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30 November 2013

Reading Illness

I heard something on NPR this a.m. which would have floored me if I hadn't still been in bed.  I should have been up and about, but if I had been, I wouldn't have heard this piece on NPR's "Only a Game," and wouldn't have repeated it a couple times already before writing this rant online.  That's a conundrum.

Onward.  Well, the piece was about a four-year-old effort to bridge the gap between inner-city middle schoolers from Harlem, NYC, and small-town New Englanders with lacrosse.  First off, readers must understand that lacrosse is a big sport on the East Coast, but mostly in wealthier suburbs, exurbs and small towns.  It's like hockey in that way, although not so extreme.  Both lacrosse and hockey require equipment for each team member as well as a special gloves for the goalie (not to mention a net for the goal so that you'd know when the puck or the lacrosse ball actually scored).  Lacrosse is not so bad as it can be played on the same fields as soccer, so it just needs to jostle with soccer leagues for fieldtime.  Of course, in the communities in which lacrosse is more popular than soccer, that's hardly a problem.  Hockey is very popular in more places (for example, in Chicago, where adult men leagues start play at 11:30pm, because that's when they can get (and maybe afford) ice time).  I haven't seen many lacrosse matches happening in Lincoln Park along Lake Shore Drive.

So, teaching inner city children how to play lacrosse is a big deal, because one of the factors that holds the downtrodden down is not having the same childhood experiences as well as connections made on a sporting field (like lacrosse, golf, polo).  However, I must add that one has to do this sneakily. I had refused to learn golf in college, because I decided it was a bourgeois exercise, a decision I now regret.  Equipment which costs a pretty penny which poor school districts and families don't have does not make the sport very popular, either; if they did have a penny, they would prioritize to spend it on more important things like food, heat or mobile phones.

Anyway, one of the Massachusetts mothers who volunteers to pick these boys up in the middle of the night, drive them home, feed and house them, was happy to see the boys from Harlem really enjoying themselves, but there was one kid who was not joining in with the jocularity. 

“This one boy was sitting very quietly in a chair, reading a book. And I said, ‘Are you okay?’ And he said, ‘No, I’m just in the middle of a really great book.’
 And my daughter, who was 11 at the time, said, ‘Oh, my gosh, I’m reading the same book.’”

Thus did the hosts and the visitors begin learning they had more in common than enthusiasm for lacrosse.
What the ...????!!!!  Is there no one else who sees the problem in this?  Reading a book indicates a boy might not be feeling well?  It's a surprise that kids from urban New York might have something more in common with kids from exurban Massachusetts than merely lacrosse which was introduced by a New Englander?

The bridge which we need to build needs to be a lot longer and stronger than that made of lacrosse. 

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