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May 29, 2010 1:45 AM   Subscribe

Instead of kicking the shit out of a team that had just been formed out of kids who'd never played the game, didn't have a full set of equipment, and only loosely understood the rules, Roncalli High School's JV women's softball team forfeited the game in order to use the time to teach the new team how to play, then took up a collection to help them buy equipment and hooked them up with a former coach to help advise the program.
posted by Pope Guilty (69 comments total) 38 users marked this as a favorite

 
I will find a way to snark about this!
posted by lattiboy at 1:54 AM on May 29, 2010 [10 favorites]


Great story, but I disliked the caption under the photo, "Roncalli High School's girls' softball team demonstrated true compassion to Marshall High. "

I would suggest what they demonstrated was respect, not compassion - respect for the fact their opponents were trying, and respect for the notion of sportsmanship.
posted by rodgerd at 2:01 AM on May 29, 2010 [35 favorites]


I'm all warmed by my heart right now.
posted by geek anachronism at 2:03 AM on May 29, 2010


OK, let me be the first to snark. This story would be 10 times better as a piece of journalism if there was even one paragraph that explained why the poor school of inner-city kids couldn't afford to kit out a team or coach them. It would be 100 times better if it didn't just assume that this is the natural order of things.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 2:03 AM on May 29, 2010 [47 favorites]


This story would be 10 times better as a piece of journalism if there was even one paragraph that explained why the poor school of inner-city kids couldn't afford to kit out a team or coach them.

It'd be 100 times better if it could explain why the poor kids didn't even know how to play catch! Perhaps it's my white male privilege blinding me to plight of the baseballicly-underprivileged, but it took me all the way through the article to understand that the losing-but-winning poor team wasn't from Bolivia or Bulgaria or Borneo or something.

Seriously, who the fuck grows up in the US without that they've at least played a couple games of pseudo-baseball? Why didn't they choose as coach like, at least, the one person who had seen a baseball game om TV? Or, failing that, why didn't the coach, like, watch a baseball game on TV?
posted by Netzapper at 2:11 AM on May 29, 2010


It's a Rick Reilly column, so you're asking too much, joe's spleen. It makes me really, really happy to know that what he describes took place. It makes me less thrilled that, considering the long, rich tradition of quality sportswriting by truly talented people, Reilly somehow got such a prominent pulpit.
posted by Ghidorah at 2:14 AM on May 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


"Anyway, it's not an important story, just one that squirts apple juice right in your face."

My heart was warmed, and then my brain was perplexed.


...Gah! I'm going to be thinking about that metaphor for hours.
posted by furiousthought at 2:18 AM on May 29, 2010 [4 favorites]


Schmoopy: Yay! Go (both) teams!

Snark: This is just the free hand of the invisible market. If the inner-city kid's parents had just tried harder they wouldn't be poor. Or some fucked up shit like that.

Remind me again why local property taxes fund our schools? It's like the winning answer to the question "what's the worst possible way to help lift poor kids out of poverty?"

Which is probably right on the button.
posted by maxwelton at 2:20 AM on May 29, 2010 [10 favorites]


Seriously, who the fuck grows up in the US without that they've at least played a couple games of pseudo-baseball?

Things you need to play baseball:

1. A baseball
2. Glove(s)
3. A place to throw a ball where it's not going to break something or hit someone else in the head
4. Other people who care about baseball enough to show it to you

If I had a kid right now here where I live they would not be playing baseball! Or even catch. I would be too busy teaching them how to lasso rats and sneak onto the subway, both REAL LIFE SURVIVAL SKILLS.


don't sneak onto the subway, you will get arrested as hell
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 2:27 AM on May 29, 2010 [29 favorites]


So if you think sportsmanship is toast, this next story is an all-you-can-eat buffet to a starving man.

A buffet... MADE ENTIRELY OF TOAST.

This is a good thing.

I like toast.
posted by WalterMitty at 2:36 AM on May 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


My heart! It is warmed!
posted by smartyboots at 2:45 AM on May 29, 2010


Hooray for Indy teams being good sports! All my experiences with Roncalli were high school soccer games, of which probably twice a year, regular season and sectionals. They were the closest high school to us and we were both private schools. (incidentally Marshall is the closest public school to where I lived, though it wasn't a high school at the time) Though I can't say anything like this happened when I was in school, I'm glad it happened in this city. I know that Indy has pretty large soccer and baseball programs all around the city for kids.

In fact, Marshall is not really that far from where I played little league baseball. It most certainly is not inner city or anything. The complete lack of softball/baseball knowledge is kind of odd, but still a really good story to hear. They really are different regions though, southside Catholic school forfeits to far-east side public school.
posted by Phantomx at 3:05 AM on May 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


After looking at Google Maps The park I played little league at is literally right around the corner, but isn't used anymore.
posted by Phantomx at 3:08 AM on May 29, 2010


Just not going to go to the snarking part here. It's REALLY cool what both of those teams did, whatever the reasons for them finding themselves in those circumstances.

