Tuesday, June 29, 2010

My World Cup Experience Down Under

Long Island and USA teammate Norm Engelke (Cornell) and Me in Perth, Australia, 1990

Not sure if that first experience at the Sydney Airport started the momentum, but I remember feeling so marginalized off the field during the Lacrosse World Cup in Australia. It really was hard time for me and despite being on such an elite team I felt so lonely and misunderstood. I felt like a museum piece with so many Aussies staring at me an experience I had on the streets of Herkimer when I was in junior college. Seeing an occasional aborigine on the streets of Sydney and Perth make eye contact and warmly smile and wave to me went a long ways in making me feel a bit more welcome. Their fraternal greeting as fellow blacks in a white world was to me a non-verbal articulation that they understood how I felt and they wanted me to know they were as glad to see me as I was to see them. It might be similar to the same way women feel when they see other women at a male dominated school or job orientation. The other reason for my very low ebb at the time was this—the tryouts for 1990 National Team that occurred the year before represented the pinnacle of my athletic career. It’s was like being at a summer lacrosse camp with the best players in the country. Wow, the thought still makes me pumped today. I learned a very important lesson; no one experiences continues highs and those who do often create them artificially with drugs, sex, and or gambling--all destructive addictions. Fortunately I had developed balance in my life and drew strength from scripture reading and prayer during this low time of depression in my life. That search for continuous high is the reason many so called successful athletes crash and burn at the pinnacle of their careers and after they retire. There are just too many examples for me to mention and it does happen in the largely non-revenue sport of lacrosse.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Patriotism and Racial Profiling in Australia Part II

Me, Bob Henrickson (Manhasset, Cornel), SU teammate Brad Kotz (West Genesee). That’s Kevin Cook with the video camera in the back ground. And notice the team USA bags, they are all the same.

The trip to Australia is grueling—about 20 hours of travel time. When we finally landed down under I was wiped out and not very mentally alert. My teammates and I picked up our identical team USA duffle bags and sticks and proceeded to customs. I was asked to follow a female customs official who struck up a friendly conversation with me as she politely and carefully searched my bag and asked me questions. When she finished she said, “You can go now” and I happily packed my stuff and headed out side door where a team bus loaded with my teammates and members of our entourage waited for me to board—I was the last one through customs. I thought nothing of my experience in customs until I stepped on the bus. A couple teammates looked concerned and asked, “Hey op, where you been, what took so long?” I explains that a customs officials searched my bag. My racist alarm then went off, and I proceeded to ask several teammates one by one if they had their bags checked—not one person had their bags checked but me—the lone dark skinned African American in the group of almost forty people. I had just been racially profiled before black folks regularly pulled over by state troopers on the New Jersey turnpike coined the term. In retrospect, I guess that custom officials had seen allot of Hollywood movies in which black male actors are most often caste as drug dealers, drug using rappers, and athletes using drugs in one form or the other. What’s funny is Kevin Cook (Levittown, Nassau, Cornell, and the Hall of Fame) and I were the only guys on the team who didn’t even drink! Folks stuff like that is still a reality here and abroad for black males even after the election of President Obama with the support of lots of white voters.