Back to the Big Red Gives Head banner. It was my freshman year. Football season had just ended, It was now basketball season. We had inspired no fear, and little respect with our Football team that year, but basketball, that was another deal. Springfield had a formidable program, led by one Pat reynolds.
Now Pat was 6’6′ tall, and not to leave an elephant in the room unannounced, he was African American. This was 82-83, and liuke it or not, truth is Oregon was about 95% Caucasian, probably more Homogeonous outside of the Portland Metro Area.
This was stil, Liberal Oregon however, so the racism wasn’t outright, wasn’t overt. And it certainly wasn’t out in the open at our own high school, Springfield High School. He was on “OUR” team, so the racism, such as it was, was more covert, and that, is another story.
This story, however is about one of the other high schools, One who chose not to be so covert, to be not so implied, but to do it outright.To emblazon their Racism and Bigotry in big bold letters.
Springfield was really rolling over the competition, and rightfully so. The whole team was good, not just Pat. The coach, Jim Fryback, was brilliant as well. They were headed for the state championships.
Our cross town rivals, Thurston High School however, were in no such storied place. As such, some of the student body let there lesser natures show, in the form of various signs, at the first meeting of the two teams.
There were numerous, good sized signs, of various racial and bigotted statements, obviously targeting our player, Pat reynolds. Worse yet, Thurston Students had managed to sneak their signs into the Springfield Gym to do it!!
This was a major affront to the high school mind. “They came into OUR house and put up those signs!! How dare they call our ***** that? We can’t even call him that, I’ll be damned if we are gonna let them get away with it!! We gotta get them back!” I am sure conversations such as this were rampant.
Now again, I was a lowly freshman. I had played football, so people knew who I was, But I knew no one really, certainly no one involved with the planning of the revenge.
No, I was unaware of what was about to happen, that night, the night of the Thurston Springfield basketball Game at the Thurston Gym. All i knew was I was going to the game, and as luck would have it, I ended up sitting on the same row as Keith Reynolds, Freshman lttle brother of the aforementioned Pat Reynolds.
Keith and I knew each other, but only barely. We were both athletes, but we were freshman, who had come from different middle schools, so we had only known each other a couple of months at best. I liked him, thought he was cool. He seemed shy. I can’t really say what he thought of me at that moment, I can say we later called each other friend.
Point is, we were both freshman athletes, sitting amongst other freshman, and athletes, probably 4 to 6 people apart. Unbeknownst to us, the REVENGE was about to happen, quite literally, in our laps.
Coming from both Keith and I’s right(Keith was sitting to my right), a banner was being rolled, a reallly, really, really long banner, though I wasn’t really aware of how long, at the time. This banner was rolled to Keith, who passed it along to the people between us, then to me, and I rolled it further along, accordingly.
Now, as far as high school rituals go, being included in this banner thing, even though I knew nothing of the planning, nor what it actually said, seemed that it might be a big deal, and I should get on board, so I did. I participated in teenageness. I was an adolescent, interacting with the world. So was Keith. So were all of our friends between us, and those upper classmen that planned the whole thing.
Now of course, as the title of this story gives away, “BIG RED GIVES HEAD!”, is what the banner read. Loiud and proud, in Thurston’s Gym, revenge had been served!
Of course the banner was ripped away from us fairly quickly, by school officials from both schools, but revenge had been taken. I had been, an unwitting, yes, but still a participant in that. Pretty cool for ethnically anomalous, Mormon Cop’s kid…
The other shoe dropped, however, the next school day. Seems an accounting was to made after all. An investigation into the culprits, of The Banner!.
I am summoned to the office, to see the vice principal. Grilling is a nice way to put what happened. I was questioned up and down, who made the banner? Who brought the banner? Who handed you the banner? Was called a liar this way and that… But I was telling the truth…. I had known no one involved
. I didn’t have to lie, I was clueless. When I come out of my grilling, I saw Keith, who had just been thru the same thing, out in the hall. We discussed it, and even then, thought it a little odd, that out of all those kids, only the black and brown kid were identifiable…
It was there that I also saw the people involved in the banner from the beginning. They too, while walking down the hallway, grilled us about what we said, then congratulated us for being cool kids for not snitching, or something to that effect.
Valuable lessons all in all, though perhaps not readily acknowledged as learning that day. I had earned the respect of the upper classmen, for not being a snitch. I had earned the respect of the under classmen, for being included, and not screwing it up by snitching.
I had distanced myself from the more goody two-shoe jacket of the Mormon cop’s kid too.
But I also learned that I would be called upon to pay a higher price than my peers, for that privilege of acceptance. The whole, “Sticking Out Like A Turd In A Punch Bowl” thing. It was real, not just something Grampa said.
I DID stick out. Why was it only the black and brown kid that got identified? Not because we were athletes, at least not me, I assure you. Keith was a known quantity, perhaps, because of his brother and family ties to the school. But I was an unknown, at least at the time, family had only been in the district a couple of years, and I was the oldest kid…. I was an unknown, just a big brown, transfer Mormon kid, . I made up for it later, trust me, they remember me now… lol…… but again, those are stories for other days……