My heart, it is warmed. My eyes, they are a little moist.
posted by bardophile at 3:26 AM on May 29, 2010


I can't understand any of the above posters' incredulity at the circumstances here.

It would be a risky proposition for a poor school to throw funding at an experiment like a brand new girls' softball team. It's not likely that that school can motivate already overworked teachers and staff to commit a good dozen or so hours a week to do something that likely wouldn't pay. And I know plenty of female USAians (privileged or not) who wouldn't know the first thing about playing baseball without being taught.

Combine the above with a community with a lot of parents who have difficulty finding the time to teach their kids much of anything (least of all baseball) and this is very believable.

Of course, this is all in the context of a sports/entertainment piece, but I think my point still stands.
posted by The Potate at 3:42 AM on May 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


I love the story but I bemoan the state of sports writing in America today. It's like all these guys had to take the same crappy seminar in order to join the guild.
posted by availablelight at 3:51 AM on May 29, 2010


Hurrah for my home state!
posted by sciurus at 3:57 AM on May 29, 2010


NetZapper: Seriously, who the fuck grows up in the US without that they've at least played a couple games of pseudo-baseball?

ifds, sn9: Things you need to play baseball:

1. A baseball
2. Glove(s)
3. A place to throw a ball where it's not going to break something or hit someone else in the head
4. Other people who care about baseball enough to show it to you

If I had a kid right now here where I live they would not be playing baseball! Or even catch.


This is a story of suburban condescension. "Poor city kids deserve a break."

When I was a kid in Philadelphia we played stickball in the damn street. Things you need to play stickball:

1. A stick.
2. A hollow-pink ball, cut in half, or a wadded up ball of tape, or an empty beer can.
3. Someone to watch for cars.

We would have kicked the crap out of any suburban softball team with or without mitts. If you can field a half-ball while running between parked cars, using a glove to catch a softball in an open field would be like cheating.
posted by three blind mice at 4:01 AM on May 29, 2010 [15 favorites]


There's no crying in baseball!

Softball, maybe.
posted by bwg at 4:11 AM on May 29, 2010


I think the Yankees ought to do this for the Cleveland Indians.
posted by Faze at 4:13 AM on May 29, 2010 [28 favorites]


Seriously, who the fuck grows up in the US without that they've at least played a couple games of pseudo-baseball?

My wife played basketball when she was younger. I played baseball. When we decided as graduate students that we were going to play on a softball team, I was amazed at the extent to which she lacked the ability to catch and throw a softball. She kind of threw the softball by "pushing" it forward like a basketball, and the idea of catching the ball by getting it into the little pocket in the glove was not natural. Baseball-type movements were anything but automatic, since she just had never played anything like baseball.

During our first catch-throw practice, she somehow put her face in the path of the ball rather than the glove. She now has several fake teeth. Trust me, it is possible to not to have learned how to play baseball :)
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 4:14 AM on May 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


+
posted by seawallrunner at 4:18 AM on May 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


This is a story of suburban condescension. "Poor city kids deserve a break."

How is it condescending to notice that some schools are much better funded than others, and to do something about it? You say you can learn how to play baseball with a stick and a ball, but it's not really true. You can't learn the skills needed to compete in baseball/softball that way. I know I played games like wiffle ball and stick-ball as a kid, sure; but I always had access to real equipment when I went to school or my parents took me to the batting cages. Playing with sticks and wiffle balls was solely to pass the time.

What we did in Little League or school sports was different, and for a different purpose. Organized, competitive sports cost money and requires equipment and training. And if kids want to play competitive softball and can't, why shouldn't we applaud people who make that happen?
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 4:24 AM on May 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


Philisopher Dirtbike: Baseball-type movements were anything but automatic, since she just had never played anything like baseball.

What do you know about stock car racing?

Well... watched it on television, of course.

You've seen it on television?

ESPN. The coverage is excellent, you'd be surprised at how much you can pick up.
posted by three blind mice at 4:27 AM on May 29, 2010


Wow. I thought sportsmanship had become completely last-century. Glad I was wrong.
posted by Goofyy at 4:38 AM on May 29, 2010


This is a story of suburban condescension.

You know, the article actually addresses this:

This is the kind of thing that can backfire with teenagers -- the rich kids taking pity on the inner-city kids kind of thing. Traylor was afraid of it, too.

"One wrong attitude, one babying approach from our players would shut down the Marshall team, who already were down," wrote Traylor. "But our girls made me as proud as I have ever been. ... [By the end], you could tell they were having a blast. The change from the beginning of the game to the end of the practice was amazing."


And the "our kids are really thirsty to learn" part strongly implies the Marshall kids completely appreciated the chance to learn more. From all appearances (and yeah, a bit more about the circumstances of inner-city schools would have made the piece much, much stronger), it was a marvelous human moment on the field - one that truly justifies all the "sports helps young people become better" hype.

