Redskins Like Books

I’ve mentioned a few times now that we’re finally settling into the regular weekly NFL schedule, and what that means for Tuesdays is … not a whole lot, actually. Tuesday is the day off for players pretty much league-wide. No practice, no open locker room, nothing.

So today I went with Lorenzo Alexander, Fred Davis, and Leigh Torrence to Bailey’s Elementary School for the Arts & Sciences in Falls Church, VA, where they were helping to kick off the school’s literacy program by talking up reading.

What this meant in practice was that the guys talked to the school in two separate assemblies, then split up and each read to a different classroom.

The talk at the assemblies went more or less as you’d expect: the players stayed on-message, talking about books they’d liked as kids (Torrence: Where The Red Fern Grows; Alexander: Mystery novels; Fred Davis: Goosebumps books) and introducing a writing contest where the winner would get to be the kickoff kid for the home game against Philly. Meanwhile, the kids patiently waited for a chance to ask the players about football.

The actual questions the kids asked in the assembly, as soon as the players invited questions:

If you win the prize and get to go on the field, do you get to bring your family?

(A practical, typically kid-like question. Also, about nervousness.)

Do you always win all the games?

(The 0-1 Redskins hemmed and hawed and admitted that, no, they don’t win ALL the games.)

Before you play the game, are you nervous?

(Leigh Torrence — clearly a teacher at heart — took this and talked about how nervousness is just energy and excitement bottled up, and it was really well done. That said, this would be question #2 about nervousness.)

How many games have you won so far?

(Lorenzo Alexander tried to include preseason, but the kid was having none of it. The winless Redskins sheepishly acknowledged that they had yet to win a game this season.)

How does it feel to be in front of all those people, and how does it feel to be on TV?

(Question #3 about nervousness. I detect a shared concern among these children.)

What is it like to be on the field and win a game?

(The Redskins, who still hadn’t won a game since the previous question about winning, talked about the general experience of winning games in the past.)

What kind of team do you play next?

(A valid question, answered about as you’d expect. You’ll notice that exactly NONE of these questions deal with reading.)

After that, the assembly was dismissed and the players went to read in classrooms. Fred Davis had the youngest class, and read The Empty Pot, doing an excellent teacherly job of stopping to ask kids if they knew what various words meant. Torrance had fifth graders, and read them How I Became A Pirate, doing the pirate parts in a pirate voice, and encouraging the class to shout along.

And Lorenzo Alexander read The Lotus Seed, a book about a Vietnamese refugee. Not exactly light reading. “No, but these were fifth graders, so it was good to have something a little more serious.”

Doesn’t really lend itself to pirate imitations, though, does it? “No, you can’t really do funny voices in a story about a Vietnamese war.”

Very true.

After that, the guys handed out Redskins Read activity books, posed for a few more pictures, signed autographs for teachers, signed more autographs for teachers, and left. Oh, and they each did an individual Q&A about their readings, in which the most popular question was, of course, “How did you start playing football?” At least the kids seemed to have gotten over their fixation on nervousness by then.

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17 Responses

  1. Very interesting hearing what the players do on their day off, especially when it’s as positive as this. Nice post.

  2. Jeez, I’m a in middle school and I would do anything for a Redskin to come to my school and read. I can’t believe the kids didnt know who they played next, or if they won their last game…I know everything top to bottom about the Redskins…I have since I was like 6 or 7.

  3. Great post!

  4. You know, the NFL is a cold business. Players are treated like meat, and as soon as they’re deemed worn out, they get cut (Shaun Alexander, Rudi Johnson, among countless others). I had always reconciled this by the fact they they get paid extremely well, even though the don’t enjoy the guarantees of baseball or basketball players.

    Fact is, in such a cold business it is all the more astonishing that players who work in such a high stress environment spend their off days giving back. Who knows whether Torrence, Davis or Alexander will be Redskins next year? And they could be at home watching movies and relaxing today. The fact that they went out to do this for these kids (and let’s be honest, for the Redskins’ PR) is all the more commendable.

  5. Did Fred Davis make it to the school on time?

  6. LOL MTSC….I was going to ask if Fred Davis missed the school bus~

  7. Great stuff !

  8. Haha – can you imagine if one of the kids had asked that? Instant classic.

  9. Word is that the Seahawks have signed Billy Mcmullan….this will bite us in the butt when we go to Seatle

  10. penn,

    Do you think that the Redskins are the only team that this type of thing happens to?

  11. Thanks for getting the links back!

  12. This is great. I would have absolutely loved this back in elementary school….or middle school…or high school or college! Hell, they could come and read to me at work now and I’d love it! Bravo.

  13. Wow, that is so nice. I am a parent of a student at Bailey’s. What would have been nicer if it was announced that they were coming. maybe they can only see so many kids, but I do not know of anyone who even knew the players were coming. way to go Bailey’s

  14. Wow, that is so nice. I am a parent of a student at Bailey’s. What would have been nicer if it was announced that they were coming, or if the school would have planned for all kids to get to see them. Maybe they can only see so many kids, but I do not know of any parent who even knew the players were coming. Way to go Bailey’s.

  15. As the principal just pointed out on the parents’ listserv, the assemblies were for all grades except kindergarten, and the school announced the visit in the newsletter and the calendar sent home during the Open House (or the first day of school for those who weren’t at the Open House). Any parent who read either knew they were coming. The calendar is also on the school website. The event was kept low-key, to keep the focus on reading.

  16. i like this blog, it has jumped to top 100 blog now

  17. CAN WE GET A FEW GUYS TO GO TO UPSTATE NY. MY SON IS 12 AND PLAYS POP WARNER FOOTBALL SINCE AGE 5. MABE THEY COULD COME HELP THE KIDS READ THE PLAYS. WERE IN GLENSFALLS NY

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