A/N – Hey all! I'm so glad people like this story! I just wanted to ask you all to check out my poll! I have already decided who to pair my OC with, obviously, but I'm still curious. So...check it out, please!
"The school board has decided that Negro Herman Boone is gonna be the head coach at T.C." the representative from the school board said gruffly.
When the car had driven up are drive way while we were all outside playing basketball, the news we would be receiving couldn't be imagined. It felt like the bright, sunny, warm day was mocking us. I didn't mind Boone, really, I didn't, but this was not fair. Coach had taken these boys through fifteen winning seasons. He had been doing this since I was in diapers!
Sheryl agreed with me. She was clutching onto Coach tightly, crying, just furious. It's not fair, our daddy's head coach! This is gonna be his Hall of Fame year" she cried. Coach had one hand on one of Sheryl's arms and another around my shoulders so that both Sheryl and I were both wrapped in his arms, as I was on Sheryl's other side.
"No one is trying to take away your daddy's future place in the Hall…" the man tried to appease her, but we were both very hot-headed, Sheryl the more so.
"You can't just walk in here and take my daddy's job away!" she screamed. I sighed and knelt down, wrapping my arms around the angry nine year old. "Sheryl, will you come with me, please? Let Coach handle this. Come on, I've got some cookie dough with your name on it" I tried to entice her.
Sheryl scowled but her face softened slightly at the promise of cookie dough. She stomped ahead of me, only to turn around, heading for the representative. 'Sheryl!" Coach and I both called in warning, but she still sent a quick kick to the back of the man's leg before stomping into the house.
"I'm sorry" I quickly said, running after her.
"Sheryl" I sighed, seeing her sitting on the floor in the kitchen, knees pulled up to her chest with her arms wrapped around them. "I'm not sorry, and I'm not going to apologize" she said before I could say anything.
"I wasn't going to make you, or say anything about it" I told her gently, sitting down next to her. Sheryl rested her head on my shoulder. "Why are they doing this?" she said softly. It breaks my heart to hear such a loud-mouth, out-spoken little girl speak so quietly. It was almost unnatural.
"Because people are finally bowing to the pressure of seeing that it doesn't matter what you look like. But the people that make the decisions, like who's head coach, are going about it the wrong way because they don't really want equality and they don't understand. Have you ever seen how other people treat colored folks?" I asked her.
Sheryl nodded. "I see people refuse to let colored's into stores and stuff. Call them names and be real cruel. But you and coach never do" she explained. I wrapped my arm around her shoulders, fidgeting slightly to get more comfortable.
"Coach has always believed that it's your choices that define you, not your skin color. He passed that on to me. And now I wanna pass that on to you." My heart tightened slightly as I spoke my next words, "Do you remember Mama? She hated colored folk. Thought everyone white was pure and anyone colored was dirty and soiled. I think that's a big part of what got her so set on leaving when you were little" I told her.
Sheryl looked at, her face very serious. "I don't remember Mama. For as long as I can remember, you've always been my mama, Sandra. You're my mama, and Coach is my daddy"
I smiled, my throat tight, at her words. I mentally laughed slightly at how her words could be taken, but the thought was brief as my heart was touched by her words. "Oh, babydoll, and you've always been my little girl" I cried softly, my eyes watering, pulling her into a hug.
Sheryl clutched me tightly. We both just clung to each other as if we were the only thing keeping the other from falling apart. Eventually, Sheryl finally pulled away. "Now, what's this you said about cookie dough with my name on it?"
I stood up, being pulled by her, laughing. "Alright, let's so look, shall we?" And everything was okay. For now.
Later that night, there was a knock at the door. Sheryl pulled open the door while I stayed sitting, sewing up a whole in one of her shirts. "What do you want?" I heard her nearly growl. Curious about who her ire was directed at, I stood, setting down my work, and walking over to stand behind her. It was Herman Boone.
"Is Coach Yoast here?" he asked, shifting slight. I couldn't tell exactly how he felt, but I could tell he felt something about having a nine year old girl clearly mad at him.
Before Sheryl could say something snarky about Coach trying to find a new job, I placed my hand on her shoulder. She turned into me, wrapping her arms around my hips. I saw Boone watch the action closely, and knew he was getting an idea of what my relationship with Sheryl was. "One moment, Coach" I said gently.
"Coach" I called into the other room. "Someone to see you" Coach walked in and as soon as he saw Boone he had Sheryl and I in our rooms. I knew he would be talkin' with the coach in the office that we made out of the barn.
