A talented young swimmer was driven to depression and anxiety by anti-gay slurs in school. He left his small rural hometown to attend university in another state where he found his swimming valued and his homosexuality accepted.
…Still, I was thrilled to see that a Division I University in the rural Midwest was so progressive in promoting equal playing opportunities for all their student-athletes.
I discovered that there were both present and former gay athletes who had shown success as they made their way through the USD program. I knew that if they had been able to live openly and be successful, that there was a chance that I could too.
Jackley does know how to run! Forget the high-priced entertainers: our politics and our statewide self-image could use more imagery of skinny guys doing their own sports and running up those lonely country roads.
My Many Sons, starring Judge Reinhold as renowned Northern State University basketball coach Don Meyer, came out on DVD yesterday. Sportscaster Mike Henriksen offers this review.
Don Meyer lived 4 separate lifetimes. Successful athlete, coach at David Lipscomb, coach at Northern State, and fundraiser/public speaker. Weave in a tough childhood, a tragic car accident, and fighting cancer, and Meyer had more experiences in 69 years than most of us would have in three times that span.
I was honored enough to know Coach Meyer. Not as well as some, but better than many. Everyone who knew Coach well could fill at least a half hour with stories of his influence, his character, his humor, and his quirks. They can recite his rules. They can rave about his wife Carmen. They can tell you he never wanted to talk about himself. They can tell you he was friends with John Wooden, Pat Summit, and hundreds of other coaches across the country because of the wildly successful summer camps he ran. They can tell you about the phone calls or notes they received from him, which always seemed to come at the perfect time.
Now imagine you are Casey Bond. Bond was a baseball player that reached the AAA level. He got into acting on a bit of a whim, and has been in several major movies, including Moneyball and I Saw the Light. Bond spent the last year of his college career at Lipscomb, but had no idea who Meyer, who had left for Northern by that time, was. An encounter brought them together and they developed a relationship. Bond, who had never produced a movie before, felt compelled to share the story of Coach Meyer with a world in need of positive stories. He set out on his mission!
But where do you begin? How does anyone condense so many incredible experiences and accomplishments into a 90 minute film? With the release of My Many Sons, Bond gives us his answer.
Using a series of narrations, flashbacks, and foreshadowing, director Ralph Portillo peels back layer after layer of a complex man, yet still maintains a mostly linear progression of the story. The basic timeline begins with Coach Meyer’s team winning a National Championship at Lipscomb in 1986 and ends with his retirement from the sideline in Aberdeen in 2010, all while chronicling his various successes, failures, family issues, and professional dilemmas along the way.
No biographical movie succeeds without a strong portrayal by its lead actor. Judge Reinhold is best known for his comedy movies, including Stripes and the Beverly Hills Cop series. I will admit I was leery of the choice when I first heard about it. But like Gary Busey in The Buddy Holly Story, Reinhold delivers a performance that is less imitation and more essence. His Don Meyer is nasty and compassionate, focused and mystified. His Don Meyer wrestles with grey in a world that, to him, is black and white, even when it comes to his family. His Don Meyer struggles to show compassion, and then becomes a fountain of grace. In watching Reinhold’s Don Meyer, the world will understand the complexity of the man who grew to near legendary status.
Casey Bond plays Coach’s son Jerry and puts in a very solid performance. Amy Kay Raymond, who plays Meyer’s wife Carmen, hits all the right notes while playing a very limited number of measures.
My favorite scene involves the day Coach Meyer takes over at Northern. I look forward to hearing from Andy Foster, Sundance Wicks, and Steve Smiley if the scene is true. But if it isn’t, it certainly could be! No one minute sequence in the movie captures the Don Meyer many of us knew better.
One problem. Sports movies have to get the sports part right. There is one major gaffe in this one, and the rest of it, due to budget restrictions I am guessing, gets by. But again, like Reinhold’s performance, the essence is enough.
I know what some in our part of the world may say about this movie. We wanted Bond and screenwriter Carol Miller to tell “our” Don Meyer story. We wanted to see Bob Wachs Arena, not the Northern logo on another gym’s floor. We wanted the world to know the philanthropist Coach became in his final chapter. We want “ESPY”-winning Coach exalted. And those are legitimate feelings. But again, there was so much to tell, and so little money (about 3 to 4 million dollars according to industry sources, which is a pittance in movie circles) to do it with.
