Boston Celtics Slammin’ Trivia: A Celebration of Black History Month
The Celts spend time with local high school kids and put their knowledge to the test.
by Adam Fleischer
I won’t lie. Any time that there was a reason to miss class in high school, I took advantage. Problem was, I realized that going to class was important both for my grades and my overall education, and legitimate excuses to miss class were few and far between.
Last Thursday, a little more than twenty freshmen from Boston English High School had a pretty good reason: they were going to meet the Boston Celtics.
In honor of Black History Month, the C’s decided to host the freshmen boys and girls basketball teams from English at their practice facility in Waltham, MA, roughly a half hour outside of the school’s Boston location. For the afternoon of “Boston Celtics Slammin’ Trivia: A Celebration of Black History Month,” the kids were joined by soldiers from the Massachusetts Army National Guard, who were usually stationed around various offices throughout the state, as well as players and (briefly) coach Doc Rivers.
After watching the last few minutes of practice in awe and excitement, the high schoolers enjoyed pizza and soda and were split up into five teams by Matt Meyersohn, Community Relations Director for the Celts, who then assigned and introduced a National Guardsman and players—Kendrick Perkins, Glen Davis, Brian Scalabrine, Marquis Daniels, and Shelden Williams were all on hand—to each team before running down the schedule for the afternoon.
“This event is important because children in the inner city really don’t get the opportunity to sit down with people who have really done something with themselves—who are actively doing something with themselves,” explained Fredo Sanon, the coach of the girls team and himself a product of the Boston Public School system. “As soon as we told them about it, they were super hyped.”
Once teams were set, fact sheets were handed out in preparation for a Jeopardy style game that would take place later on, and each team was given fifteen minutes to study. Scal was trying to help his team with different memory and pneumonic devices during the cram session with a combination of focus and lightheartedness.
“They might see us out on the basketball court or on TV,” he said, “but just to come out here and see us as normal people, that’s the most important thing. Plus, I learned a lot of information. I got a lot of questions wrong.”
The fact sheets were soon exchanged for sheets with quotes from influential African-Americans, which the freshmen were to discuss amongst themselves and their adult teammates and then present on after fifteen minutes. One team had Fredrick Douglas’, “If there is no struggle, there is no progress” (a personal favorite), while Maya Angelou, Thurgood Marshall, and Booker T. Washington were also included. Big Baby’s team was given some inspirational words by Martin Luther King, Jr.
“The quote that we had was a really touching quote to me, coming from ups and downs as far as me this year, and what I’ve been going through,” he said after the event. “I was trying to relay to the kids my situation, and make them understand the quote even more.”
Following the presentations, the event shifted from an upstairs room down to the practice court, where the trivia game was to take place. With a big board featuring categories of Politics, Military, History, Show Biz, and Sports from what had been studied earlier, the teams could choose anything from a 100 point question (Lay Up) to a 500 pointer (Half Court).
As the most recent guys to attend class, Big Baby and Williams may have had a slight edge on their Celtic teammates. At first, though, it didn’t show, as Perk’s team was cleaning house, sometimes writing down the answers before the questions were even completed. Perk even got a little upset on the occasions when there were multiple choice answers, since his squad didn’t need that type of crutch.
In the end, however, thanks to a final round where you could wager as much as you wanted, Big Baby’s team took the cake. But there truly were no losers on this day, as everyone walked away with posters, t-shirts, autographs, an extremely hot Celtics hoodie (I was jealous), and a better grasp on some often overlooked facts of the rich history of African-Americans in this country.
“The way these kids look at professional athletes is almost as if they’re iconic,” said Sanon. “So to be able to sit down, rub elbows for a second, and go over some history, it’s a wonderful thing. It lets them know that they can actually achieve their goals and dream in whatever they want to do.”