Thursday, October 21, 2004

My Kid Can Beat Up Your Honor Student
I attended my first Shitty High School sporting event yesterday. That’s terrible, right? Here I am complaining about this and that, and I don’t even bother to show up on Friday nights for the football games. Well, we don’t have a football team, so I’m off the hook there. We do have baseball and soccer and volleyball and basketball, though, and I think most of the teams are pretty decent. I’d imagine they get by more on talent than discipline and strategy, but that’s just a guess.

The thing is, I’d like to check out the games. I love sports, and as much as I bitch about all the little gangster bastards in my classes, I generally enjoy hanging out with and around the kids, especially when I’m not required to make them do things – such as read, or write, or not throw Jolly Ranchers at each other - that they’d rather not do.

Shitty doesn’t make it easy though. We have PA announcements every morning during 4th period. They are delivered by a comically peppy school aide and consist entirely of administrative banalities such as where to pick up Metrocards, or when to get your ID photo taken. This year there has been a huge push to “get those Lunch Applications in!” The Lunch Application is a form where the student’s parents write down how much or little money they make, and if it’s low enough their kid will qualify for free or reduced price lunch. Pretty much all of our kids qualify, but many don’t bother to return the form, because the school lunch (if they even have it scheduled, which, due to yet another scheduling boner, many don’t) sucks.

Shitty administration wants those forms returned though, because the more poor kids they can account for, the more money they get. This has led to what may be the craziest thing I’ve ever heard of.

“Get those Lunch Applications in! The deadline has been extended! And remember, all applications will be entered in a drawing where you could win great prizes like an autographed New York Jets football, a free picture phone, or… a trip for two to Hawaii!”

That’s right. The New York City School Board, which can’t manage to graduate even half of its students let alone teach them to read, is giving away an all-expense paid trip for two to Hawaii.

Naturally, all of my students have been instructed that if they win they are required to take one Mr. Babylon with them to Hawaii where they are to serve him Pina Colladas and fetch his towels while he lounges in a beach-side hammock. Their grade is dependent on it.

Anyway, the point is there’s never any mention of any of the sports teams on these announcements. Neither are there pep rallies, or posters, or signs, or a trophy case, or anything really to indicate to anyone that we even have such teams.

I decided to find out what the deal was and went looking for someone to ask. I started with Mr. Dinkins, who holds one of those ambiguous titles like Student Relations Advisor. This title entitles Mr. Dankins to his own office (windowless and a little dank, but an office just the same) and affords him the time to spend all day lounging around in there with a few seniors. He had no idea what was up with any of the teams.

My next stop was the PE department, which I managed to locate somewhere in the depths of the basement. Here I found a number of relaxed, rested, and amiable PE teachers spread out in a vast complex of offices and cubicles easily thirty times the size of that of the ESL/Foreign Language department. No-one knew much down there either. Soccer was in season, as was girl’s volleyball, but the coaches weren’t there right then, and they were the only ones that knew the schedules.

I found the soccer coach that afternoon, and though he wasn't overly enthusastic, he told me what I needed to know; there was a match after-school that very day.

The fields were not exactly World Cup quality. They were pock-marked and half-barren with large puddles in the corners and around both goals. The sidelines were visibly crooked. The day was cold and grey, and save for two squaking, squabbling sea-gulls and me, Shitty had no fans in attendance.

We were playing Bronx Science, and while not many, a few die-hard parents had made it out to cheer their little over-achievers on. This wasn’t Quiz Bowl, though, and it wasn’t meant to be.

Shitty is pretty good at soccer. The team is mostly made up of West African and black Honduran kids, including two of my former students, and they put a ball-control clinic on. Science got the ball over midfield maybe four times while I was there, and when they did it wasn’t for long. Shitty’s players, although they didn’t seem to be coached at all, were just too good. Every time Science got possession a Shitty defender or midfielder would take the ball away with a deft touch – often lobbing the ball softly over the opposing player’s head and then reaching it, making a move or two and just launching the ball into the Science goal box, where a Shitty striker would invariably get there first, do something fancy, and get off a shot on goal.

They couldn’t put one in the net, though, despite the domination.

The Science parents were pretty vocal, running up and down the sidelines following the play and yelling. “Come on Tommy! Control it!” “Alex get it out of there! Oh…” I found them pretty amusing and even wished Shitty had a little parental support, until they started getting bitchy.

“Come on! Ya kiddin’ me? He pushed off!” Blah Blah Blah. I was trying to ignore them when one of my former students, a very cool Honduran kid named Lambert, made a spectacular play. He saved a ball from going out of bounds by doing a full-on flip bicycle kick, got up, was passed the ball back, faked a dude out, and then banana’d the ball screaming down the sideline where it went a good twelve feet out of bounds before curving back in and dropping at the feet of a streaking Shitty striker.

“Oh! No Way! Dangerous play!” screamed a Science parent. “His foot was all the way up here!” he gestured to his chin.

“Yeah, his head was down here too.” I replied, gesturing at the ground. “Your boy got schooled. You’re just jealous.”

Dad kept his distance after that. I think he had assumed I was another Science fan, and didn’t know what to make of me.

When Shitty finally scored it was all I could do to keep from viciously heckling the Science players.

“NERD! NERD! NERD!” I wanted to scream. “Don’t you have some homework you should be doing? College applications to complete? NERD!”

I can’t wait for basketball season.

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