So when you watch this film, pretend you did not know who Coach Don Meyer was. Because that is who this movie is targeted toward. Just enjoy a positive message about an amazing man. And if you knew him, revel in the fact that you get to spend a little more time with a man that is missed by so many, and touched so many of us in such an incredible way.
Do you remember that cultural awareness training those two AAU wrestling tournament volunteers were ordered to do as punishment for their racist remarks about a six-year-old American Indian competitor at the state contest in Aberdeen three weekends ago? They phoned it in:
Two volunteers who made offensive comments during a youth wrestling tournament in Aberdeen have completed the tasks asked of them, according to Northern State University wrestling coach Rocky Burkett.
While neither volunteer showed up to the cultural awareness program in person, they phoned in via teleconference, Burkett said.
…The Native American Student Association at Northern was involved in organizing the cultural education. President Shawnee Edge said members of the group were hoping the men would physically attend the session.
Let’s see: we set up a meeting that is supposed to bring racists and some of the people they loathe together, face-to-face, so they have to recognize and interact with each other as flesh-and-blood human beings, and instead the racists get to hide behind an electronic veil of secrecy. The two racists don’t have to look anyone in the eye. They get to sit in their own comfortable surroundings. The trainers are disembodied voices on a phone line. The trainers can’t watch the racists’ eyes for undivided attention. The trainers can’t even use the racists’ names to connect with them. Nobody develops a real human connection in this situation. Nobody really enters someone else’s culture.
There’s a big difference between uh-huh-ing your way through a phone conversation with people you’ve never met while you watch TV or surf the Web and sitting in a room surrounded by Indians who would like to challenge your racist attitude.
The parents of Nokosi Rising Shield, the wrestler targeted by the racist remarks, recognize the weakness of this response to racism:
Nichole and Justin Ringing Shield are Nokosi’s parents and emailed a statement expressing their displeasure with how the punishment has been enforced.
“In regards to the cultural awareness training … the men involved did not have enough respect and courtesy to attend the meeting. How can you have meaningful interaction if the guilty parties do not show up in person? This tells me they did not take this issue seriously. It also tells me they are cowards for not coming in person,” the email said [Marvel, 2016.04.22].
Expect Coach Burkett to announce wrestling training by phone for next season.
The Woonsocket school district has finally eliminated the last vestige of its “Redmen” team nickname from its books… but don’t think Woonsocket is giving in to political correctness. Heavens no: Woonsocket is just too small to field its own team in cross country:
The Woonsocket School Board unanimously voted to enter a co-operative agreement with Sanborn Central School for its cross country program, the last athletic activity at the school still participating in events under the “Redmen” moniker. The board approved the agreement at Tuesday’s regular school board meeting at the Woonsocket School.
Woonsocket Superintendent and Activities Director Rod Weber said the decision to co-op its final sport was more about growing the program than following a recommendation put forth earlier this year by the South Dakota High School Activities Association.
…”It just happens that’s our last sport with the Redmen (nickname) too,” Weber said. “But that’s the second discussion, the first discussion is how we can make the program more successful” [Evan Hendershot, “Woonsocket Redmen No More: School District Co-ops Final Sport,” Mitchell Daily Republic, 2016.04.13].
Hendershot reports “Redmen” is mostly gone from the Woonsocket school. The district has yet to remove an Indian logo from a scoreboard and “Redmen” from the school gym and from two floor mats at the front door (because stepping on “Redmen” on your way into the building every day is no big deal).
Where decency can’t prevail, can we settle for practicality?
As Woonsocket fans finally lose the opportunity to invoke my favorite prayer ever as they cheer their team on, Woonsocket cross-country runners join their other athletes in flying the Sanborn Central banner, which is still evolving from the old Rebels to the official Blackhawks. Artesian and Letcher consolidated in 1991; they used “Rebel” as their mascot through their name change to Sanborn Central in 2005. Artesian used to be the Rams; Letcher, the Tigers.
