Last Monday night in Indianapolis, I watched the Georgia football team quietly enter the locker room and go through their routine of pre-game preparation.
Although I had experienced that exercise many times through the years, I have not done so lately. Owing to COVID 19, everything involving the radio broadcast takes place in the press box instead of the field. I was struck poignantly by what I saw.
Today’s locker rooms are a microcosm of our world with different attitudes. There is no enmity, no jealousy, no finger-pointing and no fault-finding, especially pre-game.
You see big guys like Jordan Davis at 340 pounds and small guys such as Ladd McConkey at 185 pounds. There are black kids and white kids who really do like one another. They would literally go to war for their friends and companions.
There is brotherly love in sports today, especially when a championship is on the line. If only our society, and especially the United States Congress, could adopt the attitudes of our sports teams, maybe—just maybe—we could somehow or other lock arms and sing kumbaya.
The origins of the word, kumbaya, date back to slave times in the coastal areas of South Carolina and Georgia. In the Gullah language, the term means, “come by here.” Joan Baez recorded the song in 1962 and it became a big hit.
Kumbaya my Lord, kumbaya,
Kumbaya my Lord, kumbaya,
Somebody’s singing Lord, kumbaya,
Somebody’s praying Lord, kumbaya,
Kumbaya my Lord, Kumbaya.
Enslaved people came together in song, to endure the hardships of a blight on our country’s history. Even in bondage, they became a team to survive.
Kumbaya became something of a theme song for the teams of Bill Parcels with the New York Giants as they won two Super Bowls in the eighties.
A locker room is populated with an amalgamation of teenagers, young adults and heavy-lunged coaches. There are trainers and managers who function as valets, wait for staff and confidantes. If a player is moved to make his uniform look spiffier, there is somebody eager to accommodate. There is privacy but there is openness.
There are shouts by some among the many who just sit quietly in meditation. Many nod rhythmically to the beat coming through their headphones. They are serious, they are focused and selfless—all for one and one for all permeates locker rooms and it is as real as shoulder pads and helmets.
Some kids prefer their ankles to be taped a certain way. No problem.
There are sports drinks, protein snacks and nutrition bars. There is the humility of the Lord’s prayer and the salty language that comes with athletic competition.
If you hark back to the sixties, the integration of the school systems was a challenge, especially in the South, but it became manageable because of sports. By rallying around the sports teams, the notion of the team concept won everybody over. White kids came to appreciate the abilities of black kids. A white kid makes a block that enables a black kid to score the winning touchdown. The kids bought in which moved the parents to buy-in.
If the football teams and the basketball teams, which were the focal points of most school activities, could get along, then that influenced the entire student body to take note.
Leadership makes a difference in any organization and Georgia has remarkable leadership with its coaching staff, but it would have been for nothing, had the players not bought in.
Isn’t there a leader in Congress who can get others to buy into doing what is best for the country? Just imagine if Kirby Smart and his coaches found fault with every team mistake and shouted epithets with the players.
If football teams acted like the Congress of the United States, college football would collapse in a lifeless heap.