Monday, May 21, 2007

Speeding like a space brain

I went to a high school that was less than 5% black, and my senior year only one player on the varsity football team was black. His name was Josh Cox, and he was an undersized but hard-running fullback. Josh got about half the team’s carries each game, all between the tackles, and at our home field when he’d gain at least five yards, or when his collision with a defender was audibly violent, the PA man would play a train-whistle sound effect and the crowd would chant, “Night Train!”

Josh “Night Train” Cox. First, the rhythm is all wrong and there's nothing even close to rhyme. Second, it was embarrassing to have so many white adults chanting “Night Train!” at Josh. So after two games of this, our principal forbade the PA man from using the train whistle. This decision made it into the local paper, and the story mentioned where the PA man had bought the train whistle, so fans brought their own train whistles to the next game.

Before the next home game, the principal convened us in the gym and informed us that Josh’s new nickname was “Choo Choo” Cox, and that this nickname was what we were to chant after the sound of the reinstated PA train whistle. Josh stood next to the principal and waved.

We tried. But no one over the age of eight likes to yell “Choo Choo!” Plus, the opposing fans had begun chanting “Cox Chewer” and the like whenever Josh was stopped for a loss. So by halftime we'd resigned ourselves to clapping, hooting wordlessly, and stamping our feet.

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