Mind Over Sports

Posts Tagged ‘Pima Indians

In 1989 my wife and I moved to Phoenix and while there, I read in the local newspaper there was a local Pima Indian runner who was considered Olympic potential. In fact, he was so good that Billy Mills, the famous Native American who won a gold medal in the 10,000 metre run at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, made a special trip to Phoenix to run with him. The following week I visited the reservation and met with the young man and four of his friends who were all cross-country runners. This group included the young man’s 14 year old brother who was also a runner, and was considered to have the potential to be even better than his older brother. At one of our sessions I asked the young 14-year old runner why he had been losing his most recent races and at first he didn’t want to comment. But then it finally surfaced. He was purposely losing those races, he told us, because he didn’t want to break his brother’s records. When that information surfaced, his older brother stood up and gave him permission to break his records. After receiving that permission, the young man once again began running like his former self and began breaking all records. Including those of his brother.

I bring this up because tomorrow, July 15th, 2017, according to USA Today, “Venus Williams will be competing to win a sixth Wimbleton trophy and will become the oldest woman to win a Grand Slam singles title in the Open era. That feat would knock her sister Serena from that record, which she secured in January in winning the Australian Open at 35.” Let’s only hope that Serena has given her 37-year old sister permission to beat her opponent, Garbine Muguruza, and take over the record.

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When I lived in Phoenix, Arizona, I did some volunteer work with Pima Indian cross country runners. They were very nice young men but they told me about some of their experiences in the public school system where they were prejudged by their teacher who insisted on the first day of school, without even knowing them, that each would have to sign an agreement assuring her they would not be disruptive in class. Where did she get the idea they might be disruptive? It was a belief she developed over the years by observing negative images our society has created of Native Americans. Such as the Cleveland Indians’ Chief Wahoo logo. I wonder how many Americans, many of whom are fine Christians, would feel if there existed the “Jersey Jesuses” or the “Jacksonville Jesuses” and show a cartoon of Jesus on their caps and jerseys. I doubt they would look the other way and not give the idea much attention. You would see an explosion in the media about what a horrible thing it was to use the Jesus image to promote a sports team. Perhaps those same Christians (and Jews) should stand up and complain now about the Native American image that is being promoted in America.


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