Sheryl wouldn't talk to me, and I knew better than to try and appease her tonight. I knew as well as most that sometimes you just had to be angry. I left her alone for the night, only checking on her once when I was sure she was asleep. She was curled up on her side, fists balled up, one tight to her chest, the other under her head. I smiled and grabbed the blanket to cover her up, as it was a slightly chilly night.
I waited in the front room for coach to come back inside. Coach came in, steamin' a little, but I could see the gears in his mind whirlin'. "He wants to me stay on the staff as Assistant Head Coach" he told me without me having to say a word.
"Daddy" he looked at me very seriously, as I hadn't called him that in a long time. "You don't have to do it, but I want you to think on something. You have been coach in this town for fifteen years. In those fifteen years, every single boy that's played for you has been a white, All-American, average teenage Joe.
"Now, I know that with the integration, you'd be as fair as you can be, but you'd still be biased. With all this change, something had to change with it up top. The top of a pyramid is only as strong as its base.
"Also, those Hammond boys will follow you anywhere. Fifteen years, they've heard since they can walk and talk that you're the coach that gets them places. They are as racist as it can get in this town. Now I know it'll be demeaning at first, and you feel unfairly treated, but think about it. Please?
"At least he tried to make amends. You gotta imagine what it must be like for him. I've been by the Berg. Now that they feel they finally have something, you really think they'll allow him to back down?"
Coach looked at me, as if seeing me for the first time. I could imagine what he was seeing: my blond hair in a high ponytail, blue eyes sparkling from the constant tears, hands wrinkled from dishes and calloused from constantly poking myself with needs and sports. My shirt was rumpled and my jeans were dirty, my feet bare and as calloused as my hands.
"Sandra, when did you become a young woman?" he whispered, still staring at me.
"Sheryl called me mama today" I replied quietly. He looked at me in shock. "She said for as long as she could remember, I'm the only mama she's ever known. I can't let her down, coach. I just can't" it took me a moment to realize I was crying again. Coach wrapped me up in his arms, making soft 'shh'ing sounds.
It'll be all right, Sandra. You'll see. It'll be all right"
There was a booster meeting at Hal's the next day. Coach was gonna announce his decision 'officially.'
"It's been a rare privilege to have lived here as long as I have, coaching your boys. I'll be taking the year off" Coach paused, allowing the boys to a moment to cry out their denial before continuing, "after which I'll be moving to Lowden, taking the head coaching job at Lowden High"
The crowd was clearly upset, several individuals crying out, Alan's father the worst. "I say boycott T.C. Williams!" he cried. Gerry stood. "Coach, he stole your job. I'm not playing for him. I've started a petition and I'm sitting this season out" he explained.
"The only place you're gonna sit is right back in that chair, Gerry" Coach ordered firmly, walking towards the captain. "I appreciate it, thought"
"Boycott T.C." Mr. Bosley cried. "Boycott the school!" Coach stood toe-to-toe with Mr. Bosley. "Stop this, Frank, you know these boys can't afford to go to some other district just to play ball. They sit this season out they put their futures on the line" he said quietly but clearly.
"Coach?" Ray stood as well. "I ain't playing for no thief"
"Don't do this" Coach pleaded firmly; "Don't make this any harder for me than it already is."
Alan stood as well. "Coach, if you go, I go" he said simply, shrugging as if it was the way this went, and he couldn't do anything about it. "I only play for you, Coach Yoast" another boy cried as all the boys stood and started clapping.
As the boys started chanting, Coach looked me in the eyes. I shrugged, silently telling him, what are you gonna do? I told you so.
Sheryl and I silently walked over, sitting on either side of coach as he leant against the old tree in the field.
"We'll be alright, Coach" Sheryl told him, sitting beside his legs as I sat next to him, curling up to him. Coach put his arm around me, bringing me closer, letting me rest my head against his shoulder.
"I've coached most of these boys since they were your age, I've seen them grow up in front of my eyes, almost like they were my own kids" Coach remembered softly, reminding me of a young kid that was begging their parents for reassurance.
"Almost" Sheryl and I repeated firmly at the same time, making Coach chuckled slightly before heaving a heavy sigh.
"This is a heck of a time to be abandoning them to look out for themselves, ain't it?" Coach asked, more himself then us.
"So, what're you gonna do?" Sheryl asked, sounding older than her years.
Sheryl stayed with our next door neighbor as Coach called Tyrell. I called up the boys and told them to meet Coach at the school. "Coach is sticking around. He's not gonna let you boys throw away your future, so don't make his efforts for nothing. Get yourselves to the school on time or I'll ma e you train harder than you ever have in your life."