Sometimes the immediate impulse to find the negative on a story is not your best impulse. Reign it in.
posted by mediareport at 4:40 AM on May 29, 2010 [16 favorites]


three blind mice: We would have kicked the crap out of any suburban softball team with or without mitts. If you can field a half-ball while running between parked cars, using a glove to catch a softball in an open field would be like cheating.

Yeah, those wimps. Why when I was a kid we played with a 2-by-4 and a can of booze we stole from my dad. Mitts and actual bats, pfft.

Soft suburbanites wit their protective gear and their 'specially made' equipment.

Don't they know that bootstraps and movie-style improvised equipment make for a far better athlete?
posted by geek anachronism at 4:41 AM on May 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


Philisopher Dirtbike: Playing with sticks and wiffle balls was solely to pass the time.

This is what I mean when I say suburban condescension. Stickball was not "solely to pass the time" - it was serious business. We kids had a self-organized league covering several neighborhoods, a basic set of rules (argued over constantly), a schedule of games, and even a championship playoff. No parents were wanted or needed and we did just fine - and I'd say we played to a high level of skill. You might be surprised at what city kids can manage all on their own.

When I got to high school and played baseball, I found it tedious and boring to play. If you can hit a half-ball with a broomstick, you can hit the shit out of a baseball with a baseball bat.
posted by three blind mice at 4:47 AM on May 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Considering how it's so easy to become so jaded about team sports (screaming parents, coaches who push more than encourage, fund-raising madness), I think it's nice to read a story about kids who genuinely want to play the game.

The way that story is written, (as a puff piece of cheesey journalism) that's a separate issue all together.
posted by Fizz at 5:11 AM on May 29, 2010


My Hoosier heart, it is warmed by seeing that linked quote. Then a Siberian chill came over when I saw the piece was written by Rick Reilly.

Here's the original IndyStar.com article.

Of course, in Indy high school basketball, even if one team can't afford proper footwear, the opposing teams will have no qualms crushing them. Cf last year's 0-22 Medora Hornets. "Players for Medora High School have taken the court wearing work boots because their families cannot afford basketball shoes. Most smoke cigarettes. Some talk openly of drug use. All but a few come from broken homes."
posted by NolanRyanHatesMatches at 5:12 AM on May 29, 2010 [4 favorites]


Nolanryan: You beat me to it. Note that the Indy Star leaves out the crucial fact of exactly who forfeited to whom. Digging further: If you check the Roncalli JV softball website, there is no mention of a game with John Marshall High ever taking place.

That's because it was a Freshman game. See the Freshman softball page. And note that the game, on April 14, is not listed as a loss, but as "NO SCORE."

Here is the original letter from the Frosh softball coach, Jeff Traylor, describing the incident that Reilly cribs from for his article. (Note that it's not a letter to Reilly, but one that solicits donations for Marshall from a coaches' website.) Traylor mentions that is was a Frosh game, and he does indeed mention that the Roncalli coaches were willing to take a loss... but not that they did.

(Also note that Reilly scrubs all the Christ is Awesome!!! from his regurgitation of the letter.)

And there's this: the Roncalli softball site shows a Frosh loss on April 15, the next day, (and more in subsequent weeks), so (1) the Marshall game was not a loss, and (2) Reilly's heart-tugging pull-quote about "a team that hadn't lost a game in 2½ years, a team that was going to win in a landslide purposely offered to declare defeat" is a tad disingenuous. My guess is that Reilly is conflating the Varsity's undefeated record with the Frosh, or less charitably, he's making up a semi-truth to make his story's hook all the better.

(n.b., For those unfamiliar with high school sports, Frosh teams are made up of 13 and 14 year olds; some players will make the JV team as sophomores, and later the Varsity, but the majority won't be good enough to continue playing. Scores and records of Frosh games are not really of interest to anyone but the school itself -- they don't play in championships, etc.)

In conclusion: Yes, it's a heartwarming story. Even without the specious "undefeated prep school takes a loss to help the inner-city girls out" hook. Why gild the lily?

(Note that I have no evidence other than insomniac web sleuthing to support any of this, and I should not be taken seriously by anyone. And for the record, I think Reilly is an entertaining writer. Case in point: "Womanhandling.")
posted by turducken at 5:18 AM on May 29, 2010 [7 favorites]


Here's the Jeff Traylor letter in all of its God-loving glory :)

In my 5 years at Roncalli I have been very blessed to see the amazing power of God time and time again in my students and players. I have always felt like one of the luckiest people on earth that I get to spend day after day with these students. In all of that time I have never felt more blessed than I did April 14th 2010.

On that day I was at the softball field after practice helping get our field ready for a freshman softball game. We were playing against Marshall High School which is an IPS magnet only in its second year re-forming as a High School. Their team was about to play their first game as a school. They arrived to the field with a set of mis-matched catchers gear, a bag of extremely overly used gloves with no padding, 2 bats, 5 balls, 2 coaches who had never played softball one of which had never seen a softball game, and 11 of the most determined young ladies who I have ever had the privilege to be around. These 11 girls showed up with no cleats, no sliders, no sliding shorts, no long socks, no gloves of their own, no batting helmets, and no experience playing softball among the 11 of them. They had only had 1 week of practice on a field that has trees growing in the outfield.

