‘We too will be destroyed’

“Fifty thousand men died right here on this field, fightin’ the same fight that we’re still fightin’ amongst ourselves today.”

Thursday marks the 16th anniversary of the release of the film “Remember the Titans.” The above quote comes from the film’s most iconic scene, the climax of the movie, if you will.

When T.C. Williams High School head football coach Herman Boone, played by Denzel Washington, wakes his players up at 3 a.m. for a brisk morning jog through the woods in Pennsylvania, he stops at the site of the Battle of Gettysburg.

The speech is a turning point for the team of both white and black players during a time of drastic racial tension in America.

It’s been 16 years since that film was released. It’s been 45 years since the true story of the T.C. Williams Titans took place in the segregated town of Alexandria, Virginia.

There’s still plenty we can — and should — take from both.

We’re at a time in this country where there’s still a divide between races. We’re a country that prides itself on “justice for all,” yet, a portion of the population doesn’t feel that.

It’s a point in the country where two presidential candidates debate in front of the same common folk they’re claiming to fight for while dancing around questions of equality.

It’s a time when Nebraska fans suggest their own player, Michael Rose-Ivey, be lynched during the national anthem at the next football game for kneeling during it at the last one.

We’ll spend more time fighting over Colin Kaepernick’s protest than we will acting like the human beings we expect Kaepernick to be.

You’re probably tired of hearing about Kaepernick and these protests. We’ve gotten the hottest takes from just about every analyst, coach, fan and Facebook ranter across the country. The problem is, we’re not hearing about these protests.

We’re bickering.

Stop. Listen. Talk. Ask questions. Attempt to understand. We don’t have to agree — again, freedom — but understanding is maybe the most important trait that comes with freedom. Let’s figure this out.

These are our brothers and sisters. It shouldn’t be taboo to talk about race in the “land of the free.”

“Hey, it’s a lot worse in other countries,” isn’t a valid argument. Why should that prevent us from improving ourselves? “Kaepernick should focus on playing football,” doesn’t work either. We already put professional athletes on a pedestal. Why shouldn’t we let them have a voice?

Sports are beautiful. When Dee Gordon stepped into the batter’s box and hit his first home run of the season in his first at bat wearing the jersey of his best friend and teammate who died in a boating accident a day earlier, it was instantly one of the most incredible stories of the year.

In a time of tragedy, a normally simple leadoff home run turns into something much grander. It’s a sense of hope and triumph just when it seems that everything has gone sideways.

We need sport and its athletes right now. We need them to bring us together, to fight for and with us, no matter the cause.

“You listen. And you take a lesson from the dead. If we don’t come together, right now, on this hallowed ground, we too will be destroyed — just like they were.”

It’s a perfect time to re-examine coach Boone’s words, what they meant then and what they can mean now.

“‘Remember the Titans’ has the outer form of a brave statement about the races in America, but the soul of a sports movie in which everything is settled by the obligatory last play in the last seconds of the championship game,” Roger Ebert wrote when the film was released.

Sports and activism are working together like they did in 1971. That shouldn’t be something we discourage.

It’s time we work together to make sure our last play leads to a championship.

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Mike Pruden

Mike moved to Sheridan from Indianapolis, Indiana. Family and his passion for sports brought Mike to the Cowboy State, where he began working as the sports editor for the Sheridan Press in June of 2014.

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Copyright © 2015 The Sheridan Press or Sheridan Newspapers, Inc.

Copyright © 2015 The Sheridan Press or Sheridan Newspapers, Inc..