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Saturday, August 26, 2006

Why Am I A Superfan? Part 2

I read a lot of political stuff online. I'm a progressive, liberal, leftist, whatever you want to call it. Growing up in the place (inner-city Toledo) and time (70s and 80s) that I did, as a teacher's kid without a lot of money, I'm tremendously aware of the issue of class in this country that most other people totally ignore. So when I stumbled onto this article about UPN's Veronica Mars, it held my interest. I've never seen the show, but I'd like to fix that.

Now I'm a high school teacher in the same area of Toledo where I grew up. Whenever a really good TV show or movie about teenage life comes down the pike, like Freaks and Geeks, I tend to examine its relevance not only to my own teenage years but to the kids I see every day. Veronica Mars is apparently a very class-conscious show. Kids in my school are also class-conscious (as kids tend to be everywhere) but the divide there is relatively small. It's a very middle-class/working-class area, and most kids have enough but no one has big money. Ditto for the schools I went to.

In this context, however, I started thinking about the boys' cross-country team that I coach. How do they fit into the class, racial and other social division inherent in high school life? In the best of situations, sports bring people together for a common purpose and they can, at least for a moment, forget about all that other crap. Football's need for large numbers of athletes and diverse body shapes and skills to all work together gives it the best chance for this kind of thing. It certainly was the case at my high school, a school with about a 50/50 racial split and little cooperation between the two groups; just about the only thing the races came together for was football, and they experienced decent success. Our track team was different--I was one of only two white kids on the whole team (we were even more successful, with a state championship).

But that's other sports. What about distance runners? We generally don't fit into any group. Cross-country teams are usually a bunch of dorks. High school runners tend to relish their outsider status, and I think it's because they can avoid the "choosing sides" mentality that teenagers in the limelight get forced into, and can just be themselves.

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