I have to confess -- this morning I rooted for an sc football team. I did it without shame. And, I did it with goose bumps on my arms.
This morning, while watching a very special documentary, I rooted for the 1970 sc team that went into Alabama, beat the Bear Bryant coached Crimson Tide -- and, in doing so, literally changed the complexion of college football.
I write to recommend the Showtime documentary "Against the Tide" -- the story of that game, how it came about, and the impact it had in knocking down segregation -- not only on sports teams but also on campuses throughout the nation.
I cherish my participation in and memories of the civil rights movement. Those moments were formative -- as was that football game.
It seems like yesterday to me. But, then I realize that it wasn't. And, that the experience of segregation and its partial defeat took place years before many who inhabit Bruins Nation were born.
We write here about the importance of sports to the overall mission of a university. We argue that they create a common bond among diverse alums and our campus. And, that is true.
But we need also to remember that sports play a bigger role in our society -- they shape values. Sometimes for the better. Sometimes not.
"Against the Tide" tells the story of two friends, Bear Bryant and John McKay. One coached a segregated team. The other coached a team that was integrated. The back story, if you choose to believe it, and I do, is that Bear Bryant wanted to integrate his teams but was coaching in the state of the noted segregationist, Governor George Wallace, whose words "Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever" instigated violence, hatred and repression. So Bryant invited sc to play the opening game -- in Alabama -- a game which sc won, easily.
Alabama had its priorities straight. Hatred and segregation were important -- but not more important than winning football games and winning national championships. The writing was on the wall. To win, one had to recruit the very best players -- without the artificial barriers of segregation. So, down came the wall -- not just in sports, but in education. And, down came the wall of ignorance that supported racial hatred. Integration within teams brought about understanding and friendship. So did integration within classrooms.
The struggle is not over. Sometimes, I fear that some of the most important lessons of the civil rights movement are not being learned.
Want a quick course? Watch "Against the Tide". It's worth an hour of your time.