The Black “Zombie” Athlete

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The Black athlete soldier, unlike his counterpart, mirrors his urban brother.  He, the Black male, yearns redemption through athletic.  His scarred palms, paint his predicament exactly: athletic drugs and fascination, do not exist.  His dreams die before sunrise.  The Black athlete lives and die repeatedly believing, “What If”?  redemptive imagination, no longer running hot, the dark clouds, strangle his oxygen.  His brief thoughts, sunken tightly in a bent brow, says, I am not this cause.  I am not this monster, although, one cannot read or think critically. My blame, lay among others, the others that paved my path to illiteracy.  The Black athlete is not alone in this exploration, yet, his urban warrior yearns his deliverance.  Coaches, teachers, and the hood drove darkness together, never checking the revere mirror. Not engaging the speeding car, analysts predicted dark clouds ahead, you may want to get off the road, and wait this out.  Fuck no, wait what out, its just rain, The Black athlete, arrogant and gloomy, presses the gas.

The invisible storm stirs, The Black athlete’ hell predicted, flushing poorly constructed thoughts is not a savior.  No more cheers, his alter ego, transform him into the urban or rural warrior, his dark skin cursed. The powerful strut, his athletic chest sunken, the invisibleness apparent.  Not yet to the Black Athlete…he doesn’t give a shit.  No acadphotoemic institution provided, “no, you can’t play ball, you cannot think and read critically”.  Nonetheless, he storms into the abyss, thinking to describe his death.  He stumbles breathing, as the dark smoke, strangles his Black ass to invented death.

His coded pillow, signal terror, and an unimaginable fate, the tears begin again, and again.  What community or society permits such an academic holocaust?  The Black Athlete’ salvation is imaginary, intoxicated dreams, yet, nightmares. He silently sings, his voice sickens the authentic student, she realizes he’s on academic death row.  His death secured, “take it like a man, and go back where you came from”. From where, shall I venture, for whom shall hear my sorrows?  To the whore’ blossom shall grant redemption, heroin numb feelings, I’m slowing into my place…everything fine now..I’ll sleep a bit. When the sky bleeds sunlight my spirit will awake. I’ll be different, momma, I’ll be nice…I’m scared momma: I don’t know how to read and write.  What will they do to me?

What will they do to me?

Boy stop your crying..you only got three years to serve.  Your sister say hey,  she miss you. Your son ask about you every day, I didn’t want to bring him, I don’t want him to see you like this.  What you reading in here…son you have to read, that’s only way you get somewhere.  How’s your cousin doing, what cellblock is he in…don’t they fight over there a lot.   Yea, momma, it’s lots of violence in here, the slightest thing can blow up..I wish, I would have listened and learn reading and writing.  None of that boy, you in here now so think about getting out.  There are no jobs out there…just don’t give up son.  Don’t die alive in prison.  I’m praying every day momma, every day.

The Invisible Dragon

 

EIU 1981 Linebackers Vol 1 Con’t

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1981 Linebackers (Draft/unedited)

The Best Linebackers I played with at Eastern Illinois University 1981-83 (Draft)

I had a great athletic experience at Eastern Illinois University. I also had the pleasure of playing with some impressive defensive and offensive players. In my later years, I reminisce often about players I had the fortune to play with. I’ve had this writing project on my mind here and there…but lately I began recording these experiences. But, more important, I was a part of a winning college football program. So, I got the idea to rank the best defensive and offensive player by segment from my time. Again, I played with national champions, runner-up national champions, and an 11-1-1 season record team.

The Candidates:
EIU linebackers I played with (1981-83)

Ira ‘Rue’ Jefferson
Thomas ‘Mur Dog’ Murray
Bill ‘Superman’ Mine
Oretago ‘Hollywood’ Jackson
Reggie ‘Hawk’ Taylor
‘Cove’

The Preacher and the Baller

In 1981, EIU football wore the robe of Division II national runner-up… second best. However, one chooses to look at it..we lost. I say “We” although I did not make the traveling team.  The start of the 1981 season seemed somewhat uncertain, I was elevated to a “Red” i.e., first string but wasn’t comfortable just yet. I recall ‘Coach Shack’ my DB coach screaming at me so much I thought several times wanting to hit him in his head. Inside of me was a burning fury to go back to Chicago. I thought about it day and night. At Eastern, I came in contact with many cats from Simeon High School. To say they were arrogant pricks would be kind. I found most just talked a good game, they were like Chicago catholic league players. Great with their high school team but were bums on a college roster.