Upon their arrival and after speaking with their coaches I asked if I could help out in their dugout which they were more than willing. I spent pieces of that time answering questions such as "which one is first base?" and "how do I hold this (bat)". While also showing the coaches where the coaching boxes were, how to fill out a lineup card, etc. What I encountered though were 11 girls who had joined a team that they had no experience for because they wanted to be a part of something. Marshall High School was featured in the paper 2 days before as one of the extreme underperforming schools in the city. I cannot imagine how with the quality of student that I met.

After an inning and a half of girls not knowing where to stand in the box and their pitchers walking 9 batters I had a discussion with their coaches and athletic director. We decided to call the game as a forfeit at that time to get the umpires off of the field. The purpose was to spend some time that I and our coaches might be able to work with them. Their coaches talked to the Marshall players about this, during this time I was fielding requests from half the JV team at Roncalli to come into the dugout and work with their girls on stance and hitting. It was amazing. The Marshall players did NOT want to quit, they were willing to loose 100 to 0 if it meant they finished their first game. The Roncalli coaches were willing to forfeit and take the loss and with that offer the Marshall girls realized that they should do it.

The story does not end here. At this time the Roncalli freshman team came over, introduced themselves and with the Holy Spirit active in their hearts took the field with the Marshall girls to show them positions, how to field a ground ball, how to throw, how to catch, where to stand, what an out was. The pitchers from Roncalli worked with the Pitchers from Marshall showing them technique and release points. Our coaches were teaching their coaches how to soft toss and different drills they can use.

After about 20-30 minutes each Roncalli Girl matched up one on one with the Marshall Players and taught them how to hit. I will forever remember the image of 11 sets of players spread out in our outfield soft tossing and hitting off tees, one at a time the Marshall girls would come in to hit off of the pitchers and one at a time I could see determination and a desire to just be better. As they hit the ball their faces LIT UP! They were high fiving and hugging the girls from Roncalli, thanking them for teaching to them the game.

Almost as emotional was the look of pure love on the faces of the Roncalli girls. I knew that one wrong attitude, one babying approach from our players would shut down the Marshall team who already were down for thinking they were quitters but our girls made me as proud as I have ever been to be a Rebel because they knew they could do something small to make a large difference!

If you are still reading you may be teary eyed as I was and am right now. I tell all of you this story not only out of pride but out of a sense that we can do more. The budget for this program is 0. In witnessing what I did I was reminded of how fortunate we have it. When I see half of the teams in the county and surrounding areas, including reigning state champs, not fielding freshmen teams because they don't want to deal with it, it absolutely warms my heart to think of the Marshall Patriots.

I have some ideas of some great things we can do for these kids, I think everyone of them deserves to have their own bats, gloves, cleats, sliders, batting gloves, helmets, all of it. Why would they not.

At this point I look to all of you. I am looking for gently used bats, Gloves, and helmets. I am looking for money to buy new cleats, batting gloves, sliders, sliding shorts, Socks and maybe get some team shirts and stuff made for them. But I am also looking for help. If there is anyone, or group of anyones, who would be willing to help me establish this relationship, collect/buy these items I would love to hear from you. The last thing is if you know of someone who is a retired coach, or a fan of the game with time on their hands, I am sure that the Marshall Coaches could use some help and guidance as well.

Phillipians 4:13 says "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" This quote has never seemed more prudent to me because after Last night through the example of the Roncalli Rebels and the Marshall Patriots, I feel that the presence of Christ on that softball field could have moved mountains.

Thank you for your time and commitment to what we do here.

Peace and Thanks,

Jeff Traylor

posted by NolanRyanHatesMatches at 5:29 AM on May 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yeah, those wimps. Why when I was a kid we played with a 2-by-4 and a can of booze we stole from my dad. Mitts and actual bats, pfft.


That's nothing! When I was a lad we played with a rock and the severed arm of one of our friends!
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 5:36 AM on May 29, 2010 [10 favorites]


How is it possible that two schools in the same state have such disparity in financial support?
posted by francesca too at 5:39 AM on May 29, 2010


That was great.
posted by oddman at 5:40 AM on May 29, 2010


This is a great story that does two things. It makes me feel good that it happened in my home town, and it shows a positive side to what has become, in most cases, an extremely cut-throat sport, namely, softball.

That said, there are a couple of things amiss in the story...For one, Marshall is NOT an inner-city school. At least not if you define "inner-city" as being, y'know, deep within the bowels of a city. Marshall is located about as far east as you can go and still remain inside the Indianapolis city limits. It's, more or less, a suburban school, surrounded, as it is, by strip centers and neighborhoods full of ranch homes. It's my alma mater (class of '76 represent!)

