By KENNY SHELTON
Are you black in a predominantly white college town? Are you constantly asked what sports team you play for? Do people constantly stare at you with a joyous — and slightly puzzled —gaze as they try to figure out if you’re their favorite college athlete?
I’m here to tell you that you’re not alone! The great folks of Eugene constantly (yet erroneously, and blissfully so) assume I’m on the football team; from young to old, it never fails.
I have been asked for autographs by kids on the street and been given a free sandwich at Market of Choice by an older woman for my “job well done” in the Rose Bowl victory.
I have even been given extra time on a few assignments in the classroom because I was “too tired from practice” — their idea, not mine.
You might be nodding your head in agreement with me, reassured that these instances in fact occur in other people’s lives, or you could be reading in disbelief, thinking I’m grossly exaggerating some isolated incident that resonates in my mind.
But seriously folks, if I had a dollar for every time I was asked if I was on the football team (or the basketball team sometimes, go figure), I could start a scholarship in my name, no problemo. But despite my … cough… cough… Herculean 5’11, 225-pound build and my regal, chocolatey complexion, what makes people assume I’m an athlete before a scholar?
Don’t get me wrong, it does come with a few perks: The terms “wait,” “line” and “cover charge” have little to no meaning to me. I get free drinks. It is an instant icebreaker, deal-sealer, and it even earned me a free tow a few years back from a graying mechanic who greeted me with the cheerful, “Aren’t you number 25!? I love them Ducks!” Umm, yes. How could I say no?
But it’s not all glitz and glamor — the assumed athletic prowess can take a toll.
Have you ever taken flak from a nasally know-it-all sports fan while trying to casually drink at a bar? Grocery shopping has never been more awkward. The weird rise you get from people who think you’re a football player is reciprocated only by the impending awkward moment that inevitably ensues when you tell people that no, you’re not in fact on the team and yes, their apology is always accepted. And run ins with DPS and Eugene P.D. still occur. Even during my few minor brushes with the law, the “narcos” asked “What sport do you play?” before asking my name.
So, in light of my experiences, I’ve started the BIPWCTA, or the Black in Predominantly White College Town Allegiance for people like you and me to better cope with the aforementioned conditions. We offer weekly meetings to council attendees and also to provide a haven for dialogue on how to deal with the unique set of problems that we face.
We offer fellowship time, book lists, “I AM NOT AN ATHLETE” pins/sweatshirts, dominoes lessons (at all levels, mind you. Think guitar but with less music. Actually, don’t think guitar.) and much, much more.
And I also recognize that many other people from many other races are also confused with college athletes, and for that very reason our membership is open to everyone. It can be tough — I too have wrongfully assumed an Eric-Mangold-looking fella was on the O Line here in Eugene only later to find out he was an interior decorator. But I digress. If this piece spoke to you in any way then BIPWCTA is the group for you! Be on the lookout for regular updates from me the BIPWCTA. #Skoducks #BIPWCTA