One Simeon player that came in 1980 was CB Bryant Hobbs. This cat had a sculptured body, bench 300Ibs, squat 400, run 4.5, he could do everything. He was elevated quickly on the depth chart. But something was bugging him, he looked as confused as I was. I thought it was the ‘Charleston City Virus’. The ‘Charleston City’ virus was an illness that only I possessed. You get chills because the ghosts of Andy Griffin and Barney was walking around. This city wasn’t your ordinary Stephen King setting..it was more than that.  It was fucking BORING!!!! Nothing in Charleston resembled the life I had for eighteen years in Chicago. I was sad and depressed my entire four years at Eastern, I secretly lived in misery.

Chicago in 1980 was and still remain a city marked by race, racism, and class. Charleston Illinois elevated my fear, not against bigotry or racism but social isolation. Race, racism, and social isolation occurred on the campus, in the dorms, as well as on our practice field. However, I never knew how isolated I was in the Chicago Ghetto until EIU. Bryant had become a close a friend. We would talk for hours, he was deathly humble. Totally the opposite of this asshole, the author. I was a loud opinionated little boy wanting his mother. This, however, would turn into fury on the gridiron.

My first attempt to leave Eastern was in January 1981. While walking with my guy Hobbs by Lantz heading toward Stevenson, this cat humbling announced he’s leaving. I’m like “What”? His words were that the Lord was calling him to preach, my Lord was calling me to get the hell outta dodge. I was like cool.  I’m with you when are we leaving? Now bare in mind, the spring depth chart has been announced. It didn’t matter to me I was first string, I wanted home. Hobbs next phrase froze me in my busted boots and EIU athletic uniform, “Rob you shouldn’t leave your path may call for something different.” I was like damn this cat’s a man. He left, I stayed, he went on to preached, I went on to raised hell.

Eastern Illinois/WestSide Invasion

In 1981, some new cats came into Eastern from the Westside of Chicago, Al Jennings (Dr. Death) DB, Roy Ellis-RB, and Jerry Wright-WR. Coach Shack ask if I would go meet them at the ‘Bar’ (Dunbar my high school alma mater) and talk about the campus. I did just that, they were practicing for the Public Catholic All-Star game. I spoke to them like David ‘Smooth’ Cobb spoke to me after I intercepted a pass in the end zone to win the 1980 City Catholic All-Star game.  Oh, by the way, Catholic league were bums…they can only play with their teammates. Isolate them on a college team and some fizzle. In Chicago, the catholic league in football. Mount Carmel, St. Rita, Loyola were the greatest…yadda, yadda, yadda…Bums.  We ripped them a new on in the 1980 All-Star game. In fact, seven players on the 1980 Public League team played professionally…briefly.

Again, I digress. I told those three when they come down I’ll look after them. In fact, Al ‘Dr. Death’ Jenning was supposed to take my job.

I’ll never forget Greg Duncan stuttering ass…dr…dr…dr…dr…dr…dr.death ga….ga…ga….go…take…take…your..ja…ja…job rob. Greg Duncan is one of the best men I’ve played with at Eastern. I never saw a mf with a speech impediment talk so damn much. Needless to say, I helped Al Jenning be the best athlete he could be…even if it meant taking my job. I counseled him like Will James, Smooth, and Rich Brown counseled me. But Death was on some other shit and faded into the campus scene, eventually pledging Kappa. I think at that moment Death stop playing football although he remained on the team.

Rue and Roy Ellis

Roy Ellis was a talented running back from Manley High School on the Westside. As was known around the ‘Chi’ Westside football wasn’t nearly as competitive as Westside Basketball. Westside basketball was equally if not better than Southside basketball on a given day.  Depaul university benefitted from both sides of town in their run in the NCAA tourneys. Roy older brother “Little John” came down to Eastern and lit us up while playing I believe for UIC. Roy Ellis was laid back cat, he had the look I had, wtf is this. He would soon come to find Eastern football had a bad element.

In the fall of 1981, Rue the starting outside senior linebacker began to terrorize Roy. I’m not sure where this came from, I had never seen this behavior from Rue. Or I possibly overlooked it, but I’m not sure why Roy became his whipping boy. Rue made Roy’s freshmen year hell. After catching wind that Rue is bullying Roy, I choose to sit with Death, Roy, and Jerry, at their athletic table for dinner. I wasn’t for him bullying Roy.   Rue would throw food on him in the mess hall trying to incite him. He would intimidate him in practice… dig this was the first case of athletic stalking. Again, I never understood what the fuck Roy did to him. But he hated him with a passion or it appeared that way.

Although some upperclassmen knew about Rue’s behavior. To my knowledge, I never heard one tell Rue to knock it off. Now bare in mind this hulk of a being is just feet away, with the human power to crush our asses. Yet, I sat there to make a statement, I’m not for that shit. Rue was pissed, to say the least…he threw food more deliberately at Roy. Again, this went on for the entire fall training camp.  I never found out motives for Rue’s behavior.  But it was one of the saddest moments at EIU for the program. You don’t bully your teammates. You just don’t do shit like that…I respected Rue, but was disappointed. I’m sure he was also disappointed as we all eventually matured. We all did stupid shit in our youth…me more than others.