That said, because of economics over the several decades since I came out of Marshall, the area has taken-on the look and feel and economic reality of what many would call the inner-city. So, I guess, in that sense, Reilly is "correct" in characterizing Marshall as "inner-city". The far east side on Indy is shit. And I say that as someone who still has relatives living there.

Seriously, who the fuck grows up in the US without that they've at least played a couple games of pseudo-baseball?

Seriously? How often do you see kids play a pickup game of baseball in a yard these days? I mean other than in feel-good movies or commercials? Softball, especially, has all but become the sole property of white suburban schools. In terms of the the school, it doesn't surprise me that Marshall didn't have adequate equipment or coaching. IPS is a severely underfunded city school system. Marshall, itself, was actually closed for several years due to budget reasons. This is a new incarnation of the school I graduated from. It's totally believable that the idea of a softball team came about as a way to involve the girls in something positive. This is always a key mission of "inner-city" schools...involving the kids in anything that might focus them away from the day-to-day bullshit of their surroundings. It also wouldn't surprise me that what meager equipment they did have was cobbled-together from stuff teachers had in their closets. I doubt there was much in the way of a budget for the team.

Roncalli, on the other hand, is a private Catholic high school. They don't have such budgetary worries. But they do, it would seem, turn-out a class of student that seems to have a very enlightened sense of mission to their fellow man (or girl, in this case.)

As I said up-top, this is a great great story. Good find, PG.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:45 AM on May 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


francesca too, because one school, Roncalli, is a private Catholic high school (although not in the same financial stratosphere as the other big Indy Catholic high schools Chatard, Cathedral, and Brebeuf Prep); and the other, Marshall, is a small public magnet high school that has opened, closed, and reopened since the 1960s.

I've been away from Indy for so long that I don't remember Marshall being a part of a the magnet program (a la Broadripple/Northwest/Manual/Arsenal Tech, all high schools with big problems but strong magnet programs), but there you have it.
posted by NolanRyanHatesMatches at 5:50 AM on May 29, 2010


(This is all going on pretty unreliable memory, but ...) Thorzdad, isn't Marshall on E. 38th? FWIW, that probably has a lot to do w/ the "inner-city" label-- a lot of Indyians use 38th St. as the imaginary boarder between inner city and suburbs, the fact that there are a ton of recessed neighborhood pockets notwithstanding.
posted by NolanRyanHatesMatches at 5:55 AM on May 29, 2010


francesca too: "How is it possible that two schools in the same state have such disparity in financial support?"

Hell, the same thing happens inside one city - schools are funded by property taxes paid by the people in the school district, so the school's budget is directly tied to the affluence of the neighborhood.

Yes that is a stupid way to do things.
posted by idiopath at 5:58 AM on May 29, 2010


Heck of a way to start my day. Thanks for sharing.
posted by Kskomsvold at 6:21 AM on May 29, 2010


Thorzdad, isn't Marshall on E. 38th? FWIW, that probably has a lot to do w/ the "inner-city" label-- a lot of Indyians use 38th St. as the imaginary boarder between inner city and suburbs, the fact that there are a ton of recessed neighborhood pockets notwithstanding.

Yup. 10101 E. 38th. St. What you say is true about 38th. Even when I was a kid, 38th had the rep as "the street you don't drive too far on, even though it's one of the few streets you can actually take across the entire city.

Even when I attended, Marshall seemed like this outpost IPS tossed out into the frontier. We really did feel cut-off, in a way, from the rest of the system. Back then, it was the place a lot of of the new, young teachers coming out of college in the early 70's got assigned, which worked to our great advantage. We probably had one of the best liberal arts programs in the city, if not the state. As well as an incredible natural sciences department.

The east side of Indy, at that time, was largely white working-class, and there was an ugly underbelly that did not become evident until court-ordered busing became the law of the land in the mid-70's. There were two factions that hit head-on...the kids that didn't want to be there (or do the hour-long bus ride), and the kids and parents that didn't want them there. In my four years there, we had two major school-clearing incidents, one which necessitated armed city police, dogs and gas. The school soldiered on through it all, though.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:24 AM on May 29, 2010


Yeah NolanRyanHatesMatches, it is on 38th st., but two roads over and you're out of the city limits.

I see what you mean about 38th street, but it is so far out there inner-city is pretty far off.
posted by Phantomx at 6:25 AM on May 29, 2010


How is it possible that two schools in the same state have such disparity in financial support?
posted by francesca too at 8:39 AM


This is so common that I actually clicked on your profile to see if you weren't a resident of the U.S.
posted by availablelight at 6:29 AM on May 29, 2010 [14 favorites]


My dad told me about stickball vs baseball when he was a poor kid in the city. They'd find a golfball, wind an unstrung sock around it, and then tape it closed with electrical tape. Of course they used sticks to hit it with. He said it would last for about three or four at bats before it came apart and had to be re taped.

They tried out for the baseball team and were totally outclassed by kids who had real balls and bats and mitts and time to practice. Money and property taxes absolutely make a difference.

