By Ryan Bukowiecki (@ryanbski)
In 20 years, when the Chicago-land area is enraptured in Columbus Day high school football games — “Classics” and “Shootouts” and whatnot — it won’t seem so problematic at the time while watching our dear sons (and maybe more daughters at this point) competing in meaningful contests of 7-on-7 or flag or whatever the hell the game is at that point.
By then it’ll just be one of those things we do, like the downtown parade and the taking off of school, but we would have the din ringing deep in our ears, a frequency speaking to our collective consciousnesses, of an unfortunate origin story that’s only an internet search away from full context.
Kind of fitting in general for anything related to Christopher Columbus.
Chicago Public Schools may have stumbled onto something by slating a majority of its scheduled games from this past Friday onto this holiday after a mass cancellation on the previous day. As I write this people around the city are spending what’s typically deemed as school hours having fun on metal bleachers or the marked fields at several schools in the city, fields that are being used for several back-to-back games in many occasions.
Today we do know why this is happening, its being done out of desperation to save important games that could impact CPS schools and their placement in the upcoming IHSA playoffs. The loss of one game, be it a win or loss, would be devastating for schools within the city of Chicago in comparison to their fellow class schools in other areas of the state, which went on about their business on Friday and Saturday because the Jason Van Dyke trial didn’t take place in their municipalities.
Chicago was on the verge of complete destruction if you let the local media completely inform your view leading up to the Friday afternoon announcement of the verdict in the trial, we were apparently bound to be the Fort Sumter of the race war if Van Dyke, a white cop, was found not guilty of murder in any way after shooting black teenager Laquan Mcdonald 16 times in an incident that was clearly taped by Chicago police and subsequently hid from the public for months in large part due to how egregious Van Dyke’s actions appeared no matter how involved you have been with law enforcement.
Fortunately, Van Dyke was found guilty of 2nd degree murder for his actions, placating for the most part a populace in this city that was sick of seeing violence police actions go unchecked — from Jon Burge to Van Dyke to the current day senseless murder and intimidation have been too commonplace an element in the average Chicagoan’s involvement with law enforcement.
What was ignored Friday is that this is a city that hasn’t gone up in flames in the face of Burge and generations of Van Dykes being dispatched onto our streets and that the urgency and insistence depicted by our city’s protest community was borne out of a yearning for justice, not revenge and the development of peace, not anarchy.
But so much media ignores the true messages of protesters and of the average person from the communities furthest South and West of downtown and no matter what reality exists on our streets people who don’t live here feel compelled to discern our environment from theirs completely (or discern it completely from any reality) and gauge our situation and our reaction to things through a prism of their own fears and prejudices.
There was no reason for the good people of New Lenox, where Providence is located, to halt a trip to the city some 24 hours after the Van Dyke verdict was announced. There were no roaming gangs of looters in Woodlawn just like there were no Red, Black and Green death marchers in the loop, in fact there weren’t even protesters on Friday, merely demonstrators as so expertly described by WTTW’s Brandis Friedman in the video that tops this post.
Beyond Friday afternoon there was no reason not to be able to roam the same areas of Chicago that one would normally roam if you’re so scared of Black people or even engaging one in a conversation more involving than “hey, can you point me in the direction of that Bean I heard so much about?”
But still that wasn’t enough for many, and so a hectic Monday has to take place in high school football and the type of kinetic energy that is produced by such a spur of the moment development could very well produce something real and effectively interesting that would be harnessed and co-opted and marketed for years to come. Even if for a dozen or more schools rescheduling still wasn’t possible and they’ll likely finish out 2018 with lame duck possibilities in regards to traveling to state.
To think of how many hurdles the average Chicago city school has to even put out a football team from year to year — struggles with funding, travel equipment and the like — for the sort of disorienting travail to pop up as it did Friday was just bitter, it was hard to take and its saddening. So much of the carelessness and lack of leadership within our inner city institutions –paired with the insensitivity and cravenness of those in the suburbs and ex-urban areas beyond us — creates mayhem that falls at the feet of our children, it creates more Laquan Mcdonalds every year.
And though what Laquon went through was so much more grave than what a football player with no game this weekend has to go through, it is no less worthy of outrage, especially if you look at things outside the lines.
Like Columbus slaughtering people in a land that didn’t need to be found by him, its just the price of progress one can say. Why should we be able to celebrate both the bringing of justice of a bad cop and the gleeful exhibition of athletic skills by neighborhood children both in one day? Some sort of bitterness has to come with the sweet.
As is, we make due with the reality provided to us and we reckon with it by surviving and remembering that institutions both large and small typically start with the sacrifice and pain of a misrepresented and under-reported few.
Ryan Bukowiecki covers the Chicago Bears and professional football for WARR