I don’t know who that Rebel in buckskin and a feathered French hat is supposed to be, Black Hawk was a Sauk leader whose people were pushed west of the Mississippi in 1804. Black Hawk joined the British to fight expansionist Americans in 1812, then waged his own war (really, it’s named for him: the Black Hawk War) in 1832, leading a counterinvasion from Iowa into Illinois against American militiamen who included Abraham Lincoln.
Shannon Marvel follows up on her Sunday story about racist comments caught on video at the April 2–3 AAU youth wrestling tournament in Aberdeen with a report that the two men insulting a six-year-old American Indian wrestler (out of his earshot while the boy wrestled, but audible on the video) are getting two punishments:
State Amateur Athletic Union chairman Bob Johnson says AAU is banning the two men from future AAU events.
Northern State University wrestling coach Rocky Burkett says the two men will complete educational programs on cultural awareness facilitated by the NSU Native American Student Association.
So we can conclude that, even though the video has not been made public, the racist comments happened, because AAU and Burkett wouldn’t punish innocent people, right? We can also conclude that the two volunteers were NSU student-athletes, because, even if Burkett won’t say the two are NSU students, how else would an NSU coach be able to impose any sort of punishment on them?
We do not know the two men’s names. Marvel studiously avoids identifying them.
We do not know if these actions put an end to the situation. The family of the subject of the racist comments, Nokosi Ringing Shield, does not sound satisfied:
Nokosi’s father, Justin Ringing Shield, said he and his wife, Nichole, feel Johnson is not taking appropriate responsibility for the incident.
“He basically dropped the ball and gave Rocky the task,” Ringing Shield said of Johnson. “No one has mentioned their names or gave us any info on their punishment. As national chairman (of AAU wrestling), Johnson has done absolutely nothing. He has written a total of eight sentences in the two paragraphs since we first contacted him. The only thing he offered was to buy my wife lunch. That’s it.”
Shannon Marvel reports in this morning’s Aberdeen American News on racist comments made about a young American Indian wrestler at last weekend’s big AAU tournament at the Barnett Center on the NSU campus. The comments were made out of earshot of the six-year-old competitor by tournament volunteers, but they were captured on video of the matches posted online. Paula Abbott Coome, grandmother of the young wrestler, posted her description of the racist comments in a public Facebook post April 6:
RACISM…ALIVE AND WELL IN SOUTH DAKOTA. My grandson, Nokosi Paul Ringing Shield and his buddy both won 4th place in their respective weight classes at the SDWCA state tournament. I was elated with their accomplishments. Last night I went over to my daughter’s home to view Nokosi’s matches on trackcast. I was horrified to hear commentators make the following comments about my grandson. “Nokosi Ringing Shield, what kind of name is that? He must be straight off the reservation in the hills.” And.. “look at that ponytail, he looks like a girl.” Laughter…”My bet is on the ponytail”…more laughter. Then later one of the men said all the Native names are long, like sentences.” One says something about all of them being poor and having bad habits. One referred to “udders” mooching off the government. Another said “My [f–ing] taxes pay for them.” One said.”Give me that ponytail. I’ll show you what I would do with it.” Laughter. My grandson is 6 years old. He is an innocent child. These vile remarks were made by 3 white males working at the South Dakota State Wresting tournament in Aberdeen, South Dakota. I am hurt and saddened by the remarks directed at my grandson. I am at a loss what to do….Sad Grandma [Paula Abbott Coome, Facebook post, 2016.04.06].
I haven’t been able to find public versions of the video in question—it may be locked down under Trackcast copyright—so I can’t confirm the actual statements.
But we know the types of men who mutter insults about six-year-old boys. Such men fall shorter of the definition of men than those six-year-old boys who had the courage to come to Aberdeen and wrestle in front of a big crowd.
The men making those comments didn’t expect to have an audience or to wrestle with the consequences of their racist cracks being heard above their own insecure sniggering. The publication of these racists’ remarks reminds us of the evolving nature of privacy. Sure, in public spaces, one has no legal expectation of privacy. But practically, we can lean over to a friend at a wrestling tournament, a park, a concert, or a bar and say things that no one else hears or pays attention to and that will thus remain just between us.
