An article in the newspaper last week told of an autistic teenager who correctly picked the first 24 winners in the NCAA basketball tournament against odds of 30 million to one.
He reminded me of me.
In 1949, when I knew everything, I was also a part-time sports savant. I became big news in one particular newspaper when I predicted 18 out of 20 college football games one weekend. Forest Hills Prognosticator, the headline shouted.
I walked around beaming like Nostradamus for week or two but couldn't talk about it or show anyone. Why?, I hear you ask.
Of the dozen newspapers in New York City I had to choose the Communist Party's one, The Daily Worker. This was no coincidence.Along with the N.Y. Times (A.M.) and Post (PM) the Daily Worker was frequently read under our roof. And, yes, they had a Sports section in which the achievements of Black athletes was regularly celebrated. Maybe they thought overtime meant time and a half, as if I was to lead workers out of the class struggle.
My father was a quiet, self-contained man who radiated equanimity and abhorred confrontation. He was also among the minions whose compassion for the down-trodden resulted in his joining the Communist Party. He had no violence in him, no conspiracies. He was incapable of overthrowing anything, including my mother.
Politics and sports can not be separated. Certainly not in those days. I knew it then but never expected the two to converge the way they did. Who knew when I nailed Fordham over Syracuse and other upsets I would open a page in the FBI files.
Two of them, suited, clean and after-shaved came knocking on our door one day. Was it my breadcrumbs that lead them here? If they knew about my football feat it was because half the readers of the paper were FBI agents probably reporting on each other.
My father didn't give an inch in that scrimmage. He stiffened like a goal line stand and wouldn't let them cross, closing the door on their badges. They did an end run, went to his boss and had him fired but my father seemed taller after that day. His silence was his spine.