meta name=”robots” content=”index, follow” Meschery's Musings of Sports, Literature, and Life Meschery's Musings on Sports, Literature and Life: Ailene Voisin. Sacramento Bee Sports 9/25/2016

What my musings are all about...

Blogging might well be the 21st century's form of journaling. As a writing teacher, I have always advised my students to keep a daily journal as a way of organizing their thoughts for future writing projects, a discipline I have unfortunately never consistently practiced myself. By blogging, I might finally be able to follow my own good advice.

The difference between journaling and blogging is that the blogger opens his or her writing to the public, something journal- writers are usually reluctant to do. I am not so reticent.

The trick for me will be to avoid cluttering the internet with more blather, something none of us need more of. If I stick to subjects I know: sports and literature, I believe I can avoid that pitfall. I can't promise that I'll not stray from time to time to comment on ancillary subjects, but I will make every attempt to be interesting and perhaps even insightful.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Ailene Voisin. Sacramento Bee Sports 9/25/2016

Ailene Voisin, sports writer & a feature editor for the Sacramento Bee in this morning's paper (Sept. 25,2016) wrote an excellent and insightful article about the African American NBA legends who brought about some semblance of racial equality in the 1960's, demanding and winning equal rights in the cities in which the league played - guys like Lenny Wilkins, Wayne Embry, Elgin Baylor, Don Chaney, those who carried on the fight that the great Bill Russell started. I was around during those times, having been drafted by the Philadelphia Warriors in 1961. Being raised in San Francisco, I was not as exposed to racial intolerance as players from other parts of the country. So I went into the league, unconcerned and slightly naive about race. But in December of that year when I heard about what the Saint Louis Hawks did to my good friend and fellow basketball player from San Francisco, Fred LaCour, I knew growing up in the mostly racially tolerant Bay Area of California had not prepared me for the real world.

Fred was  probably the greatest high school basketball player to ever play in the bay area until the arrival years later of Jason Kidd. Fred played for the University of San Francisco and was drafted in the second round by the Hawks in 1961. Fred was biracial and dated white women. Saint Louis, Missouri, a boarder town, heavily influenced by the South, was the least racially tolerant city in the NBA. The three white stars of the Hawks, Bob Pettit, Cliff Hagan, and Clyde Lovellette did not approve of Fred's dating white women. How dare he? They saw to it that he was cut from the team, even though, at the time Fred was released, he had been playing at a very high level.

That over fifty years have passed since my good friend got the shaft because he was half African American and blacks are still struggling for equality hardly seems possible, but it is a fact, and a gross historical injustice and a stain on our national honor. I agree with Wayne Embry that the anthem is our country's symbol. So, we stand to honor that symbol when it is played. I love this country. As a Russian immigrant, I appreciate its many freedoms. But these are freedoms that white men, such as myself, immigrant or native born, take for granted. I've never been denied freedoms that black men and women have been denied.

It is time and long overdue for white people to take a hard look at our symbols and see if they realistically represent all of the people that live in this country--are we equally protected by our constitution. If the answer is that those symbols do not measure up, shouldn't we whites join Kap and other NFL players and kneel when the anthem is played? Or, how about this: African American and all other people of color stand with their hands over their hearts while we whites kneel with our heads bowed. Because - and I say this with a heavy heart - the racial, religious, and social intolerance in our United States of America is mostly the result of the prejudiced attitudes and ignorance of white males. You don't believe me? Ask yourself, who controls the power? Who makes the decisions?

The following poem is the voice of Maurice Stokes, a fabulous African American NBA player who was knocked to the floor going in for a layup and wound up paralyzed from the neck down. His is the story of great courage. It is also the story of great friendship. All the years that Stokes lay paralyzed, his teammate Jack Twyman (a white man) cared for him, and raised money for his teammate's family. The friendship between these two men in the middle of today's racially tense times is instructive and profound in the lesson it teaches us about honor and goodness.

Maurice Stokes   by Tom Meschery
                         Rochester Royals forward, left paralyzed after an on-court accident.

I'll not answer to the word, coma
this new name they've given me
without asking, as if I don't know
who I am. I'm Stokes.
I play for the Royals.
The game is not over.
I have one foot on the floor,
the other in the air, the ball
cradled in my hand, my eyes
focused on the rim, fans rising
out of their seats, ready to applaud.
I've not yet made that split-second
decision to shoot or pass
on which so much depends.
The moment we leave the floor
such calls are out of our control.

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