Instead of intruding with Coach and the boys, I entered the gym silently to see what kind of boys would be joining the team. I smiled as I saw an eager young man, probably a few years younger than me, going through the crowd crying "black inside" repeatedly.
"Yo Petey! How many yards you think you're gonna get this season, bro?" another boy asked Petey. 'You know I ain't one to brag, big Blue, but I figure at least, uh, a thousand" Petey boasted, causing all the boys to laugh and me to smile.
"Hey, didn't I tell you how no white boy would play with no brother?" a much taller boy slurred. I nearly winced. If I got the chance, I would make that boy learn to enunciate, if it's the last thing I'll do. Before bringing these boys together, of course.
"Well who needs 'um? From now on the Titans is gonna be powered by soul power" Blue cheered. I grinned. I had never been fond of the more 'white music', always favoring the music you could hear coming out of the Berg.
Blue started singing, but before he could get too far, a whistle blew. Everyone turned to see Boone and Doc walking in. I had yet to be noticed so far.
The boys all lined up and stood respectfully, but Bone went straight for Petey. "Put your hand down" he ordered. Petey slowly put his hand down, but his smile remained. "You smiling"
"Yes, Sir" Boone corrected.
"Why are you smiling?" Boone demanded. They had everyone's attention.
"Because I love football, football's…fun" Petey explained slowly as if talking to a mentally retarded person.
"Fun, Sir" Petey echoed.
"I think…" Petey's smile dropped.
"Now you thinkin'. First you smile, then you think. You think football is still fun?"
"Uh, yes" Petey's smile flashed before dropping again as he tried to find the right answer to please Boone.
"Yes, no, sir, sir"
"Uh, it was fun."
"Not anymore, though, is it?" Boone asked.
"No, it's not fun anymore, not even a little bit?"
"Uh," Petey looked indecisive for a moment.
"Make up your mind" Boone ordered.
"Think! Since you're thinking now, go on, think! Is it fun?"
"Zero fun sir" Boone finally turned away from the boy to walk down the line. "All right. Listen up! I'm Coach Boone. I'm gonna tell you all about how much," pointed look at Petey, "fun you're gonna have this season.
"We leave for camp – Gettysburg College – August 15th, 7:29am. If you report at 7:30, you will not be playing football this season, you will be watching. You will wear a jacket, shirt, and tie. If you don't have one, buy one. Can't afford one, then borrow one from your old man. If you don't have an old man then find a drunk, trade him for his. 'Cause I can guarantee you there isn't a bum on the street that looks as raggedy and ridiculous as what I'm looking at right now."
I felt that Boone's words were harsh, but I couldn't help but smile, holding back my laughter, at his speech.
"This is no democracy. This is a dictatorship. I am the law. If you survive camp, you will be on the team. If you survive. Check 'um in, Coach."
Doc replied, "Check 'em in! I'm Coach Hines, you offensive line coach. Yell out your names and positions starting from the right" he directed.
"Petey Jones. Running back, THE running back, ya'll" Petey yelled, making the guys laugh.
"Jerry Harris. Quarterback" The guys all cheered and called out "Rev!" as he spoke. He was clean cut, and looked really friendly. And cute. Hey, I'm a teenage girl, I can be attracted to other guys, though people in this town would think I was the devil's spawn for being attracted to a colored boy.
Still, he was handsome.
"Rev?" Hines asked as he heard the name. "Nickname" Rev clarified. Just then, a large white boy, about twice the size of me, came running in, stopping next to Rev.
"And who in the name of Heaven might you be?" Hines asked the boy, but not entirely meanly.
"I'm Louie Lastik, offensive lineman. Naval Family, just moved here from Bayonne, someone said football, so I come runnin'. What's goin' on everybody?" he said cheerfully. He clearly didn't discriminate race.
There was an awkward silence as the boys were hesitant to accept Louie.
It was then I was finally discovered. "What the heck are you doin' here, young lady?" Boone voice boomed throughout the gym. Everyone turned their attention to me. I walked towards the crowd of boys, slightly self-conscious of my simple red and black plaid skirt, white blouse, and black heels. I tend to dress formally when it comes to football.
"Who's she?" one of the boys asked. I smiled kindly. "I'm Sandra Yoast. As for my reason for being here, Coach, I'm checking out the team. The rest should be here in three, two, one…" as my last word trailed off, the doors opened.
Coach walked in, Tyrell and all the Hammond players behind him. As I noticed the hostile looks being exchanged, my shoulders slumped. There goes me thinkin' everything would work out fine.
But then I looked at Rev, who seemed to be watching me curiously. I smiled, and he grinned back. Maybe there was hope, after all.