Wednesday, November 28, 2007

in the oral tradition

To often, we take our pleasures for granted. See me, I’m a fan of sports. Since it is football season, I am more concerned about it as well as the fledgling NCAA basketball season more than other miscellaneous pleasurable pursuits. I learned of my direct love via my male family members. I learned not only of the love for the sport, but also history. They told me about the Satchel Page's, the Rube Foster's and the Curt Floods. I was unaware of these folks, and they had seen them before the era of television and were aided by radio. Jus as I tell my son about the Jack Tatum’s, the Lew Alcindor’s and the Jefferson Street Joe Gilliam’s. And Like I was, he too ca only visualize what I am trying to explain since he had not grown up seeing them Albeit he may have archival film footage courtesy of ESPN to help him, he still will never understand their greatness as I did unless I take the time to tell him.

One such figure that I was told of but never saw was Bill Willis. Willis was the first African American to ever start in the National Football League. A player with the Cleveland Browns, he was the one to open up the NFL and break down the color barrier. He played with the Browns from 1946 to 1953 and his record was enough for him to be elected into the pro football Hall of Fame in 1977. Willis also played/started both offense and defense for the Legendary Paul Brown.

While at Ohio State, he had his No. 99 jersey retired at halftime of the Wisconsin-Ohio State game. He was also Ohio States first Black football all American where he opened a many holes and blocked for the Buckeye’s 1944 Heisman Trophy winner Les Horvath. He also participated in track and field some five years after Jesse Owens attended the institution.

Yep I’m glad for listening to my folks and his break throughs, or else we would still be looking a football with a lot of slow ass men who likely would not hit as hard and/or talk shit on the field. And moreover, ‘m glad I listened to my elders and the stories the told. I guess it will be up to us to keep telling the stories in the oral tradition and then some, so these can be captured in His-story books and history. He was 86 years old so no telling what his eyes say or his spirit experienced.


Wolfbernz said...

Just surfing by...Great Blog!

All the best

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the our-story lesson because I never heard of him and i feel embarrassed

Blu Jewel said...

I'm not a football fan, so I certainly wouldn't have known this if not for you...thanks for sharing some history and another much needed little known black history fact.

Sincere said...

what up!!
I have never heard of him.. thanks for sharing this piece of history with me, and I will surely spread the word b/c I know I'm not the only one. Peace

Let's get it!!

Don said...

First black man to start in the NFL. And I read alot. But not enough I see.

On another note, Derrick Rose is handling business in Memphis

southpeezy said...

thanks for this post man, i knew nothing of this man...seems like breaking color barriers in baseball is more important that doing it in other wonder its america's favorite pasttime.

oh yeah, im rolling with your Tigers this season. that Dozier cat is from around the corner...but i been messing with them since Penny though.

hottnikz said...

Thanks for sharing this piece of black history with us. I've never heard of the first black man to break the NFL color barrier. They always talk about baseball & Jackie Robinson when they talk about color barriers.

Torrance Stephens bka All-Mi-T said...

wolf - thanks

Anon, Blu, sincere, Don, south & Hot - I know, aint it a shame, but like don said, means we gota read more and spread the word like sincere said, we gotta pay tribute to our folk so their spirit can live and motivate forever . all i can say is marcuc garvey - tree without roots

The Diva's Thoughts said...

I love this post!! I'm sure your som will have that same kind of love as you obviously do. With you aiding him how could he not. He's a lucky boy.

BZ said...

Stopping through by way of BluJewel. I'll have to return. I'm a big sports fan. I didn't have too many people to teach me of the greats. But, I learned through my own research. If you ever have a chance to check out the Negro League Baseball Museum in Kansas City, I highly recommend that.

Torrance Stephens bka All-Mi-T said...

Diva - nd they would always start off by saying something like, "the best jockey in the world was a black man, u aint know that did ya?" then they would tell me all about him. Cool

Torrance Stephens bka All-Mi-T said...

BZ - thanks, and my knowledge of the negro leagues cam from them too, and all the memphis red sox games they told me about. and i will do that i want too, rube foster is one of my idols, and u gave me another blog topic thanks hon.

GC said...

good article
I feel almost inspired to check out some football this season


Raw! Thanks for this crash course in history...his spirit is so sweet! it's a shame trailblazers don't get the credit they deserve!! He's rockin' those rings tho' huh? ;)

memphiz said...

I really dont know much about football but it was good to see that Willis played for the Cleveland Browns.

P.S. thanks for stoping by!

Nicole said...

I don't know anything about football either (never saw the appeal in it), but today I used this to impress a male coworker who's always testing my knowledge of black history.

And thanks for visiting the other day.

Torrance Stephens bka All-Mi-T said...

GC - thank u for the kind words

Ivent - one is a replacement, they broke into his house and stole his first nat. champ ring he won from ohio state

memphiz - any time home slice S.O.U.T.H. southparkway

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