During the opening weekend of the 2015 NCAA Tournament, Scott Pleasant (my writing partner on the forthcoming book Lines of Scrimmage) and I tagged along with the Coastal Carolina University basketball team, cheerleaders, and pep band on the trip to Omaha, where the 16-seeded Chanticleers were paired against the 1-seed Wisconsin Badgers. For a glimpse behind the scenes, check out the story we wrote for Esquire.com, “16 Things You Learn About the NCAA Tournament While on the Road with a 16 Seed.”
The story of a historic boycott by thirty-one black players on a Southern high school football team
As in many small towns in the South, folks in Conway, South Carolina, fill the stands on fall Fridays to cheer on their local high school football squad. In 1989—with returning starter Carlos Hunt at quarterback and having finished with an 8-4 record in 1988—hopes were high that the beloved Tigers would win their first state championship. But during spring practice, Coach Chuck Jordan (who is white) benched Hunt (who is black) in favor of Mickey Wilson, an inexperienced white player. Seeing this demotion of the black quarterback as an example of the racism prevalent in football generally and in Conway specifically, thirty-one of the team’s thirty-seven black players—under the guidance of H. H. Singleton, pastor of Cherry Hill Missionary Baptist Church and president of the local NAACP—boycotted the team in protest.
The season-long strike severed the town along racial lines, as it became clear that the incident was about much more than football. It was about the legacy of slavery and segregation and Jim Crow and other points of tension and oppression that many people in Conway—and the South—had wrongly assumed were settled.
While the 1989 season is long over, the story reverberates today. Chuck Jordan is still coaching at Conway High, and he’s still without that state championship. Meanwhile, Mickey Wilson is now coaching Conway’s fiercest rival, the Myrtle Beach Seahawks. In the annual Victory Bell Game between Conway and Myrtle Beach, the biggest contest of the year for both teams, a veteran coach and his young protégé compete against each other—against the backdrop of a racial conflict that bitterly divided a small Southern town.
To mark the 25th anniversary of the 1989 Conway (SC) football boycott, Scott Pleasant and I have written a retrospective for the Myrtle Beach Weekly Surge. This article is essentially a preview of our forthcoming book about the incident, Lines of Scrimmage: A Story of Football, Race, and Redemption, which will be published next year by the University Press of Mississippi. To read the article, click HERE. To read the book, hang on for a few months. More information coming soon.
The above photo (taken by Charles Slate for the Myrtle Beach Sun News) captures a scene from a 1989 NAACP “March Against Intimidation” through the streets of Conway. “Fired up! Ready to go!” was the signature slogan of the protests, which grew to become known as the Conway Movement. Barack Obama says that he borrowed “Fired up! Ready to go!” from a Greenwood, SC, woman named Edith S. Childs. Rev. Dr. Nelson Rivers of the national NAACP says that Edith S. Childs borrowed it from the Conway Movement.
As soon as somebody invents one, buy stock in it. In the meantime, treat yourself to a copy of the latest issue of Creative Nonfiction Magazine. In it you’ll find a new essay of mine, “The Botch Job,” wherein I debate whether or not to fix a bad tattoo I once got in a basement on Eight Mile Rd. in Detroit. Should I cover it up? If so, with what? But wouldn’t that be chasing good money after bad?
Here’s a teaser from the piece:
I’ve got a bad tattoo, bad because it represents the flawed execution of an ill-conceived idea. The idea was bad for the usual reasons: I was young, rash, insecure; my aesthetic sense was half-formed at best. How bad is the execution? On a scale of one to ten, with one being “Stabbed in the Chest with a Bic” and ten “The Tattoo Equivalent of Michelangelo’s The Creation of Adam,” I’d say mine clocks in at about a four (“Drunken Hackery”)—obviously better than two (“Rusty Sewing Needle in Juvi”) and three (“Right Handed Artist Experiments with Left Hand”) but still, it’s not a body feature I’m proud to show off.
To buy a copy of the issue (or better yet, subscribe to the magazine) click HERE.
Back in 1982, when my buddy Colin and I were in 8th Grade, we took the bus to the Ohio Center in downtown Columbus to see Cheap Trick. We sat in the 7th row. We bought bootleg concert shirts (pictured at left). Then we decided to start a band. For some musicians, the spark was ignited when they saw The Beatles on Ed Sullivan. For Colin and me, it was Cheap Trick at the Ohio Center.
On Friday, October 3, at the House of Blues in Myrtle Beach, Watershed—the band we hatched on the bus ride home—will be opening for Cheap Trick. The last time this happened was in 1994 (see marquee). The next time will be. . . who knows? 2034?
For tickets to the House of Blues show, click HERE.
To read Colin’s treatise on why Cheap Trick is America’s Greatest Band, click HERE.
For the definitive Cheap Trick sales pitch, from Fast Times at Ridgemont High’s Mike Damone, click HERE.
Bending Genre — the ever-stellar blog about creative nonfiction writing, launched as a companion to Margot Singer and Nicole Walker’s excellent book by that same name — has posted a new essay of mine, “Writing in the Major Key.” In this piece I tackle the question of why writers (and songwriters) take ourselves so freaking seriously. Why do we focus on the sad and somber? Why does it seem to be easier to write about the negative? It’s not like we all need to be Jean “A Christmas Story” Shepherd or Randy “Short People” Newman, but there must be room for a little more sweetness and light. In my work, I know there is.
*With apologies to the great Dr. King
I’ve spent the last few months handcuffed to the ol’ computer, hammering out the manuscript for Lines of Scrimmage, exchanging draft after draft with my writing buddy, Scott Pleasant. The book is going well, but my typing fingers (all four of ‘em) need a break. Time to venture outside and play a rock show, or as close to a rock show as one dude with an acoustic guitar can get.
So here’s the skinny. On Tuesday, April 15, I’ll be playing two solo-acoustic sets in beautiful Pawleys Island, SC, at the Pawleys Island Tavern. The show starts at 8 pm, and I’ll be happy to fake my way though any requests you’ve got, as long as you’re requesting Watershed songs. Please come. When the crowd figures out that I don’t know any Jimmy Buffett or Bob Marley, I’m gonna need all the backup I can get.