an improvement will find a way to use it to our advantage.  It would be foolish not to.

It is why today we are willing to risk jail time to send our kids to schools in better districts, even if it is only slightly better.  Any improvement is better than none.

Hope is better than remaining hopeless.

Just to drive home my point:

During my time in grade school, right up until I graduated from Irving Elementary, I was consistently the top student in my grade level.  And, of course, based off of district rules, I attended Irving because my old address on 19th Avenue allowed me to be there.

But, here’s the kicker: I actually lived about 15 miles away in Summit, Illinois, which was as violent and as drug and gang infested as Maywood is right now.  Probably moreso.

Guess whose parents got up and drove me, my brother and sister out to Irving every morning?  Whose grandparents let me use their address to register in District 89 so I could receive a better education than attending the ramshackle elementary less than a block away from my apartment building?  Why I stayed with one grandparent or another on weeknights when my parents were too tired to make that trip so I could get up and go to school in the morning?

Damn right.

I didn’t officially move to Maywood on 19th Avenue until I was 14 years old.

Somebody want to come take my 8th grade diploma from me, or nah?

I guarantee if I asked them would they do it over again in order to give their kids a better shot in this world, they’d say yes in a heartbeat.

And I’d do the same for mine.

If it means giving hope, I’m all about bending the rules.

I’m also for breaking the rules that keep disparities happening, because it’s not like they weren’t put in place for just that reason.

And at this point, I’m also for uplifiting these young brothers and telling them that they are still champions to all of the people that matter.

And no one can ever strip that from them.

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Written by aceviewblogger

February 11, 2015 at 10:41 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

One Response

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  1. This is such a great take. It’s good hearing some of the stories from the behind the scenes issues that caused some of this in the way of mobility.
    While I understand that the little league had their hands tied because of the redrawn map (that was really the nail in the coffin), there’s a lot of bigger issues at play here. I read a story saying that a few of the parents have moved to better neighborhoods, but wanted their kids to continue playing with the kids they grew up with. It’s a shame when adults get in the way of kids having fun. They can’t take away the awesome experience that all those kids had though.
    Also they can’t take away that 41 run beat down that they put on evergreen park. I would display that all over my district.

    malael

    February 12, 2015 at 10:08 am


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