By Tim Baffoe–
(CBS) Snarky as this little corner of the Internet usually is, I’m still a sucker for an honest-to-goodness actual story involving sports and human decency. One of those happened in my backyard this week.
The Morgan Park High School boys’ basketball team won the 3A state championship in March, which I was glad to see after they’d knocked off my St. Rita guys in the sectional championship a few games prior, “MoPo” being one of two neighborhood public high schools all my life. During what should have been a joyous period of celebration for those kids, though, they were slapped in the face with yet another reality of being students at so many Chicago Public Schools.
In the past, CPS has helped foot the bill for rings and banners for any of its teams that win titles. With the current budget crisis, they were offering no funds for Morgan Park’s boys to get championship rings. The school itself couldn’t provide either, and athletic director Michael Berger took to Twitter to plead with the community for help.
Luckily for the Mustangs, word spread. Comedian and Chicago native Hannibal Burress offered to pitch in.
“Buress emailed me and asked how much we needed,” Berger told the Sun-Times. “He sent me a sizable donation. He FedExed a check over the next day.”
Then former Chicago Bear and current Green Bay Packers tight end Martellus Bennett got involved. Bennett plans on even designing the rings himself.
Members of the Fenwick High School community, whom Morgan Park beat in the championship game, even sent funds in an example of class not often seen among kids and parents of opposing schools.
So this is a nice story with a happy ending for deserving kids. It’s the kind of thing so many readers and 670 The Score callers whine for — “WHY AIN’T YOU NEVER TALK BOUT DA POSITIVE STUFF?” — amid stories of the seedier side of sports.
Still, why was this the situation? Because we live in a place where people in power don’t care about kids who aren’t their own.
Governor Bruce Rauner doesn’t care about CPS kids. I say that with the utmost confidence. He can do as many commercials looking like someone who sadly dressed his golden lab in a flannel shirt as he wants — marginalized Chicagoans don’t matter to him.
Except for the ones who attend Rauner College Prep charter school. He maybe cares about the elite Walter Payton College Prep CPS kids because he probably still owes $47,000 in tuition for using his clout to get his own kid in there after she was initially rejected. Many of the rest of Chicago schools, per Rauner, are “crumbling prisons.” This shows you that someone as privileged and ignorant as Rauner hasn’t visited a school like Morgan Park, over 100 years old and far from a prison.
After Rauner vetoed a bill that would have given CPS $215 million, CPS was able to get $15 million in discretionary funds to high-poverty schools. Morgan Park received about 39 percent of its frozen funds, but most of that was going to classrooms, Berger told The Beverly Review.
Rauner is a Republican. Democrats have had control of state and city government for a long time, so they’re not exculpable here either.
Most notable would be mayor Rahm Emanuel, who doesn’t care about most Chicago kids either. This is shown with moves involving closing many schools and kowtowing to for-profit charter schools while magically finding TIF money to erect an arena for “do they still have a team?” DePaul hoops that still hasn’t been built yet, among other pet projects.
On top of that is his perpetual war with the Chicago Teachers Union, because nothing says you’re a fan of student success like villainizing teachers for the difficult situations created by people like yourself. But if you ask Emanuel, he’ll tell you he’s a fan of CPS schools and kids and taking credit for any positives you can find among them.
He’ll say it whenever he meets with the Morgan Park champion basketball team sometime soon, as a mayor usually does. Then maybe those kids and coaches will bring up why their school with a powerhouse city basketball team still has an old gym that seats just 300 (the school has almost 1,400 students) despite asking Emanuel and CPS for a new one since at least 2014.
Or maybe they’ll talk to Emanuel about his latest terrible idea to make college acceptance letters a CPS graduation requirement while CPS football programs have to set up GoFundMe accounts to pay for basic equipment needs. Hopefully a bright kid asks why so many like him consistently gets the short end of the stick in Emanuel’s city in Rauner’s state.
Sports themselves are largely good, as are stories like Morgan Park boys getting championship rings because of others’ kindness. But a sports story that redeems a bit of your faith in humanity is sometimes only possible because of a situation created by powerful grownups who don’t care about kids who live in a different Chicago far away from the rest of a different Illinois.
Tim Baffoe is a columnist for CBSChicago.com. Follow Tim on Twitter @TimBaffoe. The views expressed on this page are those of the author, not CBS Local Chicago or our affiliated television and radio stations.