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.
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.”
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.