A/N – I had a real hard time deciding who to pair her with, but I think I prefer Rev. Wow, it's been forever since a new RtT story has been written, or an old one been updated. Yay, a new one!
Disclaimer – I do not own Remember the Titans, not even on DVD. Wish I did.
In Virginia, high school football's a way of life. It's bigger than Christmas Day, even. My Daddy coached in Alexandria. He worked so hard our mama left him, but my sister Sheryl stayed with Coach. He needed us on that field.
Up until 1971 in Alexandria, there was no race mixin'. Then the school board forced us to integrate. The combined the white school and the black school into one, called T.C. Williams High School.
That summer a black teenager was killed by a white store owner, and the city was on the verge of explodin'.
Alexandria, Virginia has been my home since I could remember. For the longest time it was Daddy coachin' the Hammond High School boys while Mama took care of the house. I would help Mama when I could, but whenever I could get away with it, I was on the field with Daddy.
When I was eight, Mama told me I was gonna have a little brother or sister. I remember Daddy laughing while reminding me of my exact words: "But I already have enough brothers as it is! Why do I need another one before next season?"
Then, shortly after my baby sister Sheryl was born, Mama left. She always hated that daddy was always working with the boys, she said that it was his fault I was more a boy than a girl. She ran off with a white man from down the road, and was never heard from since.
That was when I stopped calling him 'Daddy' and started calling him 'Coach'. While he worked with the boys on the football field, I took care of Sheryl and the house. It was a lot of responsibility to dump on a nine year old, but Coach was always there to help.
Something Mama could never figure out: if you just ask for some help, you'll get it. Maybe not in the way you imagined, but you'll always get it.
I couldn't remember a time that Sheryl and I didn't get along. When she was old enough to start crawling I would set her next to the boys as they were made to deathcrawl down the field, and I teased them when she made it to the end before they did. The boys took it well, despite being beaten by a toddler and laughed at by a kid.
When Sheryl learned to talk, the first word out of her mouth was 'Coach,' the second 'Football,' and the third, Sissy.' I almost cried. I taught her everything I could about football, and coach taught her the rest. Sheryl was amazing at catching things on the field, but had an intensity that would push those boys to death if she was truly in charge.
Football may have ruined our parents' marriage, but it saved our family. Football is what kept Coach from becoming a vegetable on my sister and I; football is what kept Sheryl and I close; football is what kept us all together and down to earth.
Football probably saved our lives.
I stood beside Coach watching the boys practice for the next season, smiling as Sheryl screamed on Coach's other side.
"What are they doing!" she cried. "If they keep running plays like that we'll lose every game!"
Coach and I shared a smile before he turned to my nine-year-old sister. "Well I didn't think that was so bad." I laughed lightly and shook my head. "You never do" I teased lightly.
After Herb Tyrell, Coach's assistant coach, blew the whistle again, Gerry Bertier, team captain and fellow senior, came up to Coach. "That's good, Gerry, I can see you've been working" he smiled at Gerry. Coach was always a real positive guy, unless the guys really messed up.
Gerry, though he looked pleased at the compliment, still looked really bothered. "Thanks a lot, coach. Umm, listen, with the schools integrating and all, some of the guys are worried about losing their starting positions" Gerry explained, glancing between me and Coach.
It was a well-known fact that Sheryl and I were authorities on football, and the boys really took Sheryl seriously…sometimes. But, I was twice Sheryl's age and Coach took my opinion in much more serious consideration.
"Well that's something that we're just gonna have to figure out, but you don't worry about that now. You just keep at it" Coach assured him. Gerry finally smiled and nodded, heading back to practice.
It was then that Alan came running down the steps, fully dressed, not wearing his uniform. Only a select few of the team had come today. "Hey guys!" he yelled. "It's coming down! It's coming down at the store! They wanna burn that place down cause that colored kid got shot" he informed everyone, stopping at the chain-link fence that surrounded the practice field.
The boys all grumbled and started running, ignoring Coach yelling at them to stop. Coach started running after them, stopping briefly in front of me. "Sandra, get Sheryl and yourself to the school" he said, watching the boys.
"Yes Coach" I said, grabbing Sheryl's hand and heading to his office. For once, she didn't complain. We were both silent with worry as we walked with Tyrell.
We didn't make it all the way to Coach's office. Instead, we waited by the doors for the boys and coach to get back. After a while, they finally came walking in, and we all headed for his office.
"You boys are gonna cool off, come to my office, and help me finish packing my things" Coach ordered, marching at the front. Sheryl and I flanked him, as usual. I glanced back at the boys, slightly worried. I knew how hot-headed they were.
"Gerry, son, your hearts in the right place but you ought to know better than to embarrass the coach like that" Tyrell lectured him.
"Hell, why don't ya just kick them all off the team, I don't wanna play with any of those black animals" Gerry snarked rudely as we went into Coach's office. I winced as I noticed the new assistant coach, a black man, standing in the office.
Now, I have nothing against black people, and neither does Coach. It's never really been a big deal; they were just people. Sheryl, Coach, and I all looked alike: blond hair (though Sheryl's and mine were obviously longer and curlier), blue eyes, and white, freckled skin. This man was tall, had short black hair, and dark chocolate skin. He stood straight, and looked formidable.
"Whoa" Tyrell tried to stop him. Gerry dismissed the coach's warning. "What? I see him."
We all stopped once we were inside. Tyrell crossed his arms and flared at the man. "Who are you?"
"I'm Herman Boone. I'm the new assistant coach" he introduced himself cordially. I watched him carefully, interested. I was curious. "Well, from the looks of things, I'd say we got about all the help we need around here" Tyrell said snidely. Coach gave Sheryl and I meaningful looks and pushed us gently away. "Why aren't you outside with all your little friends hollering?"
"This was the tie that was arranged for me to meet with Coach Yoast" he explained patiently, setting down the football he had been holding as Sheryl and I sat down near where the guys were all standing. I could hear the tension in his voice as he tried to remain polite as Tyrell blatantly insulted him. "I never miss an appointment"
"Well maybe, um, maybe you just better reschedule" Tyrell insisted. I had no idea why he was being so rude, except that this man was black. I had thought better or Tyrell than that, but not all men can be Coach.
"Coach Boone, the school board made the decision to put you on my staff. I did not hire you" Coach explained plainly.
"Well, I came up here to coach at G.W. I didn't ask the schools to re-district. I didn't ask to be assigned to your staff, so I guess were both in a situation we don't want to be in, but I can guarantee you this, coach: I come to win" Coach Boone explained.
"Win?" Tyrell mocked. "Coach Yoast here has been nominated for the Virginia High School Hall of Fame. Fifteen winning seasons"
While I was really proud of Coach, Tyrell was going too far. They didn't need to mock this man or make him feel insignificant. I wish everyone could see past skin color. Why did it matter, really? Coach always said a man is a man, and our choices define us, not our appearance. But here was a man that decided to be a bigger person and take a position under a white man, while everyone was all white vs. color.
"Well, I've won a couple titles down in North Carolina" Coach Boone said modestly, trying to appease Tyrell.
"That's double A ball" Tyrell said with a cocky smile, looking around like Boone was an idiot, "this here's Virginia, we play triple A."
"Well, what an opportunity for me" Boone replied with a smile. "To learn…from the best."