The highly contentious Robin Hood Plan in Texas did a hell of a lot to equalize things, but I'm afraid it will be back to bidness as usual fairly soonish.

I'm really happy about what happened with these kids. Even stripping out the artificial glurge, it's a great story.
posted by lysdexic at 6:31 AM on May 29, 2010


That said, because of economics over the several decades since I came out of Marshall, the area has taken-on the look and feel and economic reality of what many would call the inner-city.

There's an interesting thing going on across america wrt "inner city" neighborhoods. I see it here in Austin, and it looks to be a common thing. Old inner city cores are being re-developed as cities look to revitalize their urban core, and to build denser more vibrant "downtown" areas, where people can live close to work in the business center. This is all well and good on the face of it, vacant lots replaced by shining condo towers full of the best & the brightest, nightlife, galleries, restaurants -- yay for urban cores. Less ex-urban sprawl, and less long distance commuting. Basically, these are god things.

The downside of it is that the lower income people who used to live in these rotting urban cores have to go somewhere. They're forced out by the higher cost of living that these renewals bring, and what we end up with is a rotting donut surrounding the urban core. Neighborhoods that were built of shoddily-constructed starter homes in the 60's and 70's that used to be the edge of towns, and previously suburban until they got surrounded in the 80's & 90's by the new exurbs, are now falling into decay as the neglect moves there instead. This donut-shaped slum displaces people farther from transportation hubs, social services and to some extent, jobs.

As long as we maintain our current economic system of needing an excess of cheap labor to drive profitability, and a political system of "I got mine," I'm not sure we're ever going to accomplish much except for moving the poor around from place to place.

As to the actual kids, and the actual game being written about, hooray for baseball! People coming together on the green diamond is just such a cool thing. I think I like little-league/school-level ball 10x better than pro ball just because of the way it gathers a community.
posted by Devils Rancher at 6:35 AM on May 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


As for budgets and property taxes, in the 90's, I went to two different high schools, one in Kalamazoo, Michigan (Loy Norrix HS) and Lake Forest HS in the north suburbs of Chicago. Lake Forest is one of the richest school districts in the nation. Where K-zoo public schools had about $4000 to spend, per pupil, per year (including salaries, materials, everything), LFHS had nearly $14000 available per student. Property tax is not the way to go, or if it is, at the very least have it collected at the state level, then distributed equally to all school districts.

As for baseball/softball, it's a numbers thing. You need a good number of people to actually play a game. Even to play catch, you really should have a couple gloves and a ball. For anything like batting practice, you need a hell of a lot of space. One reason soccer is so widely played worldwide? You need a ball. That, or something kickable. After that, you're done.
posted by Ghidorah at 6:36 AM on May 29, 2010


I love the story but I bemoan the state of sports writing in America today. It's like all these guys had to take the same crappy seminar in order to join the guild.

Yep. They don't make'em like Grantland Rice, Shirley Povich, Furman Bisher, and Mike Lupica any more.
posted by deadmessenger at 6:50 AM on May 29, 2010


three blind mice: This is what I mean when I say suburban condescension. Stickball was not "solely to pass the time" - it was serious business.

Wow, you completely missed the point. I told my two stories above to make the point that not everyone's experience with baseball and baseball-type games is the same. So, by reiterating YOUR experience with stickball, you do nothing to counter my point; instead, you reinforce it. There are doubtless other games with which the kids are more familiar and may seriously play in their spare time. But the fact is, these kids were on the field, wanting to play in an organized softball league. They lacked equipment and experience. Someone is helping them obtain it, and your assumption that their motivation is condescension is uncharitable at best, and at worst shows that you have a chip on your shoulder.

They don't WANT to play stickball. They want to play softball, against other teams with equipment and training. If they wanted to play stickball, they could. Or are you implying that they are too stupid to realize that they could just pick up a stick and a pinecone, instead?
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 6:53 AM on May 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


I liked this story very much. I don't really get the lamentations about sports writing but I guess I'm not much of an expert in that department.

My dad's been dead many years, but I will always be grateful for the many times just around May when he'd say, "Wanna go downstairs and play some catch?" Manhattan means you don't have a yard or anything. We just played in front of our building. I had that same mitt until a puppy chewed it to bits. And just for the record I still throw like a girl. Thanks Dad, I miss you.
posted by emhutchinson at 7:08 AM on May 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


whoops - that first line in my comment above should have been italicised for quoting.
posted by deadmessenger at 7:56 AM on May 29, 2010


Regional Derail: I still live on the east side of Indianapolis. It's not inner-city in the sense that it's downtown, but it's definitely inner-city in the sense that it's crime-ridden and mired in poverty.

In the years since the 70s, the East Side has actually been abandoned to the state and township police because IPD didn't want to handle the skyrocketing crime rate over here. The new, Metropolitan Indianapolis Police Department now patrols the east side, though, just in the last couple of years. Until the consolidation of the police departments, it wasn't uncommon to call 911, only to be told to call a non-emergency number for state or township departments.

