By Rev. Richard Lawrence
Last week I sat and watched San Diego State’s football team beat USD 37-3.
In the second half, a freshman quarterback named Lawrence entered the game and lead the team down the field to its only score–a field goal.
I am tickled pink (a really difficult thing for an African-American to do) to testify to the thrill of watching my grandson face the much larger and mightier SDSU squad and stand tall. It was, however, a stand that he did not take alone. The entire USD team and coaching staff should be applauded for preparing the players to tackle (sorry) a nearly impossible challenge with such enormous pride and determination.
There was nothing I saw that indicated the game was really as one-sided as the score would suggest. USD footballers played a good game and stood tall in my mind as a great bunch of underdogs who could have beaten the giant SDSU had they been able to have made absolutely no mistakes–a level of perfection that even the saints who dance around the USD campus cannot command.
This week is another story.
Anthony Lawrence, who broke all San Diego County passing records during his career at Grossmont High School, started for USD.
You can read about the result here. (4 TD’s in the 45-21 win)
These two weeks of football suggest to me that there is something to the notion that sports make major contributions to the development of young men.–even though I cannot understand how it deserves such an exalted place in college life. I am even sympathetic to those athletes who are exploring whether football players are actually employees of the colleges where they play and should be paid for their contributions to the financial well-being of their institutions–especially when we have failed to find a way to make college enrollment free or even affordable as student debt is powerful testimony.
So, you will not be surprised to learn that I want to pay cheerleaders too. Thank you, Lorena Gonzalez.
Even so, as I watched the games and the intensity of the players, I could not help but wonder whether there is something in football that is needed in the society as a whole.
My first thought is the pain and the likelihood of serious injury–occasionally, even death.
We prepare young men and women to to be soldiers, and in the process convince them that the sacrifice of their life is a real possibility. I am not sure how the military achieves that commitment to a cause for which so many are prepared to die.
The only comparison for me is the Freedom Movement where in hundreds of cities and towns across the world, young people stood up and faced the prospect of beatings, jail and death but moved ahead with unflinching determination.
I never made my high school football team, but I did join the marchers in Selma for voting rights and in Chicago for open housing and saw the courage of thousands of ordinary people–young and old–who faced opponents they could not possibly beat. They displayed the courage I saw on the field at Qualcomm.
I could only wonder: what would this world be like if that strength and courage in college sports could be captured in the cause of peace and justice?
Rev. Richard Lawrence is Co-Chair, Affordable Housing Coalition of San Diego County, a founding member of the San Diego Community Land Trust and Adjunct Minister with the Christian Fellowship Congregational Church.