Salaaaaam

Nearly two weeks ago, I touched down in South Africa for a 6-week field school (alternately known as a way to do some international research on my graduate institution’s dime). Most of the time thus far has been spent in a tour bus, seeing various parts of Cape Town and the surrounding Cape Flats. Today, however, was different. We pulled up at 7:30 am to a high school in a township notorious for its high incidence of gang violence, dropout, and teen pregnancy. We were there to speak with some students about their thoughts on the school, their community, and what might inspire their peers to stop showing up (which approximately 75% of them will do by the time they reach Grade 12). My final set of interviews was with two 13 year old girls, who happened to still be on campus because they had softball practice. For the next 30 minutes, they told me about their experience of growing up in the surrounding community and at the school. Their stories were heartbreaking, but more importantly, their attitudes were inspiring. They distinguished themselves from their surroundings, aspiring to graduate, enroll in university, and pursue careers (of bank teller/author and fashion designer, respectively). Throughout their narratives, they continuously returned to the roll that softball had in their day-to-day life. For them, it was way more than a sport, but a safe place, a collective of like-minded peers, and a way to be young and have fun, something that is not often acknowledged as a luxury.

Upon reflection, their stories correlated with that told by David Fine’s documentary debut Salaam Dunk. I must admit on the front end that the director was one of my college roommates, so perhaps I’m biased. Now that we’ve got that out of the way, if it comes to your city, you’ve got to see it. The film spotlights the women’s basketball team at the American University of Iraq in Sulaimani and their American coach. While it could very well have documented the strife of growing up a young woman in northern Iraq during a time of national unrest, it instead focuses on the resilience of the young women. The surrounding context is exceptional, but in many ways, the girls’ experience on the team is similar to that of anyone who played (and truly loved) a sport at any time in his or her life. Of course, I blubbered (both with pride and at the story line) at multiple points. However, I walked away feeling great.

If you live in New York City, please go catch this film this weekend at the Human Rights Watch Film Festival. It’s just so good. I flew to San Francisco for a showing in March, and it was just phenomenal (if you don’t believe me, ask friend of ALDland, Alice Wheat and various other unaffiliated sources, such as Variety, ESPN, etc.). And while you’re there, give Buddy David a big ole hug for me.

Our Lady of Sorrows Sorry About a Lady

From the “What Year is It?” file. ESPN reports that a high school baseball team in Arizona forfeited a championship game rather than face a team with a female player:

Instead of playing in a championship baseball game, Paige Sultzbach and her team won’t even make it to the dugout.

A Phoenix school that was scheduled to play the 15-year-old Mesa girl and her male teammates forfeited the game rather than face a female player.

Our Lady of Sorrows bowed out of Thursday night’s game against Mesa Preparatory Academy in the Arizona Charter Athletic Association championship. . . .

Paige, who plays second base at Mesa Prep, had to sit out two previous games against Our Lady of Sorrows out of respect for its beliefs. But having her miss the championship was not an option for Mesa Prep.

Officials at Our Lady of Sorrows declined comment. In a written statement Thursday, the school said the decision to forfeit was consistent with a policy prohibiting co-ed sports.

The statement also said the school teaches boys respect by not placing girls in athletic competition, where “proper boundaries can only be respected with difficulty.”

Our Lady of Sorrows is run by the U.S. branch of the Society of Saint Pius X. The group represents conservative, traditional priests who broke from the Catholic Church in the 1980s.

In junior high, Paige played softball and volleyball. Because Mesa Prep does not have a girls softball team, she tried out for the boys baseball team and received support from her coach and her fellow teammates.

Both schools play in the seven-team 1A division of the ACAA. Our Lady of Sorrows won the Western Division and Mesa Prep won the Eastern Division with an undefeated season.

______________________________

  • Does God care about high school baseball? When religious expression, positive or negative, appears in athletics, secular and religious critics often retort that “God doesn’t care about sports games.” Sports are entertaining. Playing sports is a good way to learn values like teamwork, leadership, and perseverance. It also encourages better treatment of our bodies. People spend a lot of time on sports. Some dedicate their professional life to it in some fashion. It seems at least possible that God cares about sports.
  • What about women in sports? Our (secular) society has encouraged female athletics as a meaningful part of gender equality. The idea that “not placing girls in athletic competition” actually “teaches boys respect” for girls appears diametrically opposed to society’s prevailing view. It also is at least somewhat out of step with the Bible, which in many ways takes a comparatively progressive stance on gender.
  • What time is it? When I start tending toward scriptural interpretation here, it probably is time to wrap up the post. It also probably is really stinky to have your school’s administrators forfeit the championship game and spoil your undefeated season for you.

All-Nighters Keep Football Team Competitive During Ramadan (via NYT)

DEARBORN, Mich. — The clock reached midnight as Sunday ticked into Monday and someone yelled, “It’s go time!” Football season could officially begin. New balls appeared and players at Fordson High School prepared to do what had long been done in this hometown of Henry Ford, build something with assembly-line precision and reliability. … Read More

via NYT