Every single apartment complex that surrounds Marshall is Section 8 housing. One of those complexes recently burned down; another is frequently the site of drive-by shootings, and last year, a child was murdered in the crossfire. The closest grocery store is a quarter mile away on 38th and Post. Immediately surrounding the school is a bingo hall, a bar, a Burger King, a Gramboli's Pizza, a liquor store, and a laundromat. The laundromat is new. There used to be a thrift store, but I think it's a community outreach center now, or perhaps a church.

There is an abandoned field across the school that is never mowed. The grass tends to be waist high or better throughout the year, making it unsuitable for play. Most people wouldn't let their kids play there anyway. My brother found a murder victim's body in that field in the 80s; he was neither the first nor the last to have that experience. The apartment complexes do have some open spaces for play, but they're mostly small patches of land with a few slides or swing sets on them.

So no, John Marshall isn't downtown, it's not surrounded by skyscrapers. But it is every inch an inner-city school in all the unfortunate ways that matter. Marshall is not a magnet school in the sense that Tech and Broad Ripple are, with their arts and science programs. Marshall is a community magnet being run like a charter school, in the hopes of raising an abysmal literacy graduation rate.

End Regional Derail.

Good on those Roncalli girls; I'm glad the Marshall girls got the chance to learn to succeed.
posted by headspace at 8:05 AM on May 29, 2010 [5 favorites]


This was a damn fine story. I love the fact that the Marshall team wasn't going to quit, even if they lost badly.

The story here is pretty simple: kids want to do well, want to learn and given decent guidance, they will.

Here's the most stunning quote from the story: ""We probably got to some things 10 years quicker than we would have had without Roncalli," says Marshall principal Michael Sullivan."

10 years. 10 years in a developing child's life. Meanwhile we can drop half a trillion dollars a year on defense, but we don't have the brains or heart or will to figure out how to get some basic things to into a developing child's life. We are failing as a society.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:11 AM on May 29, 2010 [7 favorites]


I will find a way to snark about this!

something to do with Steven Spielberg securing the screen rights and Nicholas Cage playing one of the coaches.
posted by philip-random at 8:32 AM on May 29, 2010


This is a fabulous story. So much of high school sports is about winning, not about playing or learning teampersonship, just winning. That one team was willing to play with such little preparation (and really, ya'll up there can't imagine not knowing baseball????) and the other team was willing to forget about the win is downright amazing. Brought tears to my eyes, no joke. Thanks so much for posting this!
posted by bluesky43 at 8:53 AM on May 29, 2010


While a good story, the fudging of the facts and the glurginess gives it a very "Bart's People" feel. but that's Rick Reilly in general.
posted by Challahtronix at 9:05 AM on May 29, 2010


How is it possible that two schools in the same state have such disparity in financial support?

I was going to warn you never to come to New York, but I see from your profile that you're in Oklahoma. I went to High School in Bartlesville, a town of around 30,000 people. The high school was divided between the dilapidated "mid high" building on one side of town for 9th and 10th grades, and the beautiful "high school" building on the other side of town for 11th and 12th grades. This was a recent change in response to the violence beginning to erupt between the two different high schools in one small town with such radically different funding from local property taxes. Thankfully the town just threw all the kids together and had them go through both schools, but they took a while to come to that decision, and didn't have to legally do so.

Also, the last line of the article is curious. If I were playing for Roncali, I'd think Marshall beating us would be all the thanks we'd need.
posted by Navelgazer at 9:08 AM on May 29, 2010


I think this is an awesome story of what people can do if they are simply allowed to interact and get to know each other. From my time in living in the US for about five years - what blew me away about American society was how self segregated everyone was (and this was in San Francisco - supposed hotbed of liberalism). Not that Canada is better than America (seriously) - but growing up in Vancouver, as the son of new immigrants - my friends ran the gamut racially and socio economically. These kids are a lesson in the good things that can happen by simply treating each other with respect and understanding. Now I am making myself weepy.
posted by helmutdog at 9:47 AM on May 29, 2010


Awesome story. I'm sure both teams had more fun and less stress than they would have at a real game. I played plenty of middle-class little league, my team was sponsored by a pizza place where we ate there after each game, making mozzarella balls and throwing them about. Properly suburban. Still, I went to a major league game last week and was completely bewildered by all the rules and rhythms of a competitive game. Definitely not something that's ingrained in our collective subconscious. The game has to be learned.

As far as bad sports-writing goes, I think this is horrible/wonderful example:
if you think sportsmanship is toast, this next story is an all-you-can-eat buffet to a starving man.

It makes no sense unless you read it fast. If you think sportsmanship is eggs, this next story is an all-you-can-eat omelet bar to a starving man.
posted by kittensofthenight at 9:50 AM on May 29, 2010


unless he literally means toast, not 'in trouble' or 'done for'.
posted by kittensofthenight at 9:53 AM on May 29, 2010


"Hell, the same thing happens inside one city - schools are funded by property taxes paid by the people in the school district, so the school's budget is directly tied to the affluence of the neighborhood."

