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An unpublished work, for pre-edit PLEASE!

Discussion in 'Writers' Workshop' started by Rockbottom, Sep 12, 2009.

  1. Rockbottom

    Rockbottom Active Member

    I appreciate this ... very worthwhile ...

    TALLADEGA – At first glance, it is like any other high school football practice in the country. Same slightly tattered practice uniforms. Same scruffy fields with faded paint lines. Same hopeful teenage boys pulling on helmets while hustling from the locker room for a stretch before the barked orders of their coaches come fast and furious.

    These players feel the crunch of their shoulder pads against each other Monday through Thursday, and then again on Friday nights with forceful intent against opponents.

    They see the determination and will in their teammates all week long, and then again witness the love and excitement from fans under the lights when the game is on the line.

    They taste glory and defeat all the same, knowing that every night on the football field chasing victory is a special one – one that they hope to tell their grandchildren some day.

    The one thing they cannot do is hear that crunch of the pads, hear the fans roar when they score a touchdown, and hear all the special sounds of Friday night football.

    They are the Silent Warriors of the Alabama School for the Deaf. They cannot hear, but they can play football.

    Led by coach Paul Kulick, the Silent Warriors are arguably the tightest band of athletes in Alabama. Living together on ASD’s leafy, tree-lined campus as a part of a 200-person student body, the Silent Warriors are more brothers than teammates, family instead of football-only friends.

    “These kids are growing up together, living together, learning together and working together. They reinforce and support each other. They are truly brothers,” said Kulick earlier this week via American Sign Language interpreted by Dee Johnston.

    “They are in dorms together, so if a coach gets on one, they can support him and that player is ready to come back to practice well the next day.”

    And practice well they do. Heading into Saturday night’s home game against the Indiana School for the Deaf, the Silent Warriors are 2-0 – sporting a 38-20 victory over Jacksonville Christian in Week 1 and a 44-20 road defeat of Coffeeville last Friday.

    “We are brothers. We have grown up together. We are in the same dorms. We can’t wait to beat the other team, and have practiced long and hard to make that happen,” said Jerrod Cunningham, a senior tight end and defensive end. “The goal is simple for us, to win every game. That doesn’t change. We want to make ASD look good.”

    That goal is a hallmark of ASD. The school that bills itself “Home of the Champions” – one of 30 remaining deaf football programs – has six National Deaf Football Championship trophies in their bulging trophy cases (the result of title-winning teams in 1971, 1987, 1991, 2000, 2001 and 2002) and more Mason-Dixon championships than Kulick can remember.

    The football program competes as an AHSAA independent, allowing ASD – which is part of the 150-year-old Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind – to schedule deaf schools across the country in addition to mainstream opponents within Alabama. The resulting schedules are often less-than-complete, as schools within the state often don’t have room for the Silent Warriors on their schedule, and deaf schools are slowly dwindling.

    “We have had trouble getting people to play us,” Kulick said. “When we went independent, it was tough to make a schedule within the state. We had to search and search, and we end up having less than 10 games some seasons. Schools for the deaf are closing, and they might not have enough players and want to play eight-man. Our athletic association doesn’t let us do that, so we can’t go to Texas and Minnesota to play them. D.C., Florida, and Indiana are some of the only ones that we can get to.”

    Those long road trips are beneficial, however, for the Silent Warriors – giving many of them who grew up in low-income families a chance to experience the country they otherwise never would have.

    “Our kids really love those long trips to go to schools for the deaf, because many of them are from poor families and poor regions to where they have never traveled,” Kulick said. “It is a perfect opportunity to them out to places like Florida, to play their school for the deaf, and to Washington D.C. That way, we have education and geography and museums, like field trips on top of the football games. It is a wonderful opportunity.

    “If we just played the public schools around here, they won’t go anywhere and there isn’t as much educational benefit.”
    “I went to a public school in middle school, and it was difficult for me to communicate and I was only allowed to play a little bit,” Cunningham said. “When I came to ASD, I played all the time. It is very motivating, and we go to other states. It makes me feel a lot better about myself.”

    “I feel more comfortable here than at a public school, because they don’t care about anything but winning at a bunch of other schools,” said Demetric Snyder, a sophomore fullback and linebacker. “Here, they care about you as a person more than winning.”

    Not that Kulick, assistant coaches Herminio Gonzalez, Chris Moon and Mickey Wheatley, and the Silent Warriors mind the games against in-state competition.

    “Hearing teams have to understand, our boys can play football,” Kulick said with a laugh. “They can tackle, they can block, they can make plays and we use sign language to communicate with each other. Hearing teams are as physically and mentally prepared to play football as we are. We just can’t hear.

    “Their coaches emphasize ‘you are embarrassing us, those deaf boys are beating us’, and those boys start to hit harder. We just laugh and hit them back harder. Yeah, we are deaf, but why is it shameful that we are beating you? Sure, we have an advantage that we can communicate in sign language over distances and they can’t understand us, but on the other side, they are all talking and using audibles at the line and we can’t understand them. So who has the advantage?”

    Like most deaf football programs, Kulick and ASD utilize a large bass drum manned by an assistant during offensive plays to keep everyone in synch – thumping it to start a play just like a mainstream hearing team’s quarterback would yell out a snap count.

    And don’t think they always go on the first drum beat, either. Kulick loves to point out how easy it always is to get a crucial first down against a mainstream hearing team simply by instructing the Silent Warriors to wait for the second drum beat instead of going on the first. Not to be outdone, ASD also thwarts potential interpreters stealing signals on the other sidelines by using wristbands coded with plays.

    While defeating Alabama teams is nice, playing – and beating – deaf schools has its own special significance.

    “We want to beat the deaf schools more,” said Tyler Perry, a junior running back and strong safety. “It is harder to beat them, so it makes us proud to beat them.”

    “With deaf schools, now, there is definitely ‘deaf pride’. We are all deaf, but we are better than you,” Kulick said. “It might be more appropriate competition. I want to beat both the hearing teams and the deaf teams. It makes us proud that we can play against mainstream hearing schools, but we like to play against our deaf schools because it proves we are better across the country.

    “Against the hearing schools, we are just the best in Alabama.”
  2. spud

    spud Member

    I think it takes waaay too long to get to the point. Your first four grafs could be an intro to anything, and it doesn't add anything to the idea that these kids have that deafness obstacle. I see what you're trying to do... built it up that they're just like anybody else except they can't hear. But I think that opener is kinda generic.

    By the way, a (non-deaf) team in my coverage area is playing this team in a few weeks. Not sure if it's here or not but I'd be interested to see them play.
  3. I Should Coco

    I Should Coco Well-Known Member

    Agree with spud. A good feature on an interesting team, with strong quotes ... but it takes too long to get to it.

    After the first graph -- which is well written -- maybe just use one of the next few paragraphs before mentioning it's a School for the Deaf football team.

    Otherwise, a very good read.
  4. DirtyDeeds

    DirtyDeeds Guest

    Yep. Try to whittle those next three paragraphs into one maybe. You really could just eliminate them altogether and twek it a litlte bit to make it work. Very good story other than that.
  5. Rockbottom

    Rockbottom Active Member

    As usual, y'all, I appreciate it.

    I shall whittle ... I have often been accused of taking 100 words to describe what 50 can do in a lede.

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