Now, however, with a majority of the people around us are carrying devices that can shoot pictures and video; with federal, state, and local agencies buying and deploying surveillance drones, unwise comments that used to disappear into the unverifiable ether of memory can now be captured and become part of the public record.
The solution, of course, is don’t be a racist jerk. The back-up solution is, don’t pick on little kids. And if both of those solutions are too hard for tournament volunteers and other regular folks, then, keep your racist, bullying comments to yourself… because nowadays, your comments might well not disappear after you and your buddies have had your sneer. They might bubble up on the Internet to remind you and the world of your unpleasantness.
The fact that it has become a political issue is what makes this even more sad. This is a human rights issue and at its core it’s a issue of doing the right thing. And what is right is to allow people to have the right to be themselves without discrimination and this bill does the exact opposite….
No kid or parent is going to try and take advantage of a situation where they are able to use the correct locker room or bathroom that matches their gender identity instead. I know when I was a kid, a adolescent or as an adult would I or have I felt uncomfortable in such a situation.
Plus, in this measure specifically we are talking about students. Kids, who now have to be discriminated against because some adults think they know better.
WHEREAS after numerous empirical studies, personal anecdotes, and recommendations from national organizations and federal programs, it is evident that stereotypical Indian imagery and Indian mascots cause harm, and
WHEREAS one leading study conducted by Dr. Stephanie Fryberg (Stanford University, 2004) determined that stereotypical representations from Indian mascots and Indian imagery of the “leathered and feathered” Indian have a direct negative impact on the self-esteem of American Indian youth, as they restrict the number of ways in which American Indian youth see themselves, and
WHEREAS exposure to such pervasive stereotypical imagery resulted in lower self-esteem, a lower sense of community worth, and decreased views of students’ own potential, and
WHEREAS two years later the American Sociological Association (ASA) also called for the elimination of American Indian names, mascots and logos, and in 2011, the American Counseling Association (ACA) passed a resolution calling upon their members to advocate for the elimination of all stereotypes associated with Indian mascots, and
WHEREAS in October 2015, the White House Initiative on American Indian/Alaska Native Education released a report with recommendations for schools to immediately retire Indian mascots and stereotypical Indian imagery, after findings which confirmed the harm of stereotypical Indian imagery, and
WHEREAS considering all of the aforementioned recommendations, it is very clear that Indian mascots, and any representation of stereotypical Indian imagery not only cause harm to American Indian youth, but moreover, such imagery is not suitable for educational settings which aim to foster healthy psychological development and/or student self-actualization.
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED the South Dakota High School Activities Association encourages its membership to consider not using any stereotypical Indian imagery and Indian mascots that cause harm.
Bob Mercer reports that Sisseton school board member Ron Evenson and Woonsocket superintendent Rod Weber spoke against the resolution. Both men come from schools that call their sports teams the Redmen. Bob Mercer reports that Evenson and Weber both challenged the SDHSAA board to produce evidence of harm from their Indian nicknames and mascots:
Evenson asked for proof of damage. So did Woonsocket Superintendent Rod Weber, who said his district’s school board voted many years ago to change the name from Redmen but quickly went back to it.
Evenson also tried some judo, accusing the SDHSAA of not taking the issue seriously enough:
Evenson challenged the SDHSAA directors to set a tight standard with penalties such as prohibiting post-season play for schools in violation.
Otherwise, he said, the fight will be one school at a time.
“The argument should be right here. You folks should be deciding this,” Evenson told the directors. “If you’re not willing to go that route, then you should reject this resolution” [Mercer, 2016.01.14].
Clever: Evenson doesn’t want the SDHSAA recommending that his school not act like racists, so he dares the SDHSAA to make a firm rule penalizing schools for acting like racists. That’s a trick: The SDHSAA is staking a remarkably restrained route that is tough to oppose; Evenson is daring the board to propose a mandate that would line more opponents up behind Sisseton and Woonsocket.
SDSHAA didn’t bite; instead, they approved first reading of this resolution 8 to 1 (Sioux Valley athletic director Moe Ruesnik voted no). Second reading takes place at SDHSAA’s March 2 meeting in Pierre.