Eleven years ago, I can remember reading an article about my school’s (Langston University, an HBCU in Oklahoma) new starting quarterback, Ross Smith. This was the first line of the story in the Daily Oklahoman:
Movie fans will remember the 1981 film, Grambling’s White Tiger, starring Bruce Jenner as the first white quarterback to play at Grambling University and Harry Belafonte as legendary Grambling coach Eddie Robinson.
Three things quickly.
1) In 2002, I’d never seen “Grambling’s White Tiger.” I soon watched it with my mother because she likes old movies and I like sports. It was time well spent and a good movie to watch.
2) Yes, Bruce Jenner. That same Bruce Jenner that married into that crazy family. Him.
3) Grambling has some fine women on that campus. This may or may not have anything to do with this story.
Smith, the new quarterback of the Langston Lions, was dubbed The White Lion on the ‘yard and during his time there eventually just blended into our student body that was over 70% black on our small 2,500 student body. The question amongst all of the students was a similar one, “Who in the hell is the white boy, and why is he here?” The answer to the question was a simple one, one that should’ve been obvious to everyone.
“I’m here to sling the pill. The school I went to previously ran the option, and that’s not what I do. I want to throw the ball.”
Well, okay then. Carry on.
Truthfully, I hadn’t thought about LU’s White Lion in almost a decade, not until I read this great read over at SB Nation profiling James Hall, an Indiana kid who only wanted to hoop. His journey to Morgan State was an interesting read, because it brought up old memories.
While many student-athletes’ aspirations while in college are to ball so hard against better competition, the biggest draw that most have about going to college is just that, going to college. Meeting new people, learning different perspectives, making bad decisions, drawing on the new love interests that are plentiful, this is the life of being a student … even if you have an athlete tagged onto your new title at 18 years of age.
This particular except from SB Nation’s story on Reed was entertaining because I can remember that period of time when The White Lion ended up having first dibs on a chick I was digging back when my college days swiftly passed:
Sports can bridge the cultural and racial miles between black and white, between the French Licks and the Hotlantas, and sports on the D-1 level can teach a young man about life, about his circumstances, about those of other people. Reed, now 26, knows this all too well these days, days he spends hundreds of miles from MEAC gyms but not from the oxymoronic nickname the girls on campus gave him. To them, he was their “White Chocolate,” a quasi-mystery, the subject of dorm gossip, a white interloper who dined, studied and loved among them, defying stereotypes implicit in the bad racial bargain blacks and whites too often strike: a bargain that leads to mistrust, to hatred and to a lot of needless angst.
White Chocolate, a nickname that sticks with Reed still, saw his inconspicuous whiteness bring him face to face with the socioeconomic and cultural norms on a black, urban campus: the basketball; the hip-hop; the basketball; the nightclub scene; the basketball; the frat parties; the basketball; the classes; the basketball; the sistas who wooed him – young, dark-skinned honeys who fell hard for his sandy-blond hair, his handsome features, his white skin and his Kenny Chesney chill. “It used to shock me,” Gomes said. “I’d go out there and do my thing, but it seemed like every week James had a new girl.”
“I didn’t do anything to try to make that happen,” Reed said. “I was different, but the girls figured out I wasn’t some weird white boy. I ended up being the ‘cool’ white boy.”
I won’t name the young lady who wasn’t feeling me at the time and was in favor of the starting quarterback. Hell, that’s a narrative that many men have known since junior high to present day. Quarterbacks be choosing chicks. Of course, the 19-year-old me wasn’t having that. My first thought was, “Yo, she really chose this white boy over me? You can’t be serious.” Now at age 29, I find this past experience equal parts hilarious and ignorant.
To a degree, I think there are plenty of kids that would benefit from the experience of going to an all-black school for a year or two. You’d learn a thing or three seeing how folks get down socio-economically way different than what you may be accustomed to. Or musically. Or politically. Or even in dealing with the opposite (or same) sex. It’s what most students of a variety of backgrounds (be it race, ethnicity, income, religion, etc.) do all the time at predominately white institutions every fall.
Its just another reason why sports is awesome, opening up those doors that you never even knew existed. Even if the quarterback took my girl. *shakes fist*