Robert Williams

“A Champion Within” Q & A

excerpts from “A Champion Within’ The Autobiography of Robert Williams

Q. What Kind of College Football Player Were you?

A.  I believe most of my college teammates would say my physical talents were marginal at best.  I did not run a fast forty and weight lifting was an embarrassment.  Often teammates would joke and make it an issue for comedy relief or chastise me for my weak work ethic in the weight room.   They were mostly right, I did not run fast in a straight line, and lifting weight seemed to be a waste of time.

In my view, we did not play the game on the track and I seldom remember running downon the kickoff and tackling someone on a weight bench.   The bottom line, I possessed tremendous skills and a cognitive gift for the knowledge of the game.  I relied on something most football player were accused of not having…a brain.

I was an intelligent and tough football player, I studied game film intensely my entire career at Eastern.  The coaches often reminded me of this value as I sat in on a few game planning with them.  The game of football is about being smarter than your opponent and then exhibit your might; I had large muscles in those areas.  However, some teammates were jealous because they did not conceive those traits as important than their speed or bench max.  I believe I never received the accolades from some teammates because of my minuscule physical traits and my abrasive in your face personality. ..

…Football is an egotistical game and teammates can become jealous quite easy.  In 1983, I was named to the AFCA Kodak All-American for the second consecutive year.  As customary the award was given at the half time of a home basketball game.  However, the same year my teammate Chris Nicholson had a tremendous season.  He led the team in sacks, tackle for lost, he was a force of nature.  In the air was the feeling that “Thick Nick” as we referred to him deserved the prestigious award instead.  Some teammates made their position known that night in Lantz gymnasium as their applauds was cool at best when my named came across the PA system…

Sadly, some felt I was less than deserving of the award and they made sure I knew this in an implicit manner…I was hurt by their reaction but not surprise; I heard rumors and rumblings earlier in the week.  I remember only receiving a few handshakes that night from teammates and the mass coolness from many detractors…

“Thick Nick” deserved All-American honors in 1983 as he was a stellar ball player, as was myself, but the selective committee saw fit to honor my play instead.  I had nothing to do with that…my being one of only two first-team All-American in Eastern Illinois history remains controversial for some but albeit deserving…some teammates believe they were better than me and rightly so I guess, I just wished their play was awarded nationally as so to quantify it.

Robert A. Williams

The Black Athlete, A Shameful Story

This is my cat “Africa,” the picture was taken by my daughter Ariel.  Africa is sitting atop my desk alone side two books of tremendous magnitude.  The first book, The Black Athlete a Shameful Story: “The Myth of Integration in American Sport.” (1968) by Jack Olsen is about college and professional sport and the Negro athlete. In his book, Mr. Olsen, suggest the Black athlete was but a pawn in the system of collegiate and professional sports.  He suggested that although the negro athlete appeared content and appreciative in front of the lights, a caste system maintain racist classifications behind the cameras.

“Every morning the world of sport wakes up and congratulate itself on its contributions to race relations…It goes: Look what sports has done for the negro.” Jack Olsen,  (1968) “The Black Athlete a Shame Story”

Olsen illustrates that although sport often received praised for its integration efforts, he however clarifies through numerous narratives from Black athletes and white coaches whom indicated nothing was further from the truth.  Olsen warns the Black athlete was celebrated on the field or basketball court but received second-class citizenship off.  For instance, the Negro athlete were warned not to date white women by white college coaches numerous times at different universities.  The Black athlete that disobeyed this mantra found himself back in the ghettos by sundown. Thus, the professional Negro athlete fared none better as he was called ‘nigger’ in the locker rooms and on the field.

“What they did not realize was that the white american was able to compartmentalize his attitude about the Negro, to admire his exploits on the field but put him in the back of the bus on the way home.”  Jack Olsen, (1968)

In such cases, the negro athlete remained silent as described by Olsen because he vision professional sports as the only opportunities to his upward social mobility.  In Olsen’s view, not only was the Black athlete used only for his physical talents but after his college eligibility expired: he was shown the door without a degree and woefully unprepared for life.

It could be suggested the integration into collegiate and professional sport was but a small step up from cattle slavery for the Negro athlete then and now.  I highly recommend you read this classic by Jack Olsen.  You will effortlessly draw parallels to present day college and professional sport issues concerning the Black athlete.

We’ll take a look at the second book tomorrow:  Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglas, an American Slave

The Invisible Dragon