Brown Boy Problems: Gym Class Hero (S1 EP 8.5)
Well, there were a lot of you that liked last week's episode and wanted to hear more about the Coach Jones story. Due to word count, I didn't get to write everything I wanted to last week. I'm fairly sensitive about people getting to the end of each email before they get distracted by their Fantasy Football team (looking at you, Dave & Paddy).
So for this
Monday Wednesday, I'm expanding that story on a few accounts.
There are three additional segments to Episode 8: 1) an expansion of a key part of Episode 8, 2) some further info on my attempts to reconnect with Coach Jones, and 3) an additional—and completely unnecessary—side story from my days as a gym all-star.
Expansion On Key Part of Episode 8
Many years later, I realized that I never went back to Coach Jones to thank him. If I had to guess why, it’s probably because I knew if I did, that would prompt me to start crying again, and I just didn’t feel like going through that.
That being said, I thought it’d be worthwhile to reconnect with Coach Jones and let him know how much I appreciate what he did back when I was in high school. After our sophomore year, he left for another job working for the town he was living in. I thought I’d find out where he was and just pull up on him one day while he was at work.
Upon doing a Google search, let’s just say the results weren’t what I was expecting. I quickly found the town he was working for, but I also found out some other news: in 2019 he was sentenced to prison for stealing funds related to his job. (I'd share more details about the story itself, but I'd rather his case and actual name be a little less Google-able. While in most stories actual names are used, in this case, all the names have been changed as I don't think anyone should be defined by a temporary lapse in judgment.)
I decided that instead of pulling up on him at his job, I’d drop by the prison he’s in. As someone who's in the hip-hop community, I've seen many a video of a rapper saying something along the lines of, "Except for my mom, no one came to visit me when I was locked up." I imagine he had plenty of time to kill, and since I was unemployed at the time, well, I had plenty of time to kill.
Through New Jersey’s inmate directory, I did a search for Coach Jones. I initially thought the profile that pulled up was the wrong one. I re-did the search, and the same photo popped up again.
I looked closer and oh my God, that is him. I saw a relatively recent photo of him in a local newspaper that ran the story of his arrest, and yet, this photo here looked nothing like him. This wasn't an initial mug shot taken when he was first arrested, this was a shot taken after he had already been through some shit. With his unruly hair and the undoubted stress he was dealing with, he not only looked like he aged significantly, but he also looked like he was broken on a certain level.
I read deeper into the inmate profile and saw the prison he was at. Paying a visit, however, would be a useless endeavor as he was fortunate to have been paroled early.
Without a doubt, the most common response to last week's story was something along the lines of, "You need to find Coach Jones so you can write a new ending."
You'll be pleased to know I have actually put some additional effort into reconnecting with him that I didn't cover in Episode 8.
After I saw Coach Jones had been paroled, I reached out to another gym teacher, Coach O, to see if he had a contact for Coach Jones. He didn't have a contact for him, but invited me to stop by Indian Hills to catch up. (If you recall, I shared how the gym teachers still tell the "WHAT ARE YOU? A NERD?" story, which is what I found out when I stopped on by at Indian Hills.)
Coach Hill—another of my former gym teachers—was also there when I stopped by. He said he was actually going to be seeing Coach Jones in about a week for dinner and would let him know that I wanted to connect.
So I'm assuming Coach Jones does know about my request and for whatever reason doesn't want to connect, which is all good.
There is still some chance that there is a "Where are they now update" in the future. Coach O is a reader of From Mustafa's Desk and likely read last week's episode.
Stay tuned ...
The Stuff of Legend
Believe it or not, there was not one, but two stories that still get shared about me amongst the phys ed teachers. When I was hanging out with the teachers, Coach Hill brings up the time he had me for football, which prompts one of the newer gym teachers to say, "Oh this is the kid?"
Before I get into the story, I need to give you some much-needed context for it to make any sense.
From the age of 0 to 6 and change, I lived in Oakland, CA. If you were a kid who liked football and was raised in the early 90's in the Bay Area, chances are you were a San Francisco 49ers fan. At that time the Oakland Raiders were briefly located down in Los Angeles.
In spite of moving to New Jersey when I was just shy of turning seven, I kept my Bay Area sporting allegiances. Fast forward a few years later and Terrell Owens is the star wide receiver on the 49ers. As incredible as he was on the field, he was equally remarkable for his antics, including his touchdown celebrations.
One of his more legendary touchdown celebrations took place against the Seahawks during a Monday Night Football game. After he scored a touchdown late in the game, T.O. takes out a sharpie, signs the ball, and hands it to his financial advisor in the stands.
That celebration became the stuff of legend. It was featured in every major sports publication and television show the next day. (If you need more of T.O.'s greatest hits, I found this celebration compilation video.)
A year or two later, I'm in the midst of our gym class's football segment. Our team made it to the championship game, and I figured I should be ready for a T.O. homage.
In the championship game, I quickly scored a touchdown but didn't have the cajones to be too obnoxious about it. After a few more minutes, I ended up scoring another touchdown and, well yea, now I'm really cooking.
I whip out the sharpie, sign "Mustafa Shaikh," and then hand the ball back to the losing team. It takes a second for everyone to take stock of what I did as this is the first time someone at Indian Hills High School has put this much prep into a celebratory act for gym class. There was, however, plenty of bemusement from Coach Hill for this act.
Now the ending of that championship game gets lost in Coach Hill's retelling of that day. I ended up scoring another touchdown right after my Sharpie moment. That was then, unfortunately, followed by the most incredible comeback by the opposing team (including the tying touchdown being scored by the woman I was guarding as time expired) for us to end up losing the gym class championship despite my three-touchdown day.
The moral of the story: if you want to be a gym class hero, obnoxious celebrations—not championships—are the way to go. T.O. would certainly concur.
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Next week on Brown Boy Problems, "Harold & Kumar" breaks the color barrier.
This essay was edited by Mustafa Shaikh. Blame all grammatical errors on him.
You can catch up on past writings here.