When you get underfunded school districts there can exist a disparity even WITHIN the district. Someone's aunt owns a pizza place that sponsors your team, someone's family donates a bunch of year-old computers, stay-at-home parents organize booster activities and fundraisers, you need renovation and someone's dad who owns a construction company does it at cost.

All of these things add to the school's quality and free up the budget for things like coaches, music teachers, books...

Eventually you get one elementary school with a computer for every three or four students and air conditioning, and one elementary school where they teach typing on pieces of paper and suffer through the heat.

Same district. Vastly different quality.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 10:09 AM on May 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


For all of the folks with the wonderful stick ball memories, you grew up in a time where kids were actually allowed to play outside. Many kids, especially those in more run-down areas are not allowed to run free because their parents are afraid of what will happen to them and who they will begin associating with. School sports are often their first opportunity to play outside team games.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 10:16 AM on May 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


2. A hollow-pink ball, cut in half, or a wadded up ball of tape, or an empty beer can.

So, I've played some pink-ball in my time, and it never once occurred to us to cut the ball in half.

Were you trying to keep the ball from traveling too far? Saving one half in case the other went down the drain?
posted by madajb at 10:39 AM on May 29, 2010


I will find a way to snark about this!

I finally thought of a way. 3 words. "White man's burden"

It's just snark. That team was truly awesome.
posted by CarlRossi at 11:07 AM on May 29, 2010


For all of the folks with the wonderful stick ball memories, you grew up in a time where kids were actually allowed to play outside. Many kids, especially those in more run-down areas are not allowed to run free because their parents are afraid of what will happen to them and who they will begin associating with. School sports are often their first opportunity to play outside team games.
posted by The Light Fantastic


This, a hundred times. I was recently part of an effort to survey people (the majority of them, parents) across two counties about what their biggest concerns were. Every single cohort located in an urban area mentioned being too afraid for their kids--particularly boys--to play outside. This isn't white suburban hysteria about stranger danger; random violence and gang activity/recruitment is very real in these neighborhoods. Given the descriptions of the area in question in this thread, I have no doubt these kids aren't being raised with the "set 'em free until the streetlights come on" model of parenting, through necessity.
posted by availablelight at 11:23 AM on May 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Here's the Jeff Traylor letter in all of its God-loving glory

For all that people dump on Christianity, this kind of non-condescending kindness is something a lot of Christians aspire to.

A lot of Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Pagan, and non-religious people aspire to it as well. Christianity is by no means the only thing that motivates people to do good, but there are a lot of genuinely good deeds in the world motivated by Christianity.
posted by straight at 12:32 PM on May 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


Here are a couple of schools in Northern Kentucky, just a few miles apart:

One is Highlands Middle High School, located in an upper-middle/upper class enclave south of Cincinnati. Former Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver/current NBC Sunday Night Football analyst Cris Collinsworth lives less than a mile from the school and his children attend. You can see the football field and fieldhouse, outfitted by the Collinsworths. You can't see all the other physical plant improvements (recently completed) the school has received as a result of its privileged location in Ft. Thomas.

The other school is Newport High School, serving the closest adjacent community. The average per-capita income in Newport is 30% lower than Ft. Thomas - the school is nice, but you can see the difference.

Now check out Dayton High School (Dayton KY). This is a fairly poor white area, not far from Highlands on the map but worlds away in funding.

Be sure to click on the "More Information" links to see all the demographic info, especially per capita income and district expenditure.

Within one state, there are county-by-county differentials that indicate what percent of school funding comes from property taxes and how much is made up by other sources, such as sales and cigarette taxes. Within the district, however, parent and community fundraising is winner-take-all.
posted by toodleydoodley at 2:16 PM on May 29, 2010


I don't know if it's a perfect fit, but this story makes me think of this quote: "If you have come to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is tied up with mine, then let us work together." -- Lill Watson (indigenous activist)
posted by anshuman at 3:18 PM on May 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


straight: Agreed that a lot of Christians (and humans of all stripes) aspire to this kind of selflessness. The snark (on my part, at least), is because Coach Traylor gives credit for his kids' good deeds primarily (and frequently) to Jesus H. Christ, who last time I checked was not a 9th grade girl. Scrub the hallelujahs from Coach's letter, however, and you have the story of a bunch of super-cool 9th grade girls who have yet to be infected by the douchebaggery that runs rampant though organized sports -- and hopefully, they never will. (And if "It Wasn't Us, It Was Christ!" ends up being their chosen means of inoculation, then so be it. But I see no quotes from the girls themselves in any of the articles linked so far.)
posted by turducken at 3:31 PM on May 29, 2010


"Coach Traylor gives credit for his kids' good deeds primarily (and frequently) to Jesus H. Christ, who last time I checked was not a 9th grade girl."

When there was one set of footprints, I was sliding into second.
posted by klangklangston at 5:34 PM on May 29, 2010 [4 favorites]


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