The baseball fields at Gwendolyn Brooks College Preparatory in Chicago. (Zbigniew Bzdak / Chicago…)
Interscholastic sports are supposed to bring people together. That was just one of the things I learned when I played in high school.
Last weekend, some of the parents at Walter Payton College Prep reportedly didn't want their kids to play a night baseball game in Roseland against Gwendolyn Brooks College Prep. According to the Sun-Times, one of the parents used the time honored, racially-charged phrase, "The area isn't as good as it used to be."
When I first heard about Payton's forfeit, I thought, "What are they scared of?"
According to the Illinois Network of Charter Schools, the average ACT score for students at Brooks is a 22 and 90 percent of the kids go on the college. It's not as if Payton were going to play the Cook County Jail baseball team.
How can the parents from a school that was named after a prominent black man who inspires pride in Chicago pull such a stunt? Don't they know that Chicago Public Schools sets up the baseball schedule well before the season? The fact this came out at the last minute makes them look even worse.
I wonder if the parents of the players from Payton know the history of the type of travel schedule high school athletes have to deal with. Catholic League schools have been playing football games at Gately Stadium, not all that far from Brooks, for years. If the neighborhood gave them problems, they would have stopped playing there years ago.
As someone who played sports in both the Public and Catholic Leagues, I know what it is like to travel to different areas of the city and the surrounding suburbs. I got to visit areas I wouldn't otherwise see. More important, I got to interact with kids I wouldn't have otherwise.
The Payton parents may have meant well, but they ended up reopening old wounds. I get their concerns; I wish they could have used better language to get their point across. Thankfully, the game has been rescheduled for Saturday night.
Ultimately, the kids are the losers in this situation. Sports are supposed to bring people together, not keep them segregated.
Evan F. Moore is a RedEye special contributor.
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