I’m nearing the end of another year officiating basketball for the Clinton Recreation Department. I enjoy doing it, but I am glad the season is almost over. Running up and down the court chasing nine and ten year old ballplayers is good exercise, but it is starting to get the best of me. But I really enjoy the kids, and enjoy watching them improve their skills as the season progresses. And I get along with the coaches and the parents. Well, most of the time.
During those games, when I look out on the basketball court, I see white kids, African American kids, Native American kids, and other kids. Looking up in the stands, I see their parents, grandparents, and other interested fans. No matter what race, what age, what economic standing, all those fans up there in the stands have one thing in common – those young ballplayers on the court.
The adults in the stands and the coaches down on the court want the best for those kids, especially if it is their kid. They all have that in common. So they will clap and yell for their little ballplayer’s team. They are happy when they win, and upset when they lose. They’ll even yell at the poor, old referee when they think he made a bad call against their team. Yes, they have that in common, too.
What they have in common. Recently, I saw the outstanding movie, “Hidden Figures.” It’s a movie about the U.S. space program in the early 1960’s, and the race to beat the Russians into space. The movie centers around three African-American women who worked at NASA, and the impact they made.
The movie website, Rotten Tomatoes, describes “Hidden Figures” as “the incredible untold story of Katherine G. Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson, brilliant African-American women working at NASA, who served as the brains behind one of the greatest operations in history: the launch of astronaut John Glenn into orbit.”
The movie highlights what these ladies had to deal with during that time. It wasn’t easy for them, dealing with the racism of that period. Looking back, it seems stupid to waste and ignore the talent and intelligence of those ladies, like NASA did. (Racism can never be called smart.) But these ladies persisted, and became a vital part of getting the U.S. into space. In the end, they celebrated with their white co-workers when John Glenn’s space capsule made its splashdown in the ocean. They had that in common.
“Hidden Figures” also highlights the family, and persistence in reaching goals, in spite of obstacles. It has a message, but is not preachy. It’s a fun movie, especially for a history buff like me.
What we have in common. This one comes from an unusual place – “Saturday Night Live.” Most of the time, the late night comedy TV program can be ignored. The few good laughs from the show are, for most of the time, not worth sitting through the remainder of it. But, last fall, right before the election, a “Saturday Night Live,” hosted by Tom Hanks, was the exception. One skit during the program is hilarious and has a subtle message. Google “Tom Hanks Saturday Night Live” and check it out. (Or get your grandkids to do it for you.)
The skit is called “Black Jeopardy,” and is a take-off on the “Jeopardy” TV game show. There was the black host and two black contestants. Then there was Tom Hanks. He was a typical Donald Trump supporter, down to the red “Make America Great Again” cap, named Doug. (He actually kind of favored a guy I used to know named Doug.)
Early in the skit, the two black contestants and the host are wary of Doug, and Doug of them. But as the game progresses, and Doug gives some hilarious answers, everyone loosens up. The host says, “You’re alright, Doug!” Doug answers, “You people are fun!” (They let that answer pass.) The skit becomes a funny way of sharing that we may have more in common than we think.
What we have in common. You don’t hear that much these days. Last year’s presidential election seemed to be more about how we are different, and how we’ve got to defeat those who are different from us. Of course, there are differences. We live in a diverse society, and not all of our life experiences are the same. We need to respect that, and be considerate of others.
But maybe it’s time to start emphasizing what we have in common. Like pride in our country for great accomplishments, like John Glenn’s flight in outer space. Like a good Madea movie. (It’s in the SNL skit.) And like those little ballplayers running up and down the court playing basketball. We have those kids in common, and their future. No matter what side of the gym you sit on.
Mac McPhail, raised in Sampson County, lives in Clinton and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org