For those of you who don't know, Massachusetts high schools are playing their football seasons now, after all games were all postponed last Fall. And without a doubt this is the story of the season so far.
Duxbury is a town on the South Shore, about 40 minutes or so from Boston on a traffic-free day. In theory, anyway, since traffic-free days are only a legend. It happens to be one of the most affluent towns in the state, situated along what's commonly known as The Irish Riveria. The kind of place where the street signs call the rotary a "roundabout," parking stickers for the beaches are harder to get than a Wonka Golden Ticket and where a family from Weymouth would be stopped at the town line while the station wagon got searched by drug sniffing dogs. If towns answered to names, this one would turn its head whenever someone said "Deluxe-bury."
But unlike most high rent district suburbs, this one has a great football program, top to bottom. When I was coaching youth ball, my teams were routinely on the pointy end of Duxbury's pitchfork. One of No. 1 son's proudest moments in his 10 seasons of organized football was late in yet another blowout when their coaches kept most of the starters in and he broke one of their kid's wrist with a clean hit. (I don't approve of such things, but I'm not going to take his moment away from him, either. Some Schadenfreude is warranted.) It's one of those towns where the youth program filters up to the high school level and forms the building blocks for state championships.
As fate would have it, the head coach used to run my town's high school program, but was let go without explanation to any of the parents or players. I have a neighbor who's son loved the guy and another who's kid left to play at a private school when he got the news. Anyway, he landed the head job at Duxbury and repaid the favor by repeatedly running up the score whenever the teams meet.
Which is just preamble to this latest bizarre news. There were reports this morning about the coach getting suspended over "anti-Semitic slurs" being used in Duxbury's audibles, all of which were cryptic and unclear. Not one report mentioned what exactly was said. Was it Meyers Leonard type language? Worse? How were they used? And for the love of God, why?
Well I'm glad I held off on posting about it until I knew more. And my patience was rewarded. Because we finally have some answers.
Source - The Anti-Defamation League of New England called Tuesday for “a full scale independent investigation” into the Duxbury High School football team allegedly using Holocaust-related language and Jewish terms to call plays on the field.
The ADL’s executive director, Robert Trestan, said in an interview with the Globe that he spoke to Duxbury school superintendent John Antonucci, who told him Duxbury football players called plays in a recent game by using terms such as “Auschwitz,” “rabbi,” and “dreidel.” ...
The plays were called during a game against Plymouth North on March 12, Duxbury’s season opener. The high school football season had been delayed from the fall to the start of March due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Duxbury’s head football coach, Dave Maimaron, was not on the sidelines for Duxbury’s March 19 game against Silver Lake and is not expected to coach its next game. He issued a statement Monday, saying “I want to extend my apology for the insensitive, crass, and inappropriate language used in the game on March 12th.
“The use of this language was careless, unnecessary and most importantly hurtful on its face — inexcusable," Maimaron said. ...
Trestan said he was especially concerned about indications that Duxbury teams may have been using the Holocaust and Jewish-related terms to call plays "for quite some time without anyone even raising an eyebrow or complaining about it."
One former student said the terms had been used in football practices in previous years but not in games.
Well alright then. That clarifies that. Not quite Meyers Leonard. But hardly "Omaha," either. And I feel like we can cut the coaches slack on "dreidel," which is, after all, just a toy. You try to come up with signals that are both easy to make out in the middle of a noisy game but also convey a clear meaning. "Dreidel" doesn't sound like anything else and could mean something as simple as your backs need to rotate to some other formation. "Rabbi" also is pretty recognizable. And any word that begins with "R" I always assume is used to alert the blocking scheme to a defender coming from the right. Which is why the Patriots go with "Rita" or Linda."
But "Auschwitz" is where they lose me. I don't pretend I was ever at a Duxbury High School coaching level. But I have to think that whatever it is you're trying to convey with that one, you can find a word every bit as distinctive, but that doesn't derive from a place where 1.1 million people were put to death horribly. Where families were shipped on packed cattle cars and the ones who survived the trip were marched on a road paved with Jewish headstones, through the gates and then separated into slave laborers and the ones who would die right away. And that anyone in the program with any sense of history or reality might have spoken up in a practice. "Say, coach. I'm just thinking out loud here, so correct me if I'm wrong. But do you think maybe we ought to change the "Auschwitz" call to something a little less ... y'know, offensive? I mean, there's a whole language we can choose from. Butterfly. McLovin. Pancake. Nickelback. Cheerio. I'm thinking about anything a little less Holocausty, is all. ..."
I mean, if you're going to go with mass killing themed plays, why not go all out? "Armenian Genocide! Wounded Knee! Rape of Nanking! Massacres of the Hutus! KILL! KILL! KILL!" Or better yet, why not just work some of these into your calls?
I wouldn't ask for anyone to get fired over something like this. I don't think I would even if I was a member of the aggrieved group. All I'm asking for is a little common sense by one adult in the room. And this is one of those times when you realize how uncommon that is. My father-in-law didn't help liberate the camps as a member of Patton's 3rd Army infantry just so that in 2021 the worst camp of all could be used to call out a pass protection.
And since Jewish suffering has been used as audible going back to the time when the teams were hauling massive stones around a desert and the coach was calling the plays in Ancient Egyptian, you can see why the Anti-Defamation League would be interested in turning this particular episode into one of those "teachable moments" administrators love to prattle on about when someone in their school does something needlessly idiotic.