My first reaction when I saw the image of a Georgetown University basketball player being stomped on by members of a Chinese basketball team was ‘What the?!?!’
This would have never happened back in the day under Big John…not with Patrick Ewing, Michael Graham and Perry McDonald.
I grew up in D.C. and appreciated that teams coached by John Thompson Jr. played hard. He was one of my heroes I met Big John last year and expressed my admiration: He graduated his players, groomed them to be positive men. He challenged the NCAA on SAT standards and called in drug dealers to “have a talk with them” when he heard they were talking to his players.
But in addition to their positive attributes, I was also glad that my city’s team instilled fear as I grew up. Folks knew the brothers with “Hoya” on their jersey and kente cloth weaved in were not to be messed with…or else.
So here I was conflicted. A year after meeting and thanking Coach Thompson for his work molding positive young men, I was angry because this current crop of Georgetown players didn’t appear to be holding their own “with their hands” against some foreign team. For more than a decade I’ve worked with public and private stakeholders to end murder in D.C.
For more than twenty years I’ve mentored Black teenagers – working to help them develop their gifts and talents with the hope that they would become productive citizens contributing to the common good. And yet, here I was angry that my team was the one getting beat down, and not doing the beating. I’m an educated man who wants to see young educated brothers conduct themselves with grace and intelligence.A part of me also wants them to “be hard.”
Part of my conflict perhaps stems from me being a Black child of the DMV. As such, I consider myself part of an extended regional family – a family of extreme and sometimes maddening differences.
We are a family where you can know several folks in the family who went to an Ivy League law school with the President. We are also a family where there’s a good chance someone has a criminal record. Our family members are the elected heads of the capital city and the wealthiest large majority Black county in the nation.
They also are elected officials who smoked crack and stuffed money in their bras. We are the family of business owners, dropouts, mega-church pastors and thousands of homicide victims. Our family gatherings could involve profound conversations about economics, art and culture, or break out into a fight over ignorant pettiness.
Our family is the creative wonder of go-go music (nothing like that pocket) and the failure that is the show shut down for fighting. Ours is the beauty of Black business executives, and the craziness that is struggling to find a Black owned banquet hall in the region. We are a family where agency directors, news anchors, editors and bankers are seemingly just as common as the functionally illiterate and extremely poor.
Ours is the family with the genius Aunt that is the college professor and the drunk Uncle that struggles to hold a job. There are times when my pride runs deep over my family…and times when they run my pressure up! What does it do to your psyche when the daily reality of your family situation is so varied so regularly? What does that tension do to the child that grows up in such a reality?
It leaves us conflicted, not knowing whether to cheer the fact that our young men weren’t the aggressors in the fight in China or be upset that the Chinese felt emboldened enough to challenge a Hoya. Either way the conflict is part of what it means to be part of this wonderfully beautiful, distressingly frustrating, inspiring and challenging family (like the Ewing led Hoyas!).
I’ve got to go now – my Aunt is calling me…I think Uncle is acting up again.
David Bowers is a native Washingtonian and ordained minister that works in the affordable housing industry.