Thursday, July 3, 2008

Gang violence in Oakland; Refugees playing soccer

Sports Illustrated had a couple of great pieces for the non-sports people like myself.

One, "How Dreams Die" by George Dohrmann talked about how street violence has gotten so bad in and around Oakland and Berkley, Calif. that kids who would've normally turned to sports as a means of escape, have given up their dreams of becoming professional athletes and given into gang life.

One youth football organizer described it as such: "It used to be that if you played sports, everyone protected you. Now it is open season on everybody. The neighborhoods are that devastated."

He starts and ends the article with Fred, a kid who's been on the wrong side of the law, but who wants to turn his life around through football. I especially loved how Dohrmann incorporated Fred's "Pledge of Success" at the beginning with a sense of hopefulness, and in the end with bitterness.

If you've been feeling like there isn't too much good in the world and there's nothing you can do to change it (what journalist doesn't feel that way?) please, please check out "Alive and Kicking" by Gary Smith. It's as uplifting as "How Dreams Die" is depressing. Smith follows a Jordanian-American who left behind her wealthy family, and created a soccer team of refugees from all over the world (Sierra Leone, Liberia, Afghanistan, Pakistan...) -- kids who had seen their families massacred, and who were struggling to fit in and find success in the states.

It's really incredible how one person (one person!) took it upon herself to adopt these kids and these kids' families to help turn their lives around. It's really inspiring (and well-written).

Both stories are reminders to me of why I need to read the sports pages more often. Consistently, some of the most compelling articles in our paper (or